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Posted at: Jul 21, 2019, 6:55 AM; last updated: Jul 21, 2019, 6:55 AM (IST)

Earning your rank

Col K Thammayya Udupa (Retd)
Col K Thammayya Udupa (Retd)

Col K Thammayya Udupa (Retd)

GP was lost in thought. Two months back, he had rejoined the battalion after a tenure as an instructor in the military academy. He had been eager to return to the battalion and was sure that the Commanding Officer (CO) would promote him to Major against an existing vacancy. But, that day, promotion was the last thing on his mind. His “homecoming” had coincided with the arrival of MM, the new CO. MM had the reputation of being a foul mouth, a hard taskmaster and a tyrant. He knew every rule that had ever been made. He knew everything that a man in the profession of arms ought to know. MM was a perfectionist who would personally visit every nook and cranny of the unit and hold people accountable for any shortcoming. In just a few days, he had made life miserable for everyone.

Those who had worked with him earlier did mention that MM actually had a heart of gold and was often given to a bit of drama. These traits were nowhere to be seen in his present avatar, thought GP wearily. MM had no intention of promoting him. Instead, he had become the object of MM’s sadistic pleasure. MM had appointed GP the Officers’Mess Secretary and wanted the entire Mess to be renovated with only the best things, almost overnight. GP had done his best to bring the Mess to some shape. He had felt confident that it would meet MM’s high standards. But, on the day of the inspection, he was in for a shock; MM had literally torn the new curtains and kicked and shattered the new tiles. He had broken the windowpanes with one swing of his cane and in less than 15 minutes, the Mess was a mess. The perfectionist had pointed out one blemish after another. GP had to accept, grudgingly, that he had missed them all. MM was right. After three such inspections, GP had almost given up. Forget promotion, it was now a question of sheer survival.

GP came back to the real world. He wanted to utilise every minute of the next few hours in carefully checking and re-checking every inch of the Mess before the next inspection later that afternoon. He had requested all junior officers and ladies to go over the Mess again and again and bring to his notice any areas that could be improved.

His heart was pounding when MM arrived with the Second-in-Command (2IC). The news from the battalion was that it was difficult to gauge the old man’s mood. He had been unusually silent all day. And silent he was during the inspection. But the usual smirk on the face was still there, thought GP. “All the shouting and the brickbats is probably reserved for the end,” he thought.

MM inspected everything, the Mess staff’s living area, the new ornamental plants, the new glass-topped tables, the new livery for the waiters, the new guest rooms. Everything.

“2IC,” he thundered. “This Mess Secretary of yours...” The long pause killed not only GP, but also the 2IC. “He does not deserve to be a Captain.” Before they recovered from this onslaught, they heard the same booming voice, “Let us make him a Major.”

MM dug into his pockets and brought out a pair of brand new Major’s epaulettes. Before GP could realise what was happening, MM was upon him, quickly followed by the 2IC and in a flash both of them had slipped the new epaulettes on his shoulders. “Good job done, GP, we now have a good Officers” Mess. Keep up the good work. You have a bright future.” Even before GP could recover from the shock and offer a customary promotion drink to all those who were around, MM had vanished, rushing back to his office to make some other poor, pitiable officer earn his rank.


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