Military Intelligence is an oxymoron – I am not the first to say so, though I wish I was. This notwithstanding, whenever I wanted to utter this witticism while in service, I was afraid: some full-of-himself General or Admiral may take exception and subject me to a harangue on how inept I was,who the hell did I think I was, what did I know about the military, or intelligence for that matter. All of it true. So I shut the hell up and went on for 37 years, smug in the tedium & banality of military life, all the while believing that wisdom is the sole preserve of seniority. All through service I also nurtured that wily hope that someday I will get the chance to get my own back.
Then came retirement. Contrary to the commonly held belief that it shackles you and puts you in the back foot, it liberated me – gave me wings. I am still afraid, but not so much of the military, as much as, say, of detractors in the family : the daughter an English Hons graduate from LSR who avers, all the way from USA, with the unabashed abandon and dismissiveness of the millennial, that I rig up incomprehensibly long winded and disjointed sentences, which make no sense. The son, who as a budding writer for a website, earning his living off 400 worders, and the new-found intellectual hubris that such accomplishments bring, scoffs at my feeble attempts at writing. The wife (who, in any case was right up there in the fear department), makes no pretenses and can barely hide her disdain at what she feels is an attempt at reaching out to a wider audience with my inanities,of which, for 30 years, she was the sole recipient and victim. So these shadowy figures lurk behind the curtains as I make my foray into the world of blogging , now that I am out of the olive greens.
The daughter’s apprehensions vis a vis long winded sentences, sadly, have already been vindicated if you read the last para. Those of my other exalted household hounders, will too, in time, even more sadly. Made of sterner stuff, I however soldier on. Takes more than veiled criticism to stop a determined, retired old military fogey, who seems to have consigned himself to self destruction and is hell bent on having an ego ride. So if you are bold, you are reading this blog, at pain of suffering and tribulation.
As a first-time blogger, despite my show of nonchalance and indifference, I admit to a degree of trepidation. I ask myself what entitles me to express myself on a public platform where so many with impeccable literary credentials and claims to scholarship occupy pride of place. No answers are forthcoming, except perhaps a latent desire to be read, fuelled by a misplaced belief that you too can string up an odd good turnover and titillate more than a few uninitiated literary palates. Long years as a senior in a uniformed service, where most of what you say or write draws canned approbation from fawning subordinates does that to you.
But it can’t be only that: you certainly are not so naive, as a two star General, to believe that the adulation of starry eyed juniors, when you enjoyed all authority, can be a trigger to launch yourself into a writing career. I put this poser to the wife, who with barely concealed disdain and eagerness to get me off her back, remarked that it would be good for all in the family if I were to engage in something creative, rather than barking instructions from a chair all day, as if the household were my command. So bingo! I finally settle for ‘creative outlet’ – yes, a destructive man, in the evening of his life, suddenly discovers the virtues of creation. That looks good.
But how do I overcome the poverty of thought, bankruptcy of ideas, lack of aptitude and of course the deficiency of language skills? Literary pursuits are alien to me and the closest I ever got to writing was when I had to draft three-line replies as a young adjutant for my second in command; of course before the cursed draft could reach that worthy, the head-clerk fed it to the trash can, already overfilled with my masterpieces and re-did the whole thing. In later service life, my literary efforts were further reduced to writing inane remarks on files, letters and drafts, which I suspect no one understood and fewer cared for. So the antecedents were just not there. I therefore fear this blog may meet a similar fate ; however I draw solace from the fact that there are no e-trashcans where this can be dumped… despite its lack of merit and literary appeal it will dwell and float in cyber space, not unlike space debris, which floats up there, but has no use, except a debilitating one of causing harm to useful objects orbiting in spatial harmony .
As someone said, you either start out of fear of failure or hope of success. While in my case FoF screams out loud and tells me to go back to my armchair instruction-barking, with my undying optimism, I go with HoS. So dear reader, the less than handful of you (mercifully you can’t be in decimals), as I make this maiden and wry attempt at humour and penmanship (or should it be keyboard-manship now?), brace yourself for more. Make no mistake however: not all military writers are dumb – its only I who enjoys unchallenged monopoly in that domain.
So, as they say, watch this space: but don’t say you were not forewarned.