Our Collective Conscience in Auto mode

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In the recent past a number of incidents of ‘Atrocities against Women’ has been reported by the media but the vox populi seems to have numbed. Our collective conscience seems to have gone on an Auto mode. No more the candle light marches, seen after the ‘Nirbhaya’ episode. No more raising slogans. No more student agitation. It seems to have been accepted as part of the scenery. Just passes by as you pass by life.

A law student killed in gruesome manner, very akin to Nirbhaya, in Kerala. A young girl tortured and murdered in Ahmedabad. A girl raped twice over by the same assailants. A small girl raped and made to wait at the Police Station the whole day before the complaint could be lodged (the tests need to be performed within 24 hours). Where is the fury? The rage? The Justice Verma Committee came up with several recommendations. He chiefly blamed failure of governance. Despite the Act, passed with great fervour, it doesn’t seem to have helped much.

Stalking and voyeurism are offences punishable by seven years in jail. There is not a single case of anyone put behind bars. Stalking continues. Voyeurs continue to spy. The first place to go after any incident is the Police Station. It is here that the law has to transcend from the exalted books to action. And yet it is here that we fail miserably.

The proposed Bill of Rights for Women, which would entitle women to a life of dignity and security and ensure that she has the right to complete sexual autonomy including with respect to her relationships is hardly even talked about. Fact is, as a society, somewhere we have abdicated our sense of responsibility. We are looking for some ‘Mr India’, who’ll come and sweep away all our ills. We are therefore NOT taking the onus; passing the buck and NOT standing up and are NOT being counted.

The Delhi rage should’ve pushed us for stricter and faster reforms and their implementation. But sadly we missed the bus. Public anger did not translate into action and the fury did not manifest as a law. The misogynists and criminals rampantly harass women in several ways and sadly the onus is put on the women. That she drew the ire of the assailant, she dressed skimpily, or somehow it was all her mistake.

It’ll take time to change mindsets. The law should be a deterrent. But it is a provocating thought that should get us going. A few years down the line, “it’ll be my daughter walking down the street. If the street is unsafe today, will it be safe for her tomorrow?”

If the answer is an univocal NO, then ask yourself, what are you doing about it?

 

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What makes these Army People!!

 

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+ When a cold and shivering jawan gets you a cup of hot tea on a patrol break at 13,000 feet

+ When your sixth sense tells you there is something wrong with a guy at 50 metres

+ When you meet with an accident and the first thing you check whether the weapon you were carrying is functioning; your men come next and last you check your limbs

+ When you speak the language of the boys

+ When you sit from dusk to dawn in an ambush on Valentine’s Day, you know your Red Rose is being delivered home; you understand camaraderie

+ When you are a master to light a pump stove, lanterns, solar lights, bukharis and cold injuries than your average doctor

+ When you indicate people by the clock ray method

+ When only your buddy can dig out the thing you want from your rucksack

+ When your pain submits to your will; when you are tested to your limits of your physical endurance and some more

+  When you find it funny when your relative says he’s going on a holiday to a hill station

+ When your profession is a matter of discussion during marriage proposals

+ When you do not believe in ghosts but do believe in Peer and other high altitudes babas

+ When you know the real meaning of camouflage, in field, in parties, in unit routine and in your own house

+ When you can live, anywhere, with anybody, on anything that nature/ circumstances has to offer

+ When you know this LMG (light machine gun) will be re-sited by everybody up the chain, till it comes back to where it had been sited initially

+ When somebody asks, “Do you play Golf?” and you look at the brass on your shoulder and say, “Not yet!”

+ When you are the biggest consumer of foot powder, DMP oil (anti mosquito), water sterilization kit, ORS packets and Meals Ready to Eat (MRE) packets

+ When you give it all that you have and some more, go beyond the call of duty .. to get the job done; izzat is the end all of your living and existence

+ When you are the only one to get trained in bayonet fighting and you expect it to happen

+ When your GF thinks you are a combo of Rambo, Commando, Gladiator and Braveheart

+ When your Commanding Officer (boss), btw thinks you are none

+ When you get lost in a multiplex with signboards but are at ease in a jungle with just a compass to navigate and night the stars guide your way

 

Here Great Courage & Fortitude is a Norm

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At 22,000ft, with temperatures falling below minus 40 degrees celsius, Siachen is the World’s highest and coldest battlefront. Crossing a crevasse is an adventure of its own.

