Sunday, 5 October 2014

Man, that’s how the Government of India works-5
“Vice Admiral Heathwood Johnson has been appointed as the new Director General (DG),” announced my colleague, who was a naval officer.
“Have you ever met him? What kind of officer he is?”  I asked with usual curiosity.
“No, I don’t know him. I have never met him.”
“Is he an Anglo-Indian?”
“May be, but I am not sure.”
As normally happens, everyone was a bit curious about the new DG. We were also a bit apprehensive, but for no specific reason.
Admiral Johnson assumed his appointment. An internal order was issued that new DG would address all employees at 2.30PM.
“Will he speak in English or Hindi?” I asked my colleague, the naval officer.
 “Obviously, he will speak in English. He won’t be comfortable in Hindi.”
“But if he is talking to everyone he ought to speak in Hind.”
My colleague just shrugged his shoulders and did not volunteer any other opinion.
Everyone had assembled well before 2.30 PM. Sharp at 2.30, Admiral arrived. He looked at us. His smile was disarming. Some of us relaxed a bit. And then Admiral spoke and he spoke in chaste Hindustani.
By the time his speech was over he had won over most of us. His style, manner, language and choice of words were captivating. Later when we were enjoying our tea and snacks, he interacted with some of us. He made polite queries about the work, the families, and such other things. He talked as if he was talking to equals. It was pleasure interacting with him.
As for me it was my first informal interaction with an officer of that rank. Till then I had met the DGs only on official business; and all such interactions were brief and totally formal. Admiral Johnson was the first officer who influenced my perception about the ‘almighty big bosses’ of Indian bureaucracy.
I interacted with him on many occasions, formally and informally. And every time I met him I wished I could be like him, for I still had many rough edges and I was yet to get over my awkwardness in dealing with people. Admiral Johnson was always at ease with everyone he met.
During one of the PLD (pre-lunch drinks) session at INS India, he asked me in his usual engaging style, “Mr Arora, how do you keep yourself fit and slim?”
“Well Sir, I just walk as much as possible, and it is a brisk walk invariably.”
“You don’t ride a bicycle?”
“No, and actually I am not good at cycling.”
“I regularly use my bicycle on Saturdays and Sundays. Whenever I have to go out to meet my friends I go on my bicycle. I go to the golf course also on the bicycle. I know that some people joke about it but that does not bother me. Cycling keeps me fit and in the bargain I save some money which I would have to spent on petrol,” Admiral said with a naughty smile.
Admiral Johnson was polite in his dealings with his subordinates. But when it came to enforcing discipline, he was firm. Of all the Service Officers I have met he was one whom I hold in high esteem.
I wish him a healthy and peaceful retired life, where ever he may be.


  1. Such officers are very rare today!

    1. yes, i have witnessed the fall in standards in one generation, thanks for reading the post