Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Old Soldiers Never Die - They Just Fade Away

Old Soldiers Never Die - They Just Fade Away

General Douglas MacArthur's Farewell Speech to Congress (19 April 1951)


Mr. President, Mr. Speaker, and Distinguished Members of the Congress:

I stand on this rostrum with a sense of deep humility and great pride -- humility in the wake of those great American architects of our history who have stood here before me; pride in the reflection that this forum of legislative debate represents human liberty in the purest form yet devised. Here are centered the hopes and aspirations and faith of the entire human race. I do not stand here as advocate for any partisan cause, for the issues are fundamental and reach quite beyond the realm of partisan consideration. They must be resolved on the highest plane of national interest if our course is to prove sound and our future protected. I trust, therefore, that you will do me the justice of receiving that which I have to say as solely expressing the considered viewpoint of a fellow American.
I address you with neither rancor nor bitterness in the fading twilight of life, with but one purpose in mind: to serve my country. The issues are global and so interlocked that to consider the problems of one sector, oblivious to those of another, is but to court disaster for the whole. While Asia is commonly referred to as the Gateway to Europe, it is no less true that Europe is the Gateway to Asia, and the broad influence of the one cannot fail to have its impact upon the other. There are those who claim our strength is inadequate to protect on both fronts, that we cannot divide our effort. I can think of no greater expression of defeatism. If a potential enemy can divide his strength on two fronts, it is for us to counter his effort. The Communist threat is a global one. Its successful advance in one sector threatens the destruction of every other sector. You can not appease or otherwise surrender to communism in Asia without simultaneously undermining our efforts to halt its advance in Europe.
Beyond pointing out these general truisms, I shall confine my discussion to the general areas of Asia. Before one may objectively assess the situation now existing there, he must comprehend something of Asia's past and the revolutionary changes which have marked her course up to the present. Long exploited by the so-called colonial powers, with little opportunity to achieve any degree of social justice, individual dignity, or a higher standard of life such as guided our own noble administration in the Philippines, the peoples of Asia found their opportunity in the war just past to throw off the shackles of colonialism and now see the dawn of new opportunity, a heretofore unfelt dignity, and the self-respect of political freedom.
Mustering half of the earth's population, and 60 percent of its natural resources these peoples are rapidly consolidating a new force, both moral and material, with which to raise the living standard and erect adaptations of the design of modern progress to their own distinct cultural environments. Whether one adheres to the concept of colonization or not, this is the direction of Asian progress and it may not be stopped. It is a corollary to the shift of the world economic frontiers as the whole epicenter of world affairs rotates back toward the area whence it started.
In this situation, it becomes vital that our own country orient its policies in consonance with this basic evolutionary condition rather than pursue a course blind to the reality that the colonial era is now past and the Asian peoples covet the right to shape their own free destiny. What they seek now is friendly guidance, understanding, and support -- not imperious direction -- the dignity of equality and not the shame of subjugation. Their pre-war standard of life, pitifully low, is infinitely lower now in the devastation left in war's wake. World ideologies play little part in Asian thinking and are little understood. What the peoples strive for is the opportunity for a little more food in their stomachs, a little better clothing on their backs, a little firmer roof over their heads, and the realization of the normal nationalist urge for political freedom. These political-social conditions have but an indirect bearing upon our own national security, but do form a backdrop to contemporary planning which must be thoughtfully considered if we are to avoid the pitfalls of unrealism.
Of more direct and immediate bearing upon our national security are the changes wrought in the strategic potential of the Pacific Ocean in the course of the past war. Prior thereto the western strategic frontier of the United States lay on the littoral line of the Americas, with an exposed island salient extending out through Hawaii, Midway, and Guam to the Philippines. That salient proved not an outpost of strength but an avenue of weakness along which the enemy could and did attack.
The Pacific was a potential area of advance for any predatory force intent upon striking at the bordering land areas. All this was changed by our Pacific victory. Our strategic frontier then shifted to embrace the entire Pacific Ocean, which became a vast moat to protect us as long as we held it. Indeed, it acts as a protective shield for all of the Americas and all free lands of the Pacific Ocean area. We control it to the shores of Asia by a chain of islands extending in an arc from the Aleutians to the Marianas held by us and our free allies. From this island chain we can dominate with sea and air power every Asiatic port from Vladivostok to Singapore -- with sea and air power every port, as I said, from Vladivostok to Singapore -- and prevent any hostile movement into the Pacific.
*Any predatory attack from Asia must be an amphibious effort.* No amphibious force can be successful without control of the sea lanes and the air over those lanes in its avenue of advance. With naval and air supremacy and modest ground elements to defend bases, any major attack from continental Asia toward us or our friends in the Pacific would be doomed to failure.
