Sunday, March 29, 2009

Know your facts

Our multi-cultural nation provides us ample opportunities to travel, work, study etc in a diversified way and draw inspiration from different ethnic communities. Yet, how much do we know each other, how much brotherhood has developed amongst us? I do not know. I believe, many a times, we remain self-centred and judge our fellow citizens wrongly due to our ignorance or narrow outlook.

Way back in 1962/63, the Indian Army offered Emergency Commission, to eligible Indian citizens. A lof young candidates applied. The selection process was very tough, so hardly any candidates from my state/town got through the Service Selection Board (SSB). None of my collegues or friends had succeeded in getting selected. A faint rumour was heard that some officers (mostly sikhs) responsible for selection, were biased against other communities, which was the reason for such poor show by the candidates - there was, however, not an iota of proof/evidence to substantiate this.

I also ultimately applied for commission into the Army, though it seemed like a faraway dream. On a winter day in Jan/Feb, very early in the morning I was called for a preliminary interview - where fortunately I was amongst a very few who got selected that day. After some time I got a letter from Army Hq asking me to report (for further tests) on a certain day to a certain SSB in a different city. I was happy to be able to see a new place and did not expect anything more.

On the stipulated day, I reported to the SSB. We were given chest numbers for identification, and were divided in groups of 9 for the tests.Our GTO (Group Testing Officer) was a Sikh officer (Major) and there were three Sikh candidates (two happened to be from Army ranks appearing for their last chance). The rumour of "biased attitude of officers" then suddently came to my mind. Two days were spent giving many grilling tests. On the second evening during dinner, I heard that our board was the toughest, another unsubstatiated rumour. The second night passed.

On the third day after breakfast we assembled in front of a building, for the results. A uniformed officer first gave us a peptalk. He said he would announce the chest numbers of the selected candidates only, who were to fall out and stand on his right, the rest of the candidates should report to another officer for collection of their railway pass etc. The officer started announcing the chest numbers. Since I did not consider even a remote possibility of my own selection, I did not care to listen and focussed my thoughts on getting the return fare of the journey and the railway pass. I suddenly heard a loud "Chest no 5, are you sleeping?" My chest no, had been called out twice, and was the first to be announced. I shouted "Sir" and stepped aside, stunned. Another candidate was selected. None of the Sikh candidates were selected though our GTO was a Sikh Officer.

The point I wish to highlight here is that, we often tend to form opinions and pass judgement on others - based on imprecise facts and feeble logic. If others' actions go against our own interest, our judgement is stronger and likely to be more erroneus. I learnt that day that what helps in life more than biased opinions, is an attitude - to Think Positive and to Be Righteous.

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