Why I left Army?

Why I left Army?

This is a complicated question for me because I need to answer this more to myself than anyone else. A lot of my students are keen to know, “Why I left Army?” ”Why I never got promoted beyond Col?”  I have explained the reasons in this blog. Reading this answer will give you some insights into the ethos of the Army as I saw it.
 

Army Ethos: Logic versus Seniority

I had realized quite early that my outlook was not in sync with the organizational ethos. All armies in the world rate seniority above logic. The reason is the great value attached to customs and traditions. Just note the sword carried by contingent commanders in ceremonial parades. Does the sword have any meaning as a weapon in modern warfare? The answer is an obvious no, but we still carry it! For me logic rated above seniority before I joined NDA and I have not changed my outlook till date. Army could not change me! I was wise enough not to try to change the Army!
 

Supersession in Army

One very simple answer is that when I got superseded it was reason enough to leave the Army. It was a reason but not the reason! It would suggest that I did not take supersession in the right spirit and it hurt my ego too much. That does not seem true to me because I do not have much of an ego issue and for the duration that I served in the Army after supersession I did not have problems with people who had lesser service and were in senior appointments. In any case supersession was highly inevitable. It was not a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when’ it would happen. Let me take you through the journey which developed this perspective:

  • Commando Course. It was surprising for my juniors and even some course mates that I did not even receive an “Instructor” grading in the course. Not that being a ‘Commando Instructor’ is easy, but for me it should have been easy. In endurance and strength I was undoubtedly one of the best in my batch and my IQ is not below average. My closest friend and room-mate ( who I could outdo in most tests) topped the course! He brought the trophy to the room & kept it under the bed! Reason: Army does not accept deviation from the established culture and norms which I never respected.
  • Stupid Operation as 2 Lt. In 1984 while deployed in Naoshera as a platoon commander on the LoC I was sent on a very stupid & meaningless operation by a Brigadier (later retired as Major General). My patrol achieved nothing except that we survived under enemy fire. We were congratulated for bravery. I found it embarrassing. Later a Subedar Major of a different unit, who had acted as a guide for the operation was in a concocted story shown as the leader and awarded the “Shaurya Chakra.”I found the entire thing very amusing! The organization teaches officers to take responsibility for your mistakes as also those made by your subordinates and giving credit to juniors for their accomplishments. I imbibed this ethos. This definitely is not the ethos of the successful officers. The ethos of the successful officer is shameless self-promotion & blaming others for your mistakes. Well Sonia, Rahul, Man Mohan and Modi also do the same, so why blame the Generals!
  • First Successful Trans-Pirpanjal Patrol Leader Not to Earn Decoration. I successfully led a major patrol in the winters across the Pirpanjal Range in 1985. All successful patrol leaders in the past ( approximately 30% were successful) had earned some decoration. I wrote in my patrol report that the difficulty of the patrol had been exaggerated in the past and the success did not require any exceptional bravery but just reasonable fitness! Naturally I received no award for stating the truth!

Army’s Problem with Non-Conformist

When I joined Army I was far too much of a non-conformist to adjust in an organization seeped in tradition. Let me explain.

  • I was the first officer in my unit who did not consume any alcohol. I was explained as to how it was “Punjabi”culture. Nobody till date could inspire me to adopt this stupid culture!
  • The unit moved for an exercise and the Officers’Mess culture was to drink alcohol and play Rummy ( cards game) from 08:30 pm to midnight and then have food. The result of this ‘great culture’ was that all the officers above 8-9 years of service could barely pass their mandatory fitness criteria, were over-weight and avoided exercise. I developed the habit of consuming large quantities of water and lime water at night and used to take my Boxing team for training from 05:30 am to 08:00 am.To catch my lost sleep whenever I got time I slept in office or training before lunch! I spent considerable time reading. This was also not ‘Punjabi” culture!
  • Another ‘Punjabi’ culture among officers was to use considerable amount of ‘Punjabi gaalis’ when talking with the troops and then let them off for committing mistakes which deserved punishment. I found it made much more sense to talk with the troops respectfully, but also punish them if they deserved punishment. I never adopted this popular culture either!
  • As a 2 Lt my ( Commanding Officer) CO once admonished me for having improper hair-cut, which I felt was wrong. I shaved off my hair in protest. It was such an unimaginable response that I was boycotted by the entire battalion officers and was made to serve under a JCO. Nobody could convince me that my action was wrong, either then or today!

