When I was in school, I did not understand why my parents and some teachers gave excessive importance to minor issues like speaking the truth, obeying elders, getting up early in the morning, taking part in sports and being punctual. I, like most other children in class, felt stealing pencils or books of other students or telling a lie to escape punishment from teachers or elders was alright and why should they bother so much about such things. Later years made me realise that when painful harsh realities of life pin you down then the only lever which has the strength to pull you out of dumps is your character. Now as I walk in to the twilight years, I appreciate why my father harped so much on the virtues of character and good values. I thank him and my teachers who could be role models as far as value education is concerned, for most of the teachers of today.
During the first few years of service, when I was posted at a particular station, I was appalled to witness mismanagement at every level as a routine affair. Corruption was practiced in a shameless manner by many seniors. My moment of reckoning came when I caught hold of an MES labourer selling large quantities of the army CSD liquor to civilians at four times the canteen price. It was a huge cultural shock.
The investigation at my level led me to the wife of an officer who was posted to a non-family station. The lady was getting the liquor from her friend, a bachelor major, holding an important position.
Even after this knowledge and a ‘friendly advice’ from my CO, I had the guts of reporting the matter in writing to the station HQ. I was declared persona-non-grata and the entire station started considering me a villain of sorts. The major and his boss, a widower, both were sympathetic to the lady for reasons well-known to all in the station.
I was pressured directly through their goons and indirectly through my superiors in line of command to withdraw the written complaint and apologise or face dire consequences. When I refused to toe their line, I was humiliated again and again and shunted out on temporary duties leaving my family without any administrative support.
I heaved a sigh of relief when I was posted out but realised the adverse impact of my stubbornness a few years later when my promotion to next rank was delayed for 90 days. Fortunately, it ended at that and had no adverse impact on my career subsequently. The major who should have been sacked for moral turpitude and unscrupulous conduct rose to adorn the second highest rank in army; it speaks volumes about professionalism and fair play in services.
It is indeed true that life expands in proportion to one’s courage of keeping one’s honour and can be made extremely rich. The converse is also true; life can shrink and become small in proportion to cowardliness of willingly losing one’s honour.