Much has been written about the Siachen glacier. Statistics and technical terms, however, rarely do justice to what it feels like to be up there.

How can words describe the bitter cold slicing through the metal of the lumbering IL 76 aircraft that ferries you to the world’s highest killing grounds? Or how it feels to be buffeted and tossed about by turbulence as the aircraft careens through the narrow mouth of the Zojila pass.

How it feels to see grim faces of comrades around you, knowing that some will not return. How the first breath of -30 degrees celsius air feels like inhaling powdered glass, making you choke and bend over. How the numbing cold oozes through the sole of your boots, layers of clothing, skin and gristle, and into your bones within seconds. How your limbs and digits are frozen, and hurt all the time.

How can words describe that sinking feeling when you look at the memorial rock pillars with names of the dead etched all the way up, as far as you can see? Or how your world is perpetually dimmed by the dark glasses you wear so UV rays don’t lacerate your cornea. How it feels to forcibly swallow congealed lumps of canned food, meal after meal, for months on end. How every breath is a struggle because, no matter how deeply you inhale, the thin air cheats you of oxygen. How your head constantly throbs, spins and aches because of the high altitude.

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The long trek to the post in rarified atmosphere is an effort in itself. With battle loads, its tests your grit, determination and courage.

How can words describe the small fibreglass hut, reeking of kerosene and unwashed bodies, that will be your home for a year. A home you share with a dozen other souls sleeping in squashed bunkers that have housed hundreds before you. How you search for a tiny space on the soot-darkened walls, to scratch your name among the hundreds already there. How hygiene is nothing but wiping yourself with a rag dipped in warm water, when you can. How your world is split between the blazing rays of a fierce sun and the perpetual shadows of kerosene lamps.

How every day is a battle to stay alive, every patrol a life-threatening mission. How every step can crack through an ice sheet hiding a crevasse and swallow you forever. How the slightest vibration can set off an avalanche and entomb you under tonnes of rocky ice. And, how a patrol that would take a few hours in any other terrain, takes days because your legs sink all the way to your knees into the subzero snow. What it feels like to carry a load of more than 20 kilos for endless hours, every day, for months, so that rations and fuel are stocked for the winter. How the winters are -45 degrees and “summer” a cruel -35.

How it feels to be emaciated as low body metabolism wastes your flesh away. How you stop recognising the face in the mirror, with listless eyes surrounded by circles getting darker every day, and bones outlined by papery skin scorched by a sun that is 20,000 feet closer than in the plains. How it feels to have matted hair that can’t be cleaned or washed for months, slowly obscuring your face. How it feels to make a choice, in the middle of the night, between emptying your bowels and staying away from the cold.

How it feels to hold the hand of a comrade affected by pulmonary oedema, choking on his own blood, feeling his pain as he crushes your fingers in agony. How it feels to hope against hope that a casualty evacuation chopper would be able to make it in time. And how, deep down, you know it won’t, and your blood brother will die in your arms, slowly, painfully, and there is nothing you can do. Except write down the last words he wheezes through frothing blood— for his family, parents and children. And how you will later lie to them saying he went swiftly, painlessly.

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Prior to induction, soldiers are trained at the Base Camp. You can see the 90 degree rock face, where the training is on.

How the thump of an inbound chopper becomes the sweetest sound in the world. How your heart pounds wildly when you hear your only physical link trying to pierce blizzards and gales to reach you. How you pray for the pilot to make it. How you curse him and the world when you hear the rotors veer away because he can’t. And how you cheer when he doesn’t give up and approaches you again and again till he lands dangerously, sometimes perched only on one skid—long enough to load a wounded comrade—before being blown away like a mosquito in a storm.

How one day, your tour gets over and the relievers come up to take over the watch from you. How unbelievable it seems that this ordeal is over. How elated you feel as you gather your men for your journey down and how painful that journey is when the men you take back are fewer than those you brought up.

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After an avalanche, the rescue missions look for survivors. Without a single landmark, and the entire area covered in snow, the task is arduous, gruelling and tiring. 

