Age catches up with all of us. And it is ruthless. It wreaks havoc on our systems and faculties, tormenting us with numerous afflictions. One used to believe that Father Time is by and large fair and unbiased, in that he is uniformly harsh with all. But events of recent past have left us wondering whether he picks out a few people for being especially nasty to. Some people whom he repeatedly tortures. First it was the case of sudden deafness due to exposure to loud noises. Obviously it had something to do with age catching up. Someone who would have spent at least 10-15 years of his early service in the close vicinity of guns firing during practice camps can’t go deaf all of a sudden after hearing a few booms from the grandstand while witnessing a demonstration – unless it has something to do with geriatrics.
As if loss of hearing wasn’t enough, vision was clouded too. What else could be the reason for attempting to summarily dispose-off a case of alleged impropriety by the senior-most of subordinates, when the court of inquiry recommended further investigations. And then having to face the ignominy of eating humble pie and rescinding this decision on being given a rap on the knuckles. Of course, a lesser man might have handed in his resignation at this stage. After all, going back on this decision meant one of three things. Either the earlier decision was wrong – which indicated incompetence, for taking such a critical decision without due diligence. Or that the original decision right – in which case changing it amounted to acting against a subordinate, whom one considered innocent, under pressure from higher authority. This would indicate lack of moral courage. Third alternative – the decision was taken due to ulterior motives – which would indicate lack of morals. But no resignation was forthcoming. Apparently the thickening of the epidermis was another unfair hand dealt by time.
And now one gets to read of fresh ways in which age and time has been particularly unkind to some. It apparently led to senility and impairment of judgement in addition to the audio-visual setbacks. Even if you are paying only about ten per cent of the true market value – assuming that you are paying, and even that token amount has not got waived off due to services rendered or favours granted – eighty odd lakh rupees are no mean amount for a serviceman. It represented about 20 years’ salary of the average service officer in the pre sixth pay commission era. Would anyone with all six cylinders of their mental engine firing properly invest this kind of money in an enterprise without going into great amounts of details about the project itself? Who are the promoters, what are their antecedents, have they got the requisite clearances and so on. Obviously, these details were glossed over – some of the cylinders must be misfiring. No wonder such an investment was made without the foggiest idea about the fact that the project was purportedly intended for the kin of those who had shed blood in the battlefield.
But what if Father Time is not to blame? Could it be that the deafness existed all along, but would have prevented ascent up the greasy pole and was disregarded? Till the liability could be converted into an asset by adding thirty per cent of disability pension? Could it be that vision and judgement were sound, but everything else failed? The values and the ethics, the codes by which we were supposed to live. The espirit-de-corps and camaraderie.