Under such conditions, the Pacific no longer represents menacing avenues of approach for a prospective invader. It assumes, instead, the friendly aspect of a peaceful lake. Our line of defense is a natural one and can be maintained with a minimum of military effort and expense. It envisions no attack against anyone, nor does it provide the bastions essential for offensive operations, but properly maintained, would be an invincible defense against aggression. The holding of this littoral defense line in the western Pacific is entirely dependent upon holding all segments thereof; for any major breach of that line by an unfriendly power would render vulnerable to determined attack every other major segment.
This is a military estimate as to which I have yet to find a military leader who will take exception. For that reason, I have strongly recommended in the past, as a matter of military urgency, that under no circumstances must Formosa fall under Communist control. Such an eventuality would at once threaten the freedom of the Philippines and the loss of Japan and might well force our western frontier back to the coast of California, Oregon and Washington.
To understand the changes which now appear upon the Chinese mainland, one must understand the changes in Chinese character and culture over the past 50 years. China, up to 50 years ago, was completely non-homogenous, being compartmented into groups divided against each other. The war-making tendency was almost non-existent, as they still followed the tenets of the Confucian ideal of pacifist culture. At the turn of the century, under the regime of Chang Tso Lin, efforts toward greater homogeneity produced the start of a nationalist urge. This was further and more successfully developed under the leadership of Chiang Kai-Shek, but has been brought to its greatest fruition under the present regime to the point that it has now taken on the character of a united nationalism of increasingly dominant, aggressive tendencies.
Through these past 50 years the Chinese people have thus become militarized in their concepts and in their ideals. They now constitute excellent soldiers, with competent staffs and commanders. This has produced a new and dominant power in Asia, which, for its own purposes, is allied with Soviet Russia but which in its own concepts and methods has become aggressively imperialistic, with a lust for expansion and increased power normal to this type of imperialism.
There is little of the ideological concept either one way or another in the Chinese make-up. The standard of living is so low and the capital accumulation has been so thoroughly dissipated by war that the masses are desperate and eager to follow any leadership which seems to promise the alleviation of local stringencies.
I have from the beginning believed that the Chinese Communists' support of the North Koreans was the dominant one. Their interests are, at present, parallel with those of the Soviet. But I believe that the aggressiveness recently displayed not only in Korea but also in Indo-China and Tibet and pointing potentially toward the South reflects predominantly the same lust for the expansion of power which has animated every would-be conqueror since the beginning of time.
The Japanese people, since the war, have undergone the greatest reformation recorded in modern history. With a commendable will, eagerness to learn, and marked capacity to understand, they have, from the ashes left in war's wake, erected in Japan an edifice dedicated to the supremacy of individual liberty and personal dignity; and in the ensuing process there has been created a truly representative government committed to the advance of political morality, freedom of economic enterprise, and social justice.
Politically, economically, and socially Japan is now abreast of many free nations of the earth and will not again fail the universal trust. That it may be counted upon to wield a profoundly beneficial influence over the course of events in Asia is attested by the magnificent manner in which the Japanese people have met the recent challenge of war, unrest, and confusion surrounding them from the outside and checked communism within their own frontiers without the slightest slackening in their forward progress. I sent all four of our occupation divisions to the Korean battlefront without the slightest qualms as to the effect of the resulting power vacuum upon Japan. The results fully justified my faith. I know of no nation more serene, orderly, and industrious, nor in which higher hopes can be entertained for future constructive service in the advance of the human race.
Of our former ward, the Philippines, we can look forward in confidence that the existing unrest will be corrected and a strong and healthy nation will grow in the longer aftermath of war's terrible destructiveness. We must be patient and understanding and never fail them -- as in our hour of need, they did not fail us. A Christian nation, the Philippines stand as a mighty bulwark of Christianity in the Far East, and its capacity for high moral leadership in Asia is unlimited.
On Formosa, the government of the Republic of China has had the opportunity to refute by action much of the malicious gossip which so undermined the strength of its leadership on the Chinese mainland. The Formosan people are receiving a just and enlightened administration with majority representation on the organs of government, and politically, economically, and socially they appear to be advancing along sound and constructive lines.
With this brief insight into the surrounding areas, I now turn to the Korean conflict. While I was not consulted prior to the President's decision to intervene in support of the Republic of Korea, that decision from a military standpoint, proved a sound one, as we -- as I said, proved a sound one, as we hurled back the invader and decimated his forces. Our victory was complete, and our objectives within reach, when Red China intervened with numerically superior ground forces.
This created a new war and an entirely new situation, a situation not contemplated when our forces were committed against the North Korean invaders; a situation which called for new decisions in the diplomatic sphere to permit the realistic adjustment of military strategy.
Such decisions have not been forthcoming.
While no man in his right mind would advocate sending our ground forces into continental China, and such was never given a thought, the new situation did urgently demand a drastic revision of strategic planning if our political aim was to defeat this new enemy as we had defeated the old.