 

Laughing at Seniors!

As a Col and CO I was given several“Performance Counsellings”by my immediate boss (Brigadier) for laughing when he passed some instructions. The fact is that he passed such laughable orders that I could not control myself!
 

Unwanted by Army

Till the time I commanded the unit I felt that the organization needed me. In my subsequent tenures I realized that I was increasingly unwanted in the Army, primarily because people would rather do what helps in their promotion rather than what is rationally better, which in simple words implies toeing the line of the senior. It simply means work for self-promotion and self-preservation and forget about organizational interests. I am the type of person, who if had been in the BJP would have openly criticized the stupid promotion of “Hindutva” and “Demonetization”. The BJP would have thrown me out & I voluntarily left the Army before I got thrown out! It was an interesting and enjoyable journey which I would like to relive again! It was a pleasure and honour to rub shoulders with some of the best soldiers in the world. I was a soldier first and an officer later. Now that I am self-employed I am the happiest!
 
 
 
 

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32 Comments

  1. Brilliant blog sir and I am 100% agree with you and I am the one who also thinks your way.
    Almost every point that you mentioned be it not consuming alcohol,not using gaali’s and your love for logics instead of tradition and so called culture matches my thinking.
    I am an Army aspirant and even after 9 attempts couldn’t make it and that compelled me to think it’s because of my out of box thinking that’s causing hindrance but after reading your blog I feels motivated and would love to meet you in future

  2. Sir,what then makes you inspire people to join Army ?
    Clearly you did not like the way it functions (seniors are god sort of thing).
    I am an army aspirant.
    Dont you think by saying these things you are demoralising the aspirants.

  3. Only the brave can assimilate TRUTH in their systems. The rest are happy with the “make believe world”. Am happy to read the truth…few would dare it.

  4. Respectes n honourable sir….
    With due respect i would like to ask u one thing that is can a honest and simple person cant survive in the one of the most decorated organisation in the world??? with respect n honour….
    Simplicity is the root n basic block of army???
    The points u reflect seems original n natural…
    anonymously ask?????

  5. The author was an inspiration as an instructor at NDA. What made him stand out even at that time was his habit of calling a spade a spade. Army is a wonderful profession but like all other professions, is ideal for some and not so ideal for others.

  6. I have known Col Nehru since 1989. My DS at Ghorpuri, I owe my fitness to him. My real guru, who in my 1st term made me realise my potential as a runner. He told me once ” you can run, I can see it in you”. Needless to say, my passion for running has not faded yet. I agree with his logics wrt supersession. I have been at the receiving end too.
    Sir, you might have left Army but…..Army will nor leave you.
    Regards always.
    Abhishek Chaturvedi

  7. Sir I respect your honest and straight answer to a question of such an importance for todays generation joining the armed forces with lot of respect, zeal and a kind of inner feeling saying yes this organization is d one which still stands strong on its principals, ethos, values etc.
    It requires lot of wise words and guts to come out with such an brilliant true answer thums up!

  8. I respect your valour Sir, your words were truly inspiring to me. I am strictly against liquor drinking and anybody enforcing me to do that behalf of any cultural restriction is intolerable to me. Thank you Sir for your great guidance. God bless you ?

  9. Hats off to you sir. Not many people have the GUTS to follow their principles and keep up with their stand. this thing makes you different .

  10. Sir,
    You were my IO when I was there in 17SSB for NDA entry. I read this blog and I have learned a lot of life lessons.
    I am really amazed to see how despite so many odd experiences you’re keeping your behavior and thought positive. I can learn a lot from you.

