Navy Memoirs

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Finally it's time to hang up my beautiful white uniform... (All 18 pairs of 8As...2 Pairs of No. 1 s and 2s. The Camos !) that I wore with pride over the past 37 years. If I include the 1 year Cadets and Mids time where our starched KD s were replaced by cotton 8s.
Decided to compile some random musings of my journey that took me to 45 countries , including Mogadishu, Sri Lanka, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and a 11 mth stint in London @RCDS course. As I grew in service I watched with a hidden smile as the old guys ranted 'In my 30 years of service.... '. This was almost like a qualification that guaranteed amazing wisdom! Finally, nows my chance to rant and share my er not so brilliant wisdom 😊
This is an unplugged, uncensored account of my far from extraordinary life in the Navy. Musings of an average guy with a very bad sense of humour. Typed at flight level 100 (10k feet) aboard a Dornier, listening to Pink Floyd on Bose QC Earbuds. Please fasten your seat belts. 
Ours was a  large course, 95 of us of the 67 th /29th Integrated Course. When I retire on 30 Apr only one Flag Officer of our course would remain in service for another year.
My coursemates prepped me for retirement 'When you return your I card 3 mths before yr retirement date the reality will hit you hard. 'etc. I braced myself as I removed my I card from the VIRAAT cord that has been around my neck for the past 20 years. There were strangely no pangs or regrets as I let go of my I card. You let go your international visa A veritable umbilical cord to all things Fauji that gives you unlimited access to Nuclear plants, VIP lounges, Govt offices and freedom of from traffic Challans. A Mumbai cop whose stopped me on my bike said in exasperation 'Mangal Sutra mat nikalna ' as I reached into my shirt to take out my I card My love for my uniform was legendary. KCS Rao never fails to remind everyone about our first liberty as Mids where I told him 'Let's freak out 'and took him to a store which sold uniform stuff, stripes etc!Whilst he anticipated a place full of gals 🤣
Life hasn't been easy. Two major events shaped the way I decided to take life by the balls and gave ' bash on regardless' a whole new meaning. My elder brother died in an Islander crash in May 85, 7mth before I was commissioned. In 1997 I lost both my parents in a car accident.
Every now and then friends have hesitantly asked me how I dealt with the above events. Hence I thought I'd open up on this so that it might help others dealing with their demons.
When faced with a challenge psychologists speak of the 'fight or flee' instinct. That's the crux of dealing with a life changing situation. You could dig your heels in and bash on with grit and determination or play the victim card and wiper for the rest of your life.
When the world crashes around you, your family is your anchor. The Almighty has it all figured I've seen. He has you covered. Have been blessed to have an amazing wife and daughter who have been hugely encouraging and shown me the mirror when I've screwed up or thought I was a Mallu Bond! My sister, brother in law and neice Amu have always been there as a huge support system and safety net. In good times and bad.
Invest in family, friends, relationships. Any success you attain would be empty without family /friends to share your joy. The insanely ambitious tend to gloss over relationships in their single minded quest for that next rank /medal. Only to see that in the end  your rank is just a prefix and your decorations a suffix which nobody really gives a fk about, if you didn't stand up for what is right or lead your teams well, with integrity.
I promise not to speak of 'In my time.. '.. The truth is that nobody gives a rats ass about your era however stupendous you think it was. Also, each generation is smarter than the last and that's a fact. 
INTEGRITY. An amazing quality which defines all other virtues I think. Being true to yourself and doing the right thing when no one's watching. Ones Integrity needs to be watertight! 
ACTUALLY loving what you do makes all the difference. Each ship of the same class has the same propulsion, weapon fit, sensors, crew. The X factor is your leadership. 250 guys seeing the almost manic passion you have for your ship and her crew IS contagious and even the most cynical guy would put in that little extra bit that would ensure excellence on all fronts.
Looking at each assignment as an end in itself and not a means to an end is the mantra. Some tend to look at a tenure as a stepping stone to a command /promotion. Give each job your all and success will be a given.
LOYALTY is a two way street. You can't expect your crew to be 100% loyal to you  if you dont stand by them through thick and thin. When you truly care for your subordinates it shows. Merely calling them 'beta' isn't enough – besides most dont want to he adopted by a random C. O! It's, easy to hoodwink a senior but impossible to fool a junior unless you are completely honest and true. 
Practising the Chetwodian motto of the country, unit and men you command coming before your comfort and safety is an excellent guiding light to scrupulously follow. Ensuring your men have eaten before you proceed for a meal etc. Being capable of undertaking anything you have ordered your men to do, albeit better is the essence of leadership to my mind. 
Taking calculated risks and a superfast mental Operational Risk Assessment in your mind is crucial. As they say a good decision taken NOW is better than the perfect decision afterwards. Lead from the front. Take on difficult missions, unless you want to train the next 11 and you know they can handle it. 
Praise in public, chastise in private. Don't have any favourites. Be fair and be seen as fair in all your dealings. Make merit count always Reinforce the faith in the iniquitous 'system '. 
Lovedale taught me most of the aspects of my unspectacular DNA, whilst the rest I picked up at NDA. Our school motto NEVER GIVE IN gave me the extra adrenaline shot each time I felt all was lost. Loyalty to my House at school translated into loyalty for my Squsdron (Hunter) and then for each ship and Squadron I served in. Answering the phone or introducing myself as FONA gives me the same rush I got with my first command INS Nashak. 