Apart from the military need, as I saw It, to neutralize the sanctuary protection given the enemy north of the Yalu, I felt that military necessity in the conduct of the war made necessary: first the intensification of our economic blockade against China; two the imposition of a naval blockade against the China coast; three removal of restrictions on air reconnaissance of China's coastal areas and of Manchuria; four removal of restrictions on the forces of the Republic of China on Formosa, with logistical support to contribute to their effective operations against the common enemy.
For entertaining these views, all professionally designed to support our forces committed to Korea and bring hostilities to an end with the least possible delay and at a saving of countless American and allied lives, I have been severely criticized in lay circles, principally abroad, despite my understanding that from a military standpoint the above views have been fully shared in the past by practically every military leader concerned with the Korean campaign, including our own Joint Chiefs of Staff.
I called for reinforcements but was informed that reinforcements were not available. I made clear that if not permitted to destroy the enemy built-up bases north of the Yalu, if not permitted to utilize the friendly Chinese Force of some 600,000 men on Formosa, if not permitted to blockade the China coast to prevent the Chinese Reds from getting succor from without, and if there were to be no hope of major reinforcements, the position of the command from the military standpoint forbade victory.
We could hold in Korea by constant maneuver and in an approximate area where our supply line advantages were in balance with the supply line disadvantages of the enemy, but we could hope at best for only an indecisive campaign with its terrible and constant attrition upon our forces if the enemy utilized its full military potential. I have constantly called for the new political decisions essential to a solution.
Efforts have been made to distort my position. It has been said, in effect, that I was a warmonger. Nothing could be further from the truth. I know war as few other men now living know it, and nothing to me is more revolting. I have long advocated its complete abolition, as its very destructiveness on both friend and foe has rendered it useless as a means of settling international disputes. Indeed, on the second day of September, nineteen hundred and forty-five, just following the surrender of the Japanese nation on the Battleship Missouri, I formally cautioned as follows:
Men since the beginning of time have sought peace. Various methods through the ages have been attempted to devise an international process to prevent or settle disputes between nations. From the very start workable methods were found in so far as individual citizens were concerned, but the mechanics of an instrumentality of larger international scope have never been successful. Military alliances, balances of power, Leagues of Nations, all in turn failed, leaving the only path to be by way of the crucible of war. The utter  destructiveness of war now blocks out this alternative. We have had our last chance. If we will not devise some greater and more equitable system, Armageddon will be at our door. The problem basically is theological and involves a spiritual recrudescence and improvement of human character that will synchronize with our almost matchless advances in science, art, literature, and all material and cultural developments of the past 2000 years. It must be of the spirit if we are to save the flesh.
But once war is forced upon us, there is no other alternative than to apply every available means to bring it to a swift end.
War's very object is victory, not prolonged indecision.
In war there is no substitute for victory.
There are some who, for varying reasons, would appease Red China. They are blind to history's clear lesson, for history teaches with unmistakable emphasis that appeasement but begets new and bloodier war. It points to no single instance where this end has justified that means, where appeasement has led to more than a sham peace. Like blackmail, it lays the basis for new and successively greater demands until, as in blackmail, violence becomes the only other alternative.
"Why," my soldiers asked of me, "surrender military advantages to an enemy in the field?" I could not answer.
Some may say: to avoid spread of the conflict into an all-out war with China; others, to avoid Soviet intervention. Neither explanation seems valid, for China is already engaging with the maximum power it can commit, and the Soviet will not necessarily mesh its actions with our moves. Like a cobra, any new enemy will more likely strike whenever it feels that the relativity in military or other potential is in its favor on a worldwide basis.
The tragedy of Korea is further heightened by the fact that its military action is confined to its territorial limits. It condemns that nation, which it is our purpose to save, to suffer the devastating impact of full naval and air bombardment while the enemy's sanctuaries are fully protected from such attack and devastation.
Of the nations of the world, Korea alone, up to now, is the sole one which has risked its all against communism. The magnificence of the courage and fortitude of the Korean people defies description.
They have chosen to risk death rather than slavery. Their last words to me were: "Don't scuttle the Pacific!"
I have just left your fighting sons in Korea. They have met all tests there, and I can report to you without reservation that they are splendid in every way.
It was my constant effort to preserve them and end this savage conflict honorably and with the least loss of time and a minimum sacrifice of life. Its growing bloodshed has caused me the deepest anguish and anxiety.
Those gallant men will remain often in my thoughts and in my prayers always.
I am closing my 52 years of military service. When I joined the Army, even before the turn of the century, it was the fulfillment of all of my boyish hopes and dreams. The world has turned over many times since I took the oath on the plain at West Point, and the hopes and dreams have long since vanished, but I still remember the refrain of one of the most popular barrack ballads of that day which proclaimed most proudly that "old soldiers never die; they just fade away."
And like the old soldier of that ballad, I now close my military career and just fade away, an old soldier who tried to do his duty as God gave him the light to see that duty.

