Col PS Sangha (Retd)
IN principles of flight, the two main forces are ‘lift’ and ‘drag’. You generate more lift by increasing the angle of attack, but the drag also increases. The solution is to find an ideal angle which gives you more lift and less drag. This is achieved during the cruise phase of flight when the aircraft flies straight and level.
‘Bending with the wind’ is a popular phrase in our country. It was used by a Supreme Court judge as advice to a serving Army Chief, implying that he should learn to live with the system. So, what is this bending with the wind? It is similar to the principles of flight in that you must find the angle of attack which provides minimum drag. If you stand up to the wind in a storm, it may knock you down, but if you bend and reduce the surface area presented to the wind, it will blow over you.
In reality, bending with the wind is the norm in our country. The poor are already bent over with poverty and the salaried class has to toe the line of its superiors to survive and progress. In the civil services hardly anyone will stand up to a politician, even if orders are unlawful. It is the standard operating procedure, as they call it. In the corporate sector, all companies run along similar lines. There are, however, many corporate groups that encourage an independent thought process. The major problem of bending, or not, is in the armed forces. Structurally, they are autocratic in nature. The orders of the senior must be obeyed in letter and spirit. While this is a necessity in times of war and counter-insurgency operations, it creates a dilemma at other times. During my 29-odd years in the Army, I came across situations wherein I was asked to do things against my way of thinking. If it was an order given across the unit/formation for implementation, I had to see what the others were doing. Many times, I voiced my concern to my superiors while others kept quiet, which mostly upset the senior officer. When I was commanding a unit, another CO asked me why I was not bending with the wind. He said he followed the principle of ‘Sarpanchan da kehna sir mathey par nala othey da othey’ (I bow my head to the orders of the village elders but the drain will flow as before). So, don’t say no, but don’t do it either. That is, of course, a safe way of bending. I told him that if I did not object to an order, I followed it. Even in the forces, if you don’t bend, you are likely to face rough weather.
Finally, it is a personal choice. You can fool others, but not yourself. For every unethical act, you let yourself and your outfit down. Most of us do it for the lure of career advancement or post-retirement benefits. If you choose not to, you have to be prepared for the rough weather. In the year 2000, I saw the aftermath of the cyclone in Odisha. The palm trees, which faced the storm head-on, had been permanently bent in the direction of the wind along with their branches.
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