Lt General SR Ghosh was in a unusually friendly mood while interacting with the media today, the day he hung his uniform in exchange for civvies. Nothing strange in that. There are many like him in the Army. Wary of media during their service, unlike many others who are not afraid to speak to media whenever required. However, Lt Gen Ghosh's tenure must rank among the tenures where the Army Commander kept away from the media like the plague. He must be having good reasons for it, I'm sure.
So when the opportunity came to visit Chandimandir and the Command House for the farewell of Lt Gen Ghosh, I decided to grab it with both hands. Much to the discomfort of several busybodies in Command HQs, as I was to learn later. But one could not care less for such bumblebees. So it was after nearly seven or eight years that I set foot in Command House. Last time it had been for the farewell of Lt Gen S Pattabhiraman, one of the most media friendly Army Commanders who came to Chandimandir and never got a single bad word written or said about him. Forthright and truthful, he need not have feared media.
The familiar spectacle unfolded with the same military precision as has been done on countless earlier occasions. The wreath laying ceremony at War Memorial, the inspection of Guard of Honour, the Buggy Ride, the high tea at Command House. Nothing changes.
Every occupant of the Command House wants to leave his or her mark and so did Mrs Bulbul Ghosh. She has her name imprinted on the glass wall of an air conditioned gazebo behind the house overlooking the lush green lawn. This time I did not get a chance to enter the house so I cannot comment on the improvements made therein.
But the most interesting aspect of the entire affair was the media interaction with the retiring GOC-in-C, Western Command. Somewhat reluctant to give a soundbite, yet the General did make his way where we requested him to come. It was there that the latent, pent-up fear of the media in some pompous souls finally arose from the dark depths it was nestling in.
A two star General, whose name I forget now, tried to interject and give his unsought advice on what kind questions may be asked of the outgoing Army Commander or rather what sort of questions may not be asked. He was visibly unhappy when informed that the media personnel present there were professionals who need not be told how to go about their task. This again was not quite to his liking and this was reflected on the contours of his face. He again said something about doing his job ( which I am sure should not entail speaking for his Army Commander) and this time he was firmly told to mind his own business. At this stage The Army Commander also restrained him else things would have turned decidedly ugly. The Army Commander then went on to answer the questions in good humour and with confidence.
Anyway, it was an interesting interlude to an otherwise dull engagement. 'More loyal to the King than the King himself', is a syndrome which afflicts almost every profession and the Army is not the only one.
Perhaps the most telling comment of the day was made by Lt Gen SR Ghosh. Army Commanders come and go, but you from the media stay, he said. That is right General. We have seen many come and go. Some with grace and humility, some with pompousness and hauteur. Change is the only constant. And I am already looking forward to the tenure of the new Army Commander, Lt Gen Sanjeev Chhachra, from Rajput Regiment. It will be an interesting next two years or so, I am sure. And maybe we get another chance to be at the Command House when he retires !