"What I've learned from the Indian Army"

On the occasion of "Kargil Vijay Diwas", India's military observance of its victory in the 1999 Kargil War, members of the CTQ Writing Compound wrote a short essay based on the prompt "What I've learned from the Indian Army". In the Writing Compound, we write once a day based on a prompt and interpret from our own varied lenses. While the output may not be entirely polished, it serves as a valuable practice ground for us to get better and consistent at writing.

Harish, co-founder and upleveler, Choose To Thinq

One of the many things that I admire (and try to implement) from the armed forces is to not use my mind everywhere. Yes - it might sound counter-intuitive but imagine an army where a foot soldier is questioning the order of his officer at the border. 

"Go! Storm the bunker!"
"Sir - that might put even my life in danger. Can we look at other ideas?"

"I" (have already done that and there’s no other option. You’ll have to go and silence that LMG or all 10 of us will die any time now) - in reality, the conversation would have stopped at "I".

 This discipline is drilled into everyone - soldier or officer - by following orders all the time, no questions asked. This is at odds with our (CTQ's) stated purpose of questioning the status quo. But I do believe there are situations that demand these different kinds of behaviors and attitudes and there is no contradiction there.

As we practice questioning of the status quo, I do believe we (individually as well as as an organization) need to have practice grounds for discipline.

I, for one, try to treat our Reading and Writing Compounds as these - at least, the part about following the rules :-)

Ankita, freelance writer and CTQ Biz Wordsmith panelist

The foremost thing one can learn from the Indian Army is to have a purpose in life - something one believes in so strongly that they let it guide all their major actions and decisions. For some Indians, it's a deep sense of patriotism that makes them join the army and be ready to lay down their lives for their country and countrymen. It's not just extreme professionalism or selflessness or even nerves of steel, but also the meaning that they attach to their work and how it translates to their own sense of self that motivates a soldier to be truly brave.

A more obvious lesson to be learned from the Indian Army is that of discipline. An army person practices it not only at work, but also in their personal life. They follow a routine and maintain habits that make their days more structured and productive. It's well known that an army life inculcates the value of time. Besides being punctual, a soldier knows to stay present in the situation at any given moment. On field, such mindfulness can mean the difference between life and death.

Army people also put in a lot of effort to stay fit - both physically and mentally. The latter is especially crucial given the nature of their work. Often, to accomplish missions, soldiers have to be away from loved ones and persevere in harsh conditions for long stretches of time. (In addition to good strategy, physical strength and stamina, it was pure resolve and grit that led the Indian soldiers of Kargil war to conquer peak after peak and advance towards victory.)

There's also the 'stronger together' lesson of camaraderie and teamwork that the army teaches. Soldiers bond during military training itself, long before they step into the actual battlefield. These bonds, useful on the field, often translate into friendships that last a lifetime.
So, one can learn a lot from the Indian Army and the exceptional men and women that are part of it. By being more like an Indian soldier, one can fight and win personal battles to achieve productivity, prosperity, and peace.

Sirisha, independent consultant and upleveler at Choose To Thinq

I have a lot of admiration for the Indian armed forces. Some things that strike me are:

  1. Teamwork- they operate in sync and that is probably a big setting to learn about team work and collaboration
  2. 2. Putting everything else before self - I think that needs a lot of conditioning because it is against our natural instinct. All the stories of war heroes gives us goosebumps when one hears their sacrifices, including their own lives.
  3. Impeccable discipline - sticking to time, carrying themselves with a lot of dignity and courtesy - you can see this in their families too
  4. Immaculate dressing - dressing for the occasion and spending time to look presentable. it creates the right impression.
  5. 5. Command and control structure- while I am not a big fan of organizations with many levels of hierarchy, I can't fathom how this institution can operate without the same.

Deven Deshpande, MBA student and Quizmaker and Quizmaster at Thinq2Win

My closest encounter with the Indian Armed Forces (apart from a few quizzes at AFMC) was during my Services Selection Board exam. The first thing I noticed in the Bhopal camp was the posters and the giant frames put everywhere which had captions like - You are a winner, Winners aren't quitters, Be proud that you're a part of the army etc.

The discipline, the teamwork, the exercises, the willingness and tenacity to complete tough challenges, to use your grey cells along and not just your muscle, to be punctual, to be honest, to be thorough, to be fit etc. - these are some of the things I learnt during that week.

From being an uninformed and unprepared candidate to someone who really wanted to join the Force, my perception changed completely during the course.

Among the other things I've learnt, one is being patient and not giving up. There were candidates there who were attempting for the 4th-5th time.

But I didn't quite understand when some of them failed yet again and were in tears and agony. I couldn't learn because I simply couldn't understand or even manage to feel the colossal loss they were experiencing...

Perhaps, if I fail at one thing for 5 consecutive years, I'll understand this a little bit more..

J. Ramanand, co-founder and upleveler at Choose To Thinq

Armies around the world (and I'm sure the Indian army is no different) have a very paradoxical relationship with notions such as 'innovation' and 'tradition'. On one side, they stick firmly and almost fanatically to the rituals of the past. Quaint ways of dressing and eating that must have originated 200-300 years ago by names like Smith and Thomas are followed even today by young officers with names like Das and Singh. Why not do away with all kinds of stuffy etiquette? Because these are rituals, routines, shibboleths that provide a sense of belonging.

On the other hand,  armies are technologically savvy.  We haven't heard much about pioneering technical work by Indian defence forces in the same way that we have about the US army, but the forces invest a lot in officer training and equipment. Wars are fought not just on actual fields but also in game theoretic scenarios, so possession of these play a role in themselves. Here, innovation provides an edge on survival. To stay rooted in the bayonets and muskets of the past is to give up the battle even before it can begin.

The Indian army won Kargil with sophisticated modern equipment operated by men with ranks like "Lance-Naik". The lance was probably last used by an Indian Soldier in World War II. A testament to how the old and the new can co-exist side by side without anyone batting an eyelid.