  11. Very good article sir, you brought the real truth.
    In my just 6 months of training I have realised that the army runs on very stupid mentality and it is very difficult to change it.
    The culture of stupidity is so dominant that a well educated cadet and an officer fails to see the truth. When one follows the rationale , he is laughed at by others.
    In OTA, seniors told juniors NOT to eat the small piece of butter served in the breakfast because it will make them overweight and they will not be able to clear the PT test especially chin ups and toe touch. We were strictly told to have only DAAL in lunch and dinner to reduce weight and to gain strength.
    I found it quite unrationale. I followed the opposite and cleared both the above test of Chin ups and toe touch in time
    This was just one incident!

  12. It would have been difficult for you to maintain the balance without being radicalized by others
    Thank you sir for sharing your experience.

  13. Sir, thank you for writing and sharing this article. It portrays us the work culture in armed forces from a different perspective. I have read your answers on Quora also. (upvoted/downvoted few of them)
    From your answers (allegations by jawan Tej Bahadur) and this article, it seems that the Officer rank (major power holders) are more inclined towards malpractices. You assert that promotions and especially reaching star ranks needs exaggeration of abilities, networking with seniors etc etc.
    If this is true even if to certain extent then can our force fight well and achieve its objective while fighting a presumably superior force like China in case of war thrust upon us? I know there has been certain corruption in our armed forces since their start but the quality of manpower (officer level) is certainly on decline. Will our forces be able to defend us with minimal casualties* with the current quality of men? I would like to read an detailed article on this topic written by you.
    My utmost respect for you n your profession.

    • The inferences that you have drawn from my writing are quite correct. I would request you not to get unduly alarmed & concerned about the state of our services for the following reasons:
      1. Military leadership is influenced by the civilian leadership of the country hence the erosion in values is unavoidable.
      2. Leadership in China or Pakistan is not great either.
      3. It is truth that greater professionalism, as I desired, would have reduced past casualties as well as improved future efficiency.

  14. Sir , truth appears in your words.I thought that SSB itself reccomends gentlemen in army and after promotions those officers ‘d become more intelligent, hardworking and sincere. But your a few paragraphs has originated somehow or a l’ll negitive image of army in my mind. According to you we ‘re not required to possess any myths but who knows your experiance as read by me will be regarded as another myth when told to others(as only i know its truth.)
    My heart is mostly broken by the line of ‘toeing the line of officers’ . Sir then tell can we call its (Army) not perfect not at all!
    Then why do we’d like to join army
    For a best working experience ever or to earn good money.
    I just want to write and write but ‘ve to left and to prepare my best for SSB.

    • Realities of life are a little different from what we hear and perceive.I have given the facts as I saw or perceived them. When you work in any organization you realize that it is quite ordinary and there is plenty of scope for improvement. This is true for the Army as well. It is also a fact that the Services are very rightly considered the best organization in India, despite the flaws.

  15. it is ironical to find that army is devoid of its ethical and ideal organization. At the same time it is a pleasure to know u in a better way. it, undoubtedly, requires courage to practice exactly what they teach in training in the service in the lagging backdrop when no one is bothering about the values and interested in self advancement in contrast to professanal advancement. Rewards should be not a tool to attract promotions, Rather a feeling of Self satisfaction in the afterglow of action of accomplishing your duties truthfully , genuinely and honestly is the real and authentic award that being free of any guilt or not tending to make your inner self uncomfortable is far better than those ill earned medals.
    Hats Off to U Sir…

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  17. I think everything said was actually very reasonable.
    But, what about this? what if you were to create a killer headline?
    I am not suggesting your content is not good, but suppose you added a title
    that makes people desire more? I mean Why I left Army?
    – No Frills Academy is a little boring. You ought to glance at Yahoo’s home page
    and see how they create post titles to grab people interested.
    You might add a video or a related pic or two to grab people excited about everything’ve written. In my opinion, it would make your website a little bit
    more interesting.

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