After three decades in uniform, it is now three years since I am out of it. However, as believed, one can take a soldier out of the army, but one can’t take army out of a soldier: The heart, mind and soul stay riveted to the roots. During my recent, and one of the rarefied, visits to an office of a young officer, I was delighted to see a tastefully done up interiors and the other comforts that are now part of the entitlements. Nothing is a constraint; the space, resources and the style are a good mix. Hence, it was understandable.
This wasn’t the case earlier, in the mid-eighties and the period prior to that. Those days, the funds weren’t just there for such indulgences. The grants that came from the government were meager and catered just for the basic needs. One had to make do with what was available. I still remember, once in a couple of years, if a unit bought a stylish executive chair, it went straight to the commanding officer’s (CO) office. Thereafter, once he sat on the new ‘throne’, the old chair of his made its way to the office of the Second-in-Command, aka 2IC, and the second most senior of a unit. Next, after the 2IC sat over his ‘new’ chair, he pushed his old one to the office of a Company Commander, generally the third in line, in seniority. So, this was a kind of unwritten Standing Operating Procedure (SOP) that was religiously followed in all the units of the Indian Army. If a new computer was bought, it was privileged to enter the CO’s office and give ‘kho’ to the old one, which then went to the 2IC of that unit. Whether the CO knew how to operate a computer was never ever a question, a privilege is a privilege!
The interesting thing is, while the officers themselves aspired to go up the ladder, meaning, from a lower chair to a higher chair, the chairs themselves had to come down from a higher office to a lower office!! Since every object, animate and inanimate, has its own feelings and consciousness, I am sure, the chair in a CO’s office must have felt terrible to experience its own demotion from a higher office to a lower one. From a somebody to a nobody, it must have been a “complete loss of subjective self-identity”
While there, I didn’t ask any chair as to how it felt to have moved from top to the bottom. If I did, I am certain, at least one of them would have had the guts and the gumption to say, “ While I kick you all up the ladder, you all are kicking me down the ladder!”
Happily, the situation has truly changed now. While the officers move from a lower office to a higher office, the chairs do not have to move in the reverse order. Importantly, the old Standing Operating Procedure is not standing any more!