And how ironic it feels that the countrymen you do it for will never know what it feels like to lose a part of yourself forever. That’s how it feels like to be in Siachen or any one of the thousands of posts where our soldiers stand watch.

Capt Raghu Raman, a veteran, authored this article.

Essentials of Effective Speaking

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Nobody is a born speaker – it is a skill that can be learnt.

“All great speakers were bad speakers first” – Emerson

  1. Listening: The First Step to Speaking

To be effective speaker you need to understand how people listen. If you don’t you could be broadcasting on the wrong frequency and you wouldn’t realize it. You may speak well but it is not sticking.

How do people listen? The human mind processes words at a rate of approximately 500 minutes but we speak at about 150 words a minute, so the difference between the two is ‘350’. When listeners switch off the chances are they are on Route 350.

  1. Preparation and Planning

Fail to prepare; prepare to fail.

Setting an Objective: Before you start you need to know where you are going. Ask why am I speaking? What do I want to achieve?

  • To inform/ teach/ train
  • To stimulate/ motivate/ inspire
  • To persuade/ convince/ sell
  • To explore/ debate/ negotiate
  • To amuse/ entertain

Research your Audience: Why are they here? What do they expect? What do they want or need?

How many will be present? What is their position/ occupation/ title? What is their background/ education/ culture/ race? What is their sex/ male/ female? What is their age?

Who? Where? When? How? Duration? Other speakers?

How to Prepare?

  • Why are you speaking? Identify and write out your objectives?
  • Who is going to listen? Find out about audience
  • Draw an Idea map. Don’t be judgmental, be creative
  • Select ideas; choose a few key points to achieve your objective
  1. Building an Impressive Body

Selecting a structure: Problem/ Solution – common structure used in business presentations

Topical structure: also known as qualitative structure, you list your point in order of significance with most important in the beginning.

Spatial structure: you can begin with the particular and move to the general or alternatively examine the big picture first and then show how it applies to the audience

Theory/ practice: you outline the theory and then show how it works in practice

  1. Develop Key Ideas

What should your opening words say? You must grab their attention and suspend their questioning? Your opening words must be imaginative, stimulating and above all attention gaining. As simple as A B C D; Attention capturing, Benefits what they will gain from listening, Credentials what is your credentials for speaking, Direction and destination – tell them your structure.

End on a High note: Summarize – use phrases like ‘in conclusion’, ‘to sum up’, or ‘finally’ to indicate that you are about to finish. ‘Having heard what I’ve said, I think you will agree…’. Ask a question ‘the question is not whether we can afford to increase the budget but whether we can afford not to?’  The decision is with you, what do you think?

End with an Anecdote: it must emphasize the main theme; ‘Women are in a stronger position than ever before – even my young nephew has recognized this. He came home recently and told his father that he was second in class. First place was held by a girl. “Surely you’re not going to be beaten by a mere girl,” asked his father. “Well you see,” said my nephew, “girls are not as mere as they used to be.”

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  1. Delivery Method and Systems

Speeches are like babies – easy to conceive, hard to deliver. Reading: you lose eye contact of the audience. Memorizing: avoid because all your energy will be directed inwards instead of outwards to your audience, will lack enthusiasm and vitality.

Ideas map as safety net: use confidence cards with 4” x 6” index cards with single words to help you. Cards are less distracting than paper, besides paper shake in case you are nervous.

  1. Body Language

Enthusiasm, vitality and sincerity. Smile: it tells the audience I am happy to be here and I am glad you are here too. How to make an entrance: I am happy expression.

Why your body language is important: it reflects I am in control, relaxed.

Eye communication: looking at them demonstrates that you are interested in them. Use their eyes to express disinterest. Eye contact denotes authority. We express our emotions through our eyes. Look at the audience.

Why is it difficult to look at the audience? You do not want the audience to see your nervousness; therefore you avoid eye contact.

If you don’t pay attention to your audience they will not pay attention to you.

7. Humour and Wit

Once you get people laughing they are listening and you can tell them almost anything.

Humour at the beginning relaxes the audience and also eases the tension for you. Smiling and laughter unites an audience and creates an atmosphere in which they will listen together.  The safest target for your humour is yourself. Show them your weakness and admit your failings.