Good Bye.

Monday, May 2, 2016

One Reason for Defence Scams : GROUPTHINK

While we watched the TV News on the latest Defence Scam – a friend asked me: “How come everyone agreed? How is it possible that even one officer did not voice his dissent?” 

“Groupthink...” I said.

“Groupthink...? What the hell is Groupthink...?” he asked.

So – to answer his question – and – to tell you about a ubiquitous phenomenon which inhibits progressive thinking in the Defence Services – I will re-post my article on GROUPTHINK

GROUPTHINK – Bane of Military Officership
Musings on Defence Management
By
VIKRAM KARVE

I have written plenty of my “Humor in Uniform Memoirs in my Blog – so – for a change  let me delve into my academic” writings  or  more precisely – my management writing archives  and post for you  once more  an abridged and updated version of an article on GROUPTHINK I had written more than 30 years ago  in the 1980s  for a business supplement of a newspaper  and also in some journals. 

I have lectured on this topic too.

After the advent of the internet  my article on GROUPTHINK has been carried by many websites  and once I started blogging around 15 years ago  I have posted this article on my blogs too. 

Though I wrote this more than 30 years ago in 1985  I feel this article is relevant even today. 

Do tell me if you feel GROUPTHINK exists even today  especially in government and military decision-making. 

I look forward to your views.



GROUPTHINK – Musings on Defence Management by Vikram Karve

Where all think alike  no one thinks very much 
 
~ Walter Lippmann


GROUPTHINK

When I was in the Navy I saw plenty of GROUPTHINK. 

During my interactions with the army, I saw even more Groupthink.

There was a tendency to have “unanimous” decisions.

In many cases, contrarian views were not tolerated by the top brass and senior officers wanted to force their decisions by creating a situation of “my way or the highway”.

Also, years of regimentation and discouragement of original thinking creates a “groupthink” mindset in most military officers.

I feel that Groupthink is one of the main reasons which hampers optimal decision making, especially in the defence services which have a highly regimented way of thinking. 

Here is an abridged version of one of my management articles which tells you all about GROUPTHINK in a nutshell:


GROUPTHINK SYNDROME

Tradition has it that conflict is bad.
Conflict is something to be avoided.

The culture of many organizations implies explicitly or implicitly that conflict should be suppressed and eliminated. 
It is common for managers to perceive intra-organizational conflict as being dysfunctional for the achievement of organizational goals.
Most of us still cling to the idea that good managers resolve conflict. 

Current thinking disputes this view.
In the absence of conflicting opinions, harmonious tranquil work groups are prone to becoming static, apathetic and unresponsive to pressures for change and innovation.
Work Groups and Teams, even Top Management,  also risk the danger of becoming so self-satisfied, that dissenting views, which may offer important alternative information, are totally shut out.
In short, they fall victims to a syndrome called “GROUPTHINK”

In a study of public policy decision fiascoes, I.L. Janis identified “GROUPTHINK” as a major cause of poor decision making. 
As he describes it:

‘GROUPTHINK’ occurs when decision makers who work closely together develop a high degree of solidarity that clouds their vision, leading them to suppress conflicting views and negative feelings about proposals, consciously or unconsciously.

A manifestation of the groupthink phenomenon is the staggering irrationality which can beset the thinking of the otherwise highly competent, intelligent, conscientious individuals when they begin acting as a group or team and this affects organisational effectiveness.


EFFECT AND SYMPTOMS OF GROUPTHINK

The net effect on the group is that it overestimates its power and morality, it creates pressures for uniformity and conformance, and its members become close-minded, living in ivory towers. 


