Married to a Catholic Christian I am familiar with Lazarus of Bethany who was witness to resurrection of Christ four days after he was crucified.
LtCdr Lazaro had a similar sounding name. He resurrected us when we were cadets on the cruiser INS Delhi and were ‘crucified‘ with the tough and listless routine on board; which including holy-stoning the wooden decks (rubbing the decks with wet sand and pumice stone in order to preserve the glean of the deck). He visited us to deliver a talk about the advent of missiles in the Gunnery world.
He was commanding one of the Osa class of missile boats, similar to the ones that took part in Operation Trident, on 4th Dec 1971 and devastated Karachi. With that the Indian Navy entered the missile age and since these guys had started with a stupendous success, they had the air of supreme confidence, swashbuckling approach and insouciant manner of speech.
We were totally bowled over by Lazaro and his talk. His carefree mannerism, Russian looking beard and lingo was the stuff we had imagined heroes of the sea to possess. When he called the Prime M Indira Gandhi as Indu aunty, we were tickled. He could have called God as “Jesus old chap” and would have gotten away with it. For a number of days after his talk we were moving around in a daze.
Some 36 years later, I had taken over as Director of College of Naval Warfare, at Karanja Mumbai. One of the DSs suggested that since Lazaro was visiting Mumbai from US, we could invite him to deliver a talk. He said, he, Lazaro, was now a research scientist in a university there (I think University of Wisconsin) and he would speak to us on – say – Decision Making Under Conditions of Ambiguity.
I was really excited. Here was my boyhood hero and he was coming to talk to us. I was looking forward to the effect of his swashbuckling style on the students. I thought they would be floored just as I was 36 years back when I was a young cadet.
Lazaro arrived at the college. He looked scholarly and a far cry from my cadet time hero. He started his talk giving some complex equations. He ended it 90 mins later (it looked like eternity) with even more complex equations. In between, if you think he filled it up with absorbing anecdotes or nonchalant humour, you are sadly mistaken. He packed his speech with still more complex equations. His talk was, therefore, as interesting as former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh speaking on ‘The Exciting Moments of His Tenure as PM’. I noticed that the student officers were visiting the toilets more frequently than with any other speaker; a sure sign of weary apathy.
One of the student officers mentioned to me later that if Decision Making was so monotonous, Ambiguity wasn’t a bad bet at all.
The only person who benefited from his talk was me. I was planning, after retirement from Navy, to be doing research on Benefits of Meditation on Stressed Officers in Indian Navy. I have decided to drop the idea to my next to next life after I recover from the let-down of my gallant and rakish hero becoming a research scholar.
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