All assignments are important undoubtedly but to my mind some are sacred. These include command tenures of fighting units, be it, ships, Submarines, Squadrons or Marco units. If you are not ready to give your very best and devote and love every minute to your command, which is the raison d etre of your Navy tenure, make way for someone who does.
The men of your unit deserve a totally commited and passionate C. O, regardless of where you stand career wise. They dont know that you have missed your promotion or op streaming etc. There is no ship or unit that is second to any. Your disappointment at not getting a top notch ship shouldn't translate into your dealings with your officers and men. For them their ship is the best and you better be worthy of leading them. 
The truth about life is that it isn't fair. It never has been and never will be.. Our selection procedures are more or less as fair as it can be. However. nothing is foolproof. Missing the bus may not always be so bad, at whichever stage this may happen as I saw for myself. The hierarchical pyramid has a slippery slope and it's not always easy to gain a foothold, as I saw for myself, albeit close to base camp! 
The four years I spent post missing the proverbial bus were the most fulfilling and I promise this isn't a case of sour grapes! The passion for my job and everything Navy was if anything even more. I was in my comfort zone, in the field, interacting with the guys on the frontline and second line, with the roar of jet engines, the whir of rotors and the smell of Aviation Turbine Fuel. 
I realised I was my biggest critic. Unforgiving of even the slightest mistakes I made. Being late for a casual dinner with a coursemate or not being up to date with some operational or technical issue. Finally there was nothing other than really enjoying my work without looking over my shoulder. This was the last lap of my journey and I aimed to enjoy and savour each moment. Carpe Diem n all! If you reach a dead end in your career, find your niche where you can continue to contribute doing what you love or move on. 
When I look back, it's the 'small things 'that matter. Big issues look after themselves. Add value to whatever you do. If someone comes to you with a problem, give him /her inputs to add finesse to the task. Your 3 decades should account to something. If the issue wasn't important it wouldn't have been brought to you. Whether it's a weapon firing or choice of chairs for a conference hall, add value. There is a thin line between giving freedom to your subordinates to work and shamming your responsibilities! 
I have lived my life with simplicity and naivete that's almost childlike. Blame it on the fact that I am the youngest of three siblings. Few months ago a junior sailor was evacutued from a warship with his ankle severed but for a strand of tissue holding it to his leg.. A surgical team was flown in immediately. I was outside the OT saying a silent prayer for God to guide the surgeons to restore his foot. 7 hours later miraculously they successfully grafted his foot. Or seeing off a newborn child being airlifted to Mumbai for treatment accompanied by a Doctor and Nurse their faces writ large with dogged detwrmination and worry. 
I have never missed a funeral. Be it a father /mother of a sailor or officer or the infrequent times we lost one of our personnel. Nothing was more important than being with the sailor /officer and squeezing his shoulder as the pyre was lit or the grave filled with earth. He or she then knew he /she wasn't alone. 
I have had the sad experience of burying both my parents at once. An IAF 3 Star and Naval 2 star attended the funeral and left without so much as speaking to me. This has made me empathetic to people who grieve their ir replaceable loss of a loved one. 
Work life balance is all important. Take time to follow your passion. Whether it's biking, swimming, cycling or hitting a small white ball around a huge green expanse wearing strange looking shoes. 😊 Get the most out of each day and each moment . At work and after work. The aim should be to never have regrets of having not done something when your tenure ends or at a later stage in life 
A Sense of humour is perfect to difuse tension or put people at ease. And that's not a joke. Work on your sense of humour if you aren't born witty! 
Ensure a Conducive work environment. Cut out red tape and Red %Green lights outside your office. Traffic lights have no place in a workspace. An open door policy ensures people know they can reach out to you. 
Add value to any issue that's brought to you. Whoever has come to meet you obviously feels the matter needs your attention. Your THIRTY years should mean something. Whether it's a choice of sofa set for the bar or a missile firing. 
Hone your Seaman's eye or your gut instinct to steer your ship or aircraft out of danger. Be able to foresee a catastrophe and prevent it from happening. These skills are hard to come by. Observe the master practitioners of this dark art so that you can stand tall when they are calling you out, don't bend, don't break baby don't back down as Capt Bon Jovi so clearly elucidated! 
Connect with juniors. Don't get isolated in your fancy car / Antarctic AC office. In four years I had lunch with 800 visiting Coatans and crew of ships, aircraft, Departments, visiting staff etc. The lunch hour gave me time to really connect whilst a 5min call on is pointless. Acknowledge the each salute smartly, with eye contact and respond to Jai Hinds with equal fervour. Lower yr windows as you cross gates and respond to their salutation with gusto. 
There goes my rather unremarkable 36 year journey that I thoroughly enjoyed. A tiny contribution to our most amazing service. A journey I'd gladly take once again given a chance. I leave with amazing memories, friends and colleagues who have become family. 
The Navy is growing exponentially as it should. In three dimensions. We are hugely respected in the region, with good reason. 
The personal send off by the CNS, VCNS and each of the three Cs in C made the journey super special. 
When the music's over, turn off the lights 
-Jim Morrison

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