Thursday, August 11, 2011

Welcome in Uniform - Part I

Last night the dinner table was abuzz with stories of how an act of pure heartfelt welcome can leave such a lasting impression on the ones who arrive in a city for the first time. (Real names have been withheld as these are all people in uniform/service and cannot be named here).


Two young boys of 21 or 22 had just passed out from the Academy at Hyderabad. Their first posting was at Adampur. For those who don't know, Adampur is in Jalandar district of Punjab. It is also the coldest place in plains in India. 

They had not informed anyone about their arrival requirements. They had only sent a telegram mentioning their arival and joining dates. Trains generally stopped there in the middle of the night. It would be criminal, to ask people they didn't know, to come and receive them in the thick of December winters. Shy and naive, they decided to take it as it comes.

At 2:00 am, the train approached the station. One of them headed to the door to hail a porter, second one stood inside guarding the luggage. The first one ran back and asked the other to have a look out of the window. The train had slowed down. It was dark. The railway platform was absolutely deserted. No lights, no vendors, no porters, no other passengers. Just one odd person sound asleep under the vacant bench. It was isolated and abandoned to the extent that one would imagine no one ever came here.

As the train finally pulled to a stop, they stepped out of their first class coaches.

They were about to head for the out gate when they saw the silhouette of a man walking towards them. 

The boys were clueless.

He walked straight up to them. Shook their hands. Gave them a big warm smile and said, "Welcome to Adampur!"

The boys didn't know how or why was this gentleman here at this unearthly hour. Who was he?

"This is your first posting, right?", the stranger asked in a crisp clear tone.

"Yes Sir", they replied in unison. They could see him clearly now. He was just a few years older but his demeanor commanded respect. 

"Welcome to the Forces," he smiled back.

He had been waiting for them at the railway platform for a long time. He was there against everyone's advice. "You are mad to go and wait there for the train at this time of the night in this freezing weather. Those boys will find their way to the Unit on their own, why are you wasting your time??", everyone had expressed their disapproval. Those were the days of 'no mobile phones'. But he wanted to be here for them because he knew how stinging the bitterness of a cold night at a new place can be.

He led them to the vehicle waiting outside. Long regal strides confirmed that this is how a young Squadron Leader leads the youngest members of his fleet. An example they will remember when it is their time to take charge.

Today, those young boys are old and senior enough to command their own squadrons. Thanks to their first welcome experience, they make sure that everyone (irrespective of the rank) who gets posted to their unit, gets the warmest of welcome. They have been taught pretty well that leading from the front requires leading from the heart!


  1. :) nice ! Beautiful...'leading from the front requires leading from the heart!' :)

  2. Heartfelt welcome certainly goes a long way :)

  3. @ Anagha - that is the truth...dil se nahi nikla to kya faayda

    @ Tree - Yes and it also paves a way for the future generations to take steps to welcome the newer lot as warmly

  4. lovely warm post there....and such awesome leadership lessons there!


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