People from the South India may not agree and there is a court ruling to the effect that they (the South Indians, that is) are right but most of us regarded Hindi as the national language of India. On the lighter side, after their success in Jallikattu episode, no one locks horns with them.

The reason for our (mistaken) belief was that my tenure in Naval Headquarters coincided with a renewed Hindi drive. Notices had been put in all offices: ‘Is karyalya mein Hindi mein kaam karne ki poori chhoot hai’ (There is full freedom in this office to do official work in Hindi).

The government also decreed that 25 percent of all stenographers in all government offices should be Hindi stenographers. Accordingly, Lata, a Hindi stenographer, landed up in DOT, ie, Directorate of Tactics, Naval Headquarters, A-Block Hutments, Dalhousie Road, New Delhi (Please read: ‘The Also Serve Who Are In Naval Headquarters! – Part III – A-Block Hutments’).

I was the junior most of the officers in DOT and hence Lata was duly assigned to me.

Her name-sake hadn’t yet got the Bharat Ratna but I could have given one to Lata any time. I had always prided myself for knowing more than adequate Hindi. However, I soon realised that between my Hindi and Lata’s there was a huge language barrier. There was a further gap between what she took down in shorthand and what she finally typed.

Now, as all of you may know, Indian Navy was very fortunate that at the time of independence, we received from the NATO some of their tactical publications, for the simple reason that we in the Indian Navy used to carry out joint exercises with their navies. They were all in Queen’s English and many of us had problems understanding the true import of the tactical manoeuvres, screens, signals, et al in English itself. Hence, you can imagine the travails of doing official work at Directorate of Tactics in Hindi.

Lata, therefore, sat at her table with a type-writer in front and did crotchet work in summers and knitting in the winters.

All of you must have read my success story about how I finally managed an office for myself in A Block Hutments. This must have proved to you that I am used to converting challenges into opportunities, something that any number of Quotes these days tell you to do. I was ahead of my times, so as to say!

Being quite junior in Naval Headquarters, there were any number of these महारथी (Titans) in various directorates who would want to have the better of me through file-notings and letters. I started replying to them in shudh Hindi complete with such words as अनुलग्नक and संदर्भ.

Let me paint a scenario to you; an actual one. Lets say, Staff Officer to ACNS (Ops) had sent a note saying update on points discussed in last Commander’s Conference pertaining to DOT had not yet been received; I would send a reply back: इस संधर्भ में इस प्रबंध-विभाग की पत्र संख्या ०१०३/युक्ति दिनांक १० अगस्त १९८८ जो आपको पहले ही सलंग्न की गयी थी, दोबारा से अनुलग्नक है I

The effect would be somewhat similar to the last ball six scored by Bhuvan in the 2001 movie Lagaan. Indeed, I kept scoring one ‘six’ after another.

As mentioned in the previous post (‘The Also Serve Who Are In Naval Headquarters! – Part III – A-Block Hutments’) my next appointment was to the DSSC (Defence Srvices Staff College) to undergo the staff and administration course. Halfway through my course, I received an official letter from NHQ that I had been given an award for doing maximum work in Hindi. A cheque for Rupees 500 was enclosed.

People in Directorate of Tactics are invariably posted there because of their strong tactical acumen! Both Lata and I were rewarded for ours: she with Bharat Ratna given by me and me with a cheque for Rupees 500!

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  1. I wonder if Lata and /or you ever attempted translating the NATO publications then being used by us at sea , in Hindi ?

    1. HaHaHa Sir, as it is many of us have different interpretations of the Queen’s English itself in those publications. Imagine forming a screen at sea through instructions in Hindi!