ACR or Annual Confidential Report is the most important report on an officer. In the Indian Navy, depending upon one’s rank, an ACR would be due by a fixed date. The period of say a month or so leading up to this date, the actual writing of ACR by one’s IO (Initiating Officer), is called the ACR Season. There is no other season of the year like this. During Diwali season, for example, one is in festive and somewhat extravagant mood. Similarly, during Christmas season, one is in musical and forgiving mood. During ACR season, one is at one’s best behaviour. It is a period of great hope; but, it is also a period of great trepidation and anxiety. Thank God it is Annual and hence after one goes through it, one can live it up for the next one year. It is the time of the year when – in case you want to become something in the Navy – you have to put your best foot forward. You can’t hide, as you may do, say, during Holi season. You have to get noticed and noticed in a positive way. It has to be tackled at several fronts including professional, social and domestic.
During the year leading up to the ACR, you know that the Captain (in the Navy the CO of a ship is called Captain irrespective of his rank) has been happy with your performance. But, there is many a slip between the cup and the lip. Unless this happiness is translated into adequate PP (Promotion Potential) and PQ (Personal Qualification) marks, it is somewhat similar to ‘Jungle mein more naacha kisane dekha?’ (A peacock dancing in a forest goes unnoticed).
The Captain, therefore, has to be kept in right mood and humour until the day when he has signed the ACR, sealed and sent to the RO (Reviewing Officer). You also know that last impression is the lasting one and hence what you do in the ACR Month or Season substantially and many a times totally overshadows your performance for the rest of the year. Following measures are, therefore, only too prudent to be kept in mind:
There should be no attempt whatsoever to even remotely disagree or differ with the Captain professionally or socially. Lets say his favourite batsman is Kambli and you know he is in the team only because of his closeness to Sachin Tendulkar. Else, you feel he plays only for himself and lacks range of shots. But, is this the right time of the year to point out various inadequacies of this overrated batsman? For heavens’ sake NO, in capitals. This is the time to bring out what a lovely straight drive Kambli possesses and his tenacity in occupying crease for several hours – carefully omitting to add – without scoring a single run.
Similarly, why are new, shining white uniforms and peak caps lying in the wardrobe? Now is the time of the year to start wearing them. Earlier you never had time to have a proper haircut; in any case you fancied yourself looking like Amitabh Bachchan. But, for the sake of the old-fashioned Captain (who feels that an officer with a proper haircut is a smart officer), you better have a smart crew-cut.
Your Good Morning Sir also should have the requisite zing about it. You should be around to laugh the loudest when the Captain cracks those hackneyed jokes of his for the hundredth times. Your body language should exude your wholeheartedly agreeing with the fact about the Captain is the smartest and wittiest man this side of Suez.
Every opportunity should now onwards be taken to side with the Captain in any discussion. So, if he feels that RAS (Replenishment At Sea through jack-stay between two ships) is a wastage of time, you should have done your home-work to bring out how many ships in the last war, were crippled or sunk by enemy planes and other enemy action just because they were engaged in RAS. “Sitting ducks” is the expression to use with him whilst describing ships engaged in RAS.
ACR Month is also the period of the year when you must remember that Navy is not a vocation but a way of life. Hence, there is nothing like not impressing the Captain and his wife (good-lady as our army counterparts call her) during off working hours. So, when you espy them out out for a walk with their dumb looking Labrador, you and your wife should join them as almost going in the same direction. “Labs make the best pet dogs” should be your opening shot. Your wife should now chip in to say how you yourself were planning to own one as soon as you finish with the ship’s tenure. Indeed, you should add ruminatively if Lucy (Captain’s bitch) would litter, you would be the first one to take one of the pups as no one could be as adorable as Lucy.
Somehow, the Captain also has to know about your other hidden talents. These would tip the scale in your favour considering that sometimes, to decide the selected candidates in the Promotion Board, the board has been known to go down to the second decimal points of PP plus PQ marks of almost similarly qualified officers.
In this your wife’s utterances come in handy: “Vijay is (fictitious name; no need to take offence in case your or your husband’s name is Vijay in the same manner some of you took offence to mention of Pahargunj in my story Raksha. For heavens’ sake, these are just names) very fond of painting. Coincidentally, his favourite subject is dogs. In our home place Dehradun, his paintings sell like hot cakes”.
And you add with a twinkle in your eyes: “Hot dogs, that is”. There isn’t a Captain worth his salt who doesn’t appreciate humour.
You should also be alive to slipping in your other interests. “Rekha is nowhere near the truth, Sir; I hardly get time to paint these days. One comes home quite late from the ship. Irrespective of howsoever late it may be, I have to go for a few games of squash racquets…ha, ha…old habits die hard….and then, I just can’t go to sleep until I have read something in bed….so painting is only about once in a month or two.”
How about inviting them over socially during this period? A big NO, NO. Your Captain, don’t forget, is also quite cautious during this period. He has to write a pen-picture about you. All that you are doing is helping him with the right words and phrases to describe you. You overdo it and you have hit yourself on the toe with a hammer. In any case, unless you actually have a few dog paintings and books at home, there is no point in inviting them. Possibly what you can do is to take a photograph of Lucy to a local painter, get a painting made, sign it and Rekha can gift it to ma’am.
Now, the story from the other side! No one would tell you this but I am telling you.
The Captain has actually gone through this period several times in the past. He knows and has tried every trick that you can come up with. He has already assessed you during the year. However, he tells himself with a chuckle that there is no harm in pushing through important plans on his ship during the ACR season. He knows his officers would never fail him during this period. He doesn’t even have to order; he kind of suggests or requests and lo and behold it gets done. I know of a brother officer on one of the ships that I served on about whom Captain was absolutely sure that he was really sweating for his ACR. Hence, knowing that in his particular department, a whole lot of work was pending, the Captain delayed sending his report (a Captain may do so up to three months depending upon circumstances) by a few months. Everything was accomplished.
ACR is a game, ladies and gentlemen, that two can play……and, hold your breath, both can win.
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