Some manifestations are the illusions of invulnerability and the encouragement to take great risks and to ignore the ethical or moral aspects of their decisions and actions.

This author has witnessed close-mindedness on the part of several managers which then permeated their teams.
One project manager took this to the extreme and in effect defined his environment as consisting of two kinds of people, either friends or enemies
This syndrome is akin to the dialogue from the classic Movie Ben Hur which I call the:
“you are either for me or you are against me” syndrome
Like this Manager I observed, many persons, especially some of my bosses, exhibit this syndrome.

Friends were people who completely agreed with his favoured solutions and supported his project. 


All others were enemies.

Soon his entire project team was echoing similar sentiments having fallen victim to “GROUPTHINK”, resulting in unbending positions, heated arguments and subsequent lack of respect for anyone who disagreed with them. The ultimate consequences can easily be guessed.

The symptoms of groupthink include:

(i) An illusion of invulnerability that becomes shared by most members of the group.

(ii) Collective attempts to ignore or rationalize away items of inconvenient information which might otherwise lead the group to reconsider shaky but cherished assumptions.

(iii) An unquestioned belief in the group’s inherent morality, thus causing members to overlook the ethical consequences of their decisions.

(iv) Stereotyping the dissenters as either too evil for negotiation or too stupid and feeble to merit consideration.

(v) A shared illusion of unanimity in a majority viewpoint, augmented by the false assumption that silence means consent.

(vi) Self-appointed “mind-guards” to protect the group from adverse information that might shatter complacency about the effectiveness and morality of their decision.

Not very surprisingly it has been suggested that individuals most susceptible to groupthink will tend to be people fearful of disapproval and rejection and who want to “conform”.
Conversely, an outspoken individualist who freely airs his views and opinions, if trapped in a groupthink situation, runs the risk of being ejected by his colleagues if he fails to hold his tongue.


GROUPTHINK SITUATIONS

THE DOMINANT LEADER

Firstly, because the CEO [or the “Boss”] dispenses all favours, his biggest problem is to avoid being treated like God. Secondly, the “Boss” must avoid thinking that he is God.

Indeed, in many organizations, it is not easy to contradict or argue too vigorously with the boss.

Even when managers feel that they know more than a superior, they may suppress doubts because of career considerations.

Fearrespect for authority, and even admiration for the boss, may make skeptics hesitate when confronted with a confident CEO or dominating superior.
This is less of a problem if the leader acts in the organization’s interests, possesses requisite soft skills, and has strong ethics and cognitive capabilities to make decisions.

However, if a leader does not force serious questioning, he or she will sometimes make mistakes and errors of judgement. 
Colleagues and subordinates will become “yes-men”, and groupthink will take over decision making.
And the dominant CEO may not discover his or her mistakes because fearful employees withhold information.

What can lower-level managers do about the boss who has lost touch with reality and seems to be driving the organization in the wrong direction?

You can adopt three different strategies:

1. “Exit” (Leave the organization)
2. “Voice” (attempt to force changes from within)
3. “Loyalty” (accept things the way they are)

Each individual can evaluate the risks and benefits of each strategy.

However 
 if the organization is really on the wrong track  true loyalty requires you to make an attempt to communicate your reservations and concerns to the leader and you must voice your views (option 2)
Will the leader accept your views?
Or  will your career suffer if you are outspoken?
Is it best to “lump” whatever your superiors say and just do as you are told?
Or  does this blind obedience culture cause too much stress in you and is it best for you to quit your job and exit such an organisation afflicted by the disease of groupthink?

How can a confident, independent CEO avoid the pitfalls and temptations of absolute power?
The obvious (but difficult) answer is to make sure that power is never absolute, and surround oneself with other confident, independent people, and encourage dissension and debate on every decision.
In his autobiography ‘A Soldier’s Story’ – General ON Bradley has exemplified this aspect in the decision-making style of General George C Marshall, Chief of Staff of the US Army in World War II, a dominant leader who was instrumental in the Allied Victory owing to his resolute management of the entire war effort.
After one week in office  General Marshall called all his staff officers to his office and admonished them: 
“Gentlemen, I am disappointed in you. You haven’t yet disagreed with a single decision I have made. When you carry a paper in here, I want you to give me every reason you can think of as to why I should not approve it. If, in spite of your objections, my decision is still to go ahead, then I’ll know I am right.”

General Marshall did not believe in groupthink but wanted to hear different and contrarian views before taking a decision. 


