Today, the alarm clock did not ring and I was in for a shock. I got up in a huff and I saw the clock say five minutes to six. As the unit's second-in-command (2IC), I had to march off the PT parade at 6am sharp. So, I had five minutes to get ready, reach the unit that was a kilometre away, and take the parade from the adjutant. "I've had it today," I muttered to myself as I pressed the fast forward button. Frankly, it was a rewind to getting ready as a cadet back in the academy.
In one minute, I was in my PT uniform and on the road. There was no time to go to the loo, what to talk of shaving. I covered the kilometre to the unit in the next three-and-a-half minutes, leaving 30 seconds for taking the report from the adjutant.
I ran like legendary athlete Milkha Singh from a total cold start. I was sprinting in the dark on the winter morning, hoping to make it by seconds. Bladder full, eyes unwashed, teeth unbrushed, but these were all unimportant at this stage. What was critical was that as 2IC, I should not be late and the unit should not have to wait even for a second.
Thank God, heart pounding, I reached in time and headed for the reporting platform in the PT field. I took the report and marched off the parade at 6am dot. I was so relieved not to have faltered on my cherished principle of punctuality.
That was in 1992 at Jodhpur in 48 Armoured Regiment. We used to make it a point to strictly adhere to the laid down time, be it for a professional event or a social function. They say time is money. In war, being in time is victory. Even today, being punctual is my habit.
I hate to be late and make anyone wait. But it is sad to see that the trait of punctuality is fast disappearing, totally in the civil society, and to some extent in the armed forces also. If I am invited to a function or calling on another officer, I plan and get ready accordingly. I keep a margin for the traffic and leave five minutes early.
In case I'm early, I prefer to wait and enter the host's house or the given venue at the specified time. But alas! these days, when going to functions, my wife and I are the first couple to reach. At times, we have to apologise to the host for coming "early".
By being late, you not only make others late, but the entire sequence of events gets delayed. Imagine the colossal wastage of individual and national time. If there is a gathering of 1,000 people, and the chief guest arrives half an hour late, you have wasted 500 man hours. Accumulate the national wastage, taking into account the length and breadth of our country. But who cares, thanks to our 'chalta hai' attitude.
Perhaps the late-comers feel important and derive a false sense of power. If one is a habitual late-comer, then I feel his/her discipline will be weak in other areas also. Such a person is likely to jump the queue, take short cuts, break traffic rules and give bribes to get away.
As a soldier, I strongly feel that punctuality is the bedrock of discipline and discipline is the basis of efficiency and output.
With the general election coming up in a couple of months, I feel our leaders could set an example by adding punctuality as a poll promise to be fulfilled in their manifestoes.