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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Reluctant Techie

My career , which was always on a ‘ conveyer belt’ gave very little room for any deliberate decisions ; from sainik school to NDA to army .
       One of the rare occasions when I was really required to make a choice was to choose between tech and non tech. The first time it happened was at NDA, and as a 16 year old, I opted for the technical stream. The classification test at NDA categorized me as ‘A’ the highest class in the technical group. I remember telling my DS , that I got A in all subjects, little realizing that, while it was the highest in Tech and English , it happened to be the lowest in Hindi; for whatever reason. So, I started my career in army with a triple ‘A’ .
       Survival at first term had more to do with physical endurance than anything else, least of all studies. The common mode of locomotion was front rolling and the bicycles we were issued with were riding on us more often than we ever rode them. Under the circumstances, I came down rolling from 'A' to ‘C ‘ classification in the second term and passed out with a CGPA of 4, (a four point someone). The three years of ‘technical ‘studies  was just a black hole to me . Try as I might , can’t remember a single thing I learnt in those three years in Sudan block and Science block. Whatever was learnt, good or bad was learnt outside these famous academic blocks.
        Years later, I was sitting in front of my DS at IMA (who retired as a well known Army Commander), who was trying to push me towards a technical arm. The interview went something like this.
Why don’t you go for a technical arm ?
Sir, I prefer Infantry.
You were a techie at NDA weren’t you ?
Sir, NDA techie is not much of a techie.
Anyway, you have slogged more than others. (doing math is slogging while push ups was fun !)
........................... ???!!! 
Why not artillery ?
Sir, I prefer dealing with men to handling guns.
Consider artillery again.
NO sir it is infantry
        In one of his lectures the same DS had said, “why do you guys want to go for docile tps like hill tps , cross swords with Sikhs and Jats , they are the ones who win all competitions. (he was a jat sikh from Gorkhas)
         Well, I opted for JATS.
         The first ten years of my career, I stayed away from anything that had to do with maths or science. We used to have a technical orientation course before going to staff college. As the name suggests, it was meant for ‘pongos’ like us, as the future generals were expected to be tech savvy. No sir, don’t you stuff me with maths and science for whatever reason; I will, anytime put tactical issues above the technical ones; don’t I have some bespectacled geeks under command? Predictably, I got a C grade in the course.
         Those were the days, XT Computers were just being introduced in offices. I went through the first year of my staff appointment blissfully ignorant of PCs. The turning point came when a GD sepoy, who was in-charge of the PC (well friends , we had just one XT PC in the whole Brigade Headquarters) informed all that the ‘files’ would not open and we had to do the VIP brochure , briefing etc all over again. The army cdr was visiting the next day. It was a long night of typing and proof reading and by the end of it, I had to know why the file wouldn’t open and had to ensure that such a crisis wouldn’t occur again.. Thus started the long road to my Education in the IT field. Subsequently, supersession helped; leading to a huge bonfire of all army pamphlets I had , (just to ensure security of info) and books on IT more than replaced the void in my bookshelves.
        The world of Info Tech is a great field, ever changing, ever evolving, a field of huge depth and width, a digital ocean , yet always willing to reveal its secrets and treasures to anyone willing to learn, willing to dive deep into it. You don’t need a teacher, classrooms or universities; all you require is the hardware and the NET. If at all you need any guidance , there is abundant help from fellow-netizens. Where ever I was posted I created projects for myself, developing web sites, applications and so on.
          Later I was posted to Infantry School as an instructor in the newly created IT Division. Suddenly, the shoe was on the other foot. I found myself as a techie among non-techies. A course mate of my mine, a signal officer not very tolerant to ignorance shared with me a conversation he had had at the bar . It went like this ..
…….. “Water here seems to be very hard, isn’t it ?”
Infantryman… “oh sure it is , even yesterday we had a hailstorm” and he was dead serious !
I could totally empathize, It is not easy to be out of sync in any environment.
         Strange are the ways God and …. The Army.. years later I found myself , as an infantryman, teaching a tech subject to officers of the Corps of Signals. About that later …….