Like General Marshall, who did not encourage cronyism and groupthink  rather than search for views that might reinforce his own  a CEO should seek contrary opinions to avoid groupthink. 
Some suggest using a devil’s advocate methodology for all major decisions by assigning some individuals in all groups and teams to argue against the dominant view.


PARALLEL POWER
This is a “groupthink” situation in which individuals or groups low in the hierarchy are powerful enough to do what they want, even when contrary to organizational objectives. 
Such power may be based on specialized expertise or privileged access to information.
Parallel power can lead to groupthink in two ways.

Firstly, senior managers may accept ideas from lower-level managers that are not necessarily in the organizational interest, either because they have insufficient information to ask the right questions, or because opposition would not seem legitimate.

Secondly, top managers may make decisions without all the necessary information because subordinates do not provide it due to vested interests arising from misplaced loyalties to a limited function, department or team, rather than to the organization as a whole.

Such situations can be mitigated by ensuring that managers rotate between different units and positions.


NATURAL UNANIMITY

When everyone in power instinctively shares the same opinion on an issue, the wise manager should be wary.
Natural unanimity groupthink results in an inward-looking organization detached from its environment.

Escape from this predicament almost certainly requires a fresh perspective that can come only from outside, by hiring new managers or appointing outside consultants.

A CEO may lay overemphasis on staff – line cooperation in the belief that the easiest way to ensure implementation is to recommend only those actions that the line managers agree with.
But this is not necessarily useful to an organization and may lead to mutual admiration and, ultimately, “natural unanimity groupthink”.

The effectiveness of staff - line dichotomy depends on maintaining a certain tension between the staff and the line managers.When the tension disappears, the staff may not be doing its job.


CONCLUSION

The key element in any strategy for avoiding groupthink is to instill checks and balances into the system. 

Formally, this can be achieved through cross-functional teams, staff advisers, external consultants, or procedures like “devil’s advocacy”.

Informally 
 managers must learn to tolerate dissidence, criticism, contrary opinions, discussion, brainstorming and debate and encourage their colleagues to express doubts about proposals. 

Propositions from various parts of the organization need to be treated transparently, equitably and consistently  in order to avoid groupthink.

In a nutshell  for effective decision making  and to prevent the dangers of GROUPTHINK  it is best to steer clear of yes-men, ego-massage, sycophancy and cronyism.

VIKRAM KARVE
Copyright © Vikram Karve 
1. If you share this post, please give due credit to the author Vikram Karve
2. Please DO NOT PLAGIARIZE. Please DO NOT Cut/Copy/Paste this post
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

Disclaimer:
All stories in this blog are a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the stories are a figment of my imagination. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Copyright Notice:
No part of this Blog may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical including photocopying or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the Blog Author Vikram Karve who holds the copyright.
Copyright © Vikram Karve (All Rights Reserved)
     
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

“Sunday Routine” – Unforgettable Memories of My Life in the Navy

Happy Memories of My Wonderful Life in the Navy

“SUNDAY ROUTINE”
“Liberty” and Leisure
Memoir 
By
VIKRAM KARVE

Today is Sunday.

Out here – in Pune – it is a bright Sunday Morning – and it is already getting hot – since we are in the midst of the blistering Summer heat.

Sitting indoors on this sweltering hot Sunday Morning makes me hark back to my halcyon Navy Days  and remember my “Sunday Routines” in the Navy.

Once you retire  every day is a “Sunday Routine”.

But when we were in the Navy  and our ship was tied alongside in harbour  we looked forward to our Sundays.

Unless you were on duty  Sunday was a day of Liberty when we could enjoy what the Navy calls “Sunday Routine” – our well deserved leisure time.

Let me tell you about a few of my typical “Sunday Routines”.

In the Navy  when you are at sea  you are on duty round-the-clock 24/7  and there is no “holiday”  so there is no “Sunday Routine” in the true sense.

But when your ship is in harbour  you have make-and-mend” (half day) on Wednesdays and Saturdays  and a “Sunday Routine” on Sundays and Holidays.

Unlike the corporate sector and government civilian babus  an operational organisation like the navy does not have the luxury of a “5 Day Week”  so we worked 6 days a week  and a weekly “off” only on Sundays  unless you were the “Officer of the Day” (OOD) – or you were put on some other “bum job” duty.

So  we eagerly waited for Sunday  and coveted our “Sunday Routine”.

“Sunday Routine” was our own personal time which we could spend as we liked  and we could do as we pleased.

Aristotle has wisely said: “The end of labour is to gain leisure”

We laboured the whole week to gain our “Sunday Routine”  and we were determined to enjoy our well earned leisure to the fullest.

Different individuals spend their leisure in different ways.

How you spend your leisure defines your persona.

There is a saying that if you want to find out the true character of a man  find out how he spends his leisure.

In the defence services  especially in the navy  how you spend your leisure mainly depends on where you are posted.

If you are lucky to be posted in a “maximum city” like Mumbai  there is a plethora of opportunities for enjoying your leisure.

On the other hand  if you are posted to a back-of-beyond remote desolate cantonment  your choices for spending your leisure are limited.

Let me describe to you  to compare and contrast  two typical Navy Style “Sunday Routines”  one in Mumbai  and one in Vizag  almost 10 years apart  both when I was posted on frontline warships  the first in the latter half of the 1970’s  and the second in the latter half of the 1980’s.


INS “XXX” (Harbour Sunday Routine – as an “in-living” officer)

Mumbai (then called Bombay)

Circa  1970’s

This was the happiest time of my life.

It is great to be on a happy ship.

Ours was a frontline warship – the ship was new  the crew was good  we had a delightful wardroom with friendly officers  and the general atmosphere on the ship was harmonious.

The main reason for the ship being a “Happy Ship” was our Captain  who was a great guy. 

His credo was simple – all he demanded is that we do our jobs properly – and once we did that  we were free to do whatever we pleased.

(I have observed during my long service in the Navy  and in inter-service establishments – that  particularly in the defence services – much depends on the Commanding Officer (CO) – for creating a harmonious the atmosphere in a ship/unit – and a painful killjoy CO can make life miserable for all – like we saw on some other ships)

On a Sunday we woke up early.

(If you remember – I told you in an earlier article that I never had late nights on Saturdays  and I preferred to have my hangovers on working days).

Early in the morning – we crossed the gangway and went ashore.

Then we embarked on a long Sunday morning walk cum jog – walking out of Lion Gate, past Kalaghoda, crossing the Oval, past CCI, then onto Marine Drive to jog to Chowpatty  and back to Churchgate  where we picked up a copy of the Cole (for the day’s races)  followed by chota hazri” at Stadium Restaurant.

Later  in the wardroom  we had a leisurely Sunday breakfast on board ship  of dosas and coffee  while “studying” the Cole  and the racing columns in the newspapers.

Ours was a wardroom of “punters”.

At around 10 or 10:30 we were off again  walking down to our favourite Stadium Restaurant Churchgate  for a brunch of sumptuous “Kheema Pav” followed by a cup of invigorating Irani Chai  while discussing our “forecasts” and “predictions” for the day’s races.

Then we caught a western railway local train to Mahalaxmi racecourse  so that we were well in time for the first race of the day  which began at noon  or sometimes a bit later at 12:30 or 1 o’clock in the afternoon.

(We took the precaution of buying a “return ticket” – for obvious reasons)

I loved going to the races. 

The atmosphere was electric – the bookie ring  the tote  the stands  the racecourse  the crowds  the excitement  the thrill – the horses – and – not to forget – the beautiful lady punters in their Sunday best – it was a thoroughly enjoyable Sunday afternoon.

In the evening  after a refreshing shower  and fortified with a generous quantity of Scotch and Soda  our hip flasks topped-up  we headed out again  for dinner and a late night movie  followed by midnight ice creams or milkshakes.

The restaurant where we went for dinner depended on our luck at the races – either Olympia or Bade Miyan (on a luckless day) – or Gaylord or Kamling (on a lucky day).

Even during the off-season  when there were no races  there was so much to do on a Sunday in a “maximum city” like Mumbai.

Like I said  those were the happiest days of my life  and my most enjoyable “Sunday Routines” too.

I thought these happy days would never end  but two years later  I was yanked off the ship, and posted to Jamnagar (as an instructor) – and it was still a big culture shock for me after my wonderful days in Mumbai.

I was familiar with the dreary place as a “student officer” – but it was a big disappointment – especially after my glorious days in Mumbai.

I suffered and endured almost one year in that horrible desolate place  almost becoming alcohol dependent  since the main leisure activity there was drinking Rum (while listening to old Hindi Songs on Urdu Service).

I escaped becoming an woebegone alcoholic by getting “selected” for the “prestigious” M. Tech. Course at IIT Delhi.

After two years of “paid holiday”  followed by two years in R&D  and then two more years on instructional duties at IAT Pune  and I was back on a frontline warship in Mumbai.

“Bombay days were back again” 

(Yes – Mumbai was still called Bombay in the late 1980s).

It was back to halcyon “Sunday Routine” days – I lived at Vasant Sagar in Churchgate – and for the first few months we had a great life.

As I was living it up  chanting “Happy Days are here again”  our luck ran out  and the base port of our ship was changed from Mumbai to Vizag (Visakhapatnam)  and we were off to the Eastern Seaboard.

I had been to Vizag only once on my earlier ship  but I did not see much of the Naval Base  since our ship was berthed on the iron ore jetty in the port trust  and we were in Vizag just for a day or so  and we spent our liberty hours ashore in the town.

But it seemed that  as far as Vizag town was concerned  nothing much had changed in the last 10 years.

As compared to Mumbai  Navy life Vizag was a big comedown  as you will realize  when you see how I spent my “Sunday Routine” at Vizag (Visakhapatnam)
 

INS “YYY” (Harbour Sunday Routine – as an “MLR” officer)

Vizag (Visakhapatnam)

Circa – 1980’s

I was now married (MLR or “Money in Lieu of Ration” in Naval Jargon)  and I was living with my family in Naval Park Vizag.

Sunrise is early on the eastern seaboard  so I would get up at 5:30 on Sunday morning  and I would head for my Sunday morning super-long walk  up Dolphin’s Nose  down to Continental Beach  and then head back straight to the “Sunday Market” in the HSL complex near Scindia  and reach there by 7 – just as the market (haat) was opening up.

The entire naval community would be there at the “Sunday Market”  mostly ladies whose husbands are sleeping off their hangover  and some early riser husbands like me.

In Vizag  this Sunday Morning Market was a “must visit” since you lived far away from town in Naval Park  to pick up your weekly stock of vegetables, fruit and fish.

At around 8  I returned home  I had a bath  we breakfasted on the idlis I had brought from the Sunday market  and at 9 o’clock  we all settled down before the TV set to watch the epic serial Ramayan.

(Later – when Ramayan was over  we would watch Mahabharat from 9 to 10 every Sunday morning).

Then we (self, wife and son) headed to the swimming pool  and spent an hour swimming and cooling off  and chitchatting with friends.

At 12 noon we were sitting in the makeshift club located in the parking lot of the officers’ mess for the Sunday afternoon Beer Biryani Tombola.

(Yes  in Vizag it was the rather prosaic and boring Tombola at the Navy Club  in lieu of thrilling and exciting Horse Racing at the Mahalaxmi Race Course which we enjoyed in Mumbai)

Then  I headed back home for a beer and biryani induced siesta”   which made me feel groggy.

In the evening  maybe we headed for town  full family of 3 on my Bajaj scooter  mostly accompanied by friends  and walked around Ramakrishna Beach  or maybe saw a movie at Jagdamba  followed by dinner at Daspalla.

Then we headed back home  and hit the sack.

Vizag was a big comedown from the glorious “Sunday Routines” of Mumbai.

One thing good in the Navy is that nothing is permanent.

So  many years later  in the year 2000  I was back in Mumbai  and I enjoyed my “Sunday Routines” even better than before  since the Navy gave me a lovely house in Empress Court – opposite the Oval  in Churchgate.

What better location can you ask for in Mumbai  especially to enjoy your leisure? 


EPILOGUE

My best and most enjoyable “Sunday Routines” were in Mumbai (Bombay) and Delhi.

And the most lackluster and dreary Sunday Routines were in Jamnagar  arguably the worst place to be posted to  during my younger days in the Navy.

The Sunday Routines in places like Vizag, Kochi (Cochin) and Pune were somewhere middle-of-the-road  as I have described above.

In IAT Pune – on Sundays – we could go trekking up to Sinhagad or in the hills of Girinagar – or we would head for Pune City – to spend the day with our parents/relatives (Pune is my hometown).

How about you? 

How do you like to enjoy your Sundays?

And especially if you are a “fauji”  do tell us how you enjoyed your “Sunday Routines” in the “fauj” – in the Army, the Navy or the Air Force.  

And hey – all you young Civilian Friends (especially all you Nerds Geeks and Dorks) – do let us know how you spend your Sundays and Weekends.

VIKRAM KARVE
Copyright © Vikram Karve 
1. If you share this post, please give due credit to the author Vikram Karve
2. Please DO NOT PLAGIARIZE. Please DO NOT Cut/Copy/Paste this post
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

Disclaimer:
All Stories in this Blog are a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the stories are a figment of my imagination. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Copyright Notice:
No part of this Blog may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical including photocopying or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the Blog Author Vikram Karve who holds the copyright.

Copyright © Vikram Karve (all rights reserved)