Follow your passion with a prayer – An Army Major’s advice on how to handle the lockdown

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”

This is the first prayer which comes to my mind today with so many uncertainties around me, around the country and throughout the world. This is perhaps the first ever extra-ordinary phenomenon experienced by a generation born after the mid-seventies of the 19th century. As a nation, our generations have witnessed some historic events like the nation`s independence, followed by assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, a number of wars fought with our beloved neighbours Pakistan and China, the Emergency during 1975-77, the assassinations of Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, the Kargil war, the earthquakes, the tsunami, 26/11 and so on.

The current COVID-19 pandemic is, in a way, an unique once-in-lifetime phenomenon touching the lives of each citizen of our nation. It demands an equal amount of self-discipline, sacrifice and unity from all of them to fight the virus.

“One for all, and all for one” these are the words from my seniors, still fresh in my mind and I heard them during my training days at world’s second toughest military training institute - The Officers Training Academy in Chennai.

Multiple groups of 60-70 gentlemen cadets were given an unique identity – a name of their company (to name a few: – Phillora, Kohima and Jessami). A mistake of any nature committed knowingly or otherwise (such as indiscipline, breaking of rules, reaching late to a class / event etc..), committed by even one cadet would result in rigorous punishment for the entire company. For some serious breaches it would be passed even to the seniors of the company. So, it was the responsibility of each one to not to let down his fellow company team mates.Aren’t we in a similar situation today?

A small mistake, a short stroll around the society garden, a short evening walk on the empty roads, an unnecessary visit to the nearest sweet shop with a mindset “nothing can happen to me” could be a cause of punishment to the entire community in case you test COVID-19 positive. It would also lead to deadly punishment to all countrymen in form of extended lockdowns and loss of job opportunities.

There’s nobody watching us 24x7, and hence there’s a huge responsibility on us to make sure we are not the ones committing the mistake that results in punishment for all.

The Officers Training Academy taught us to live for the company, fight for the company and when it mattered, go beyond your physical capabilities to achieve the impossible for the company. Coming out of the academy, it was the regiment which became the home and the national flag became the only reason for existence. Today each one of us are like soldiers who are bound by their duty towards their regiment, their nation and their people. We are bound to our community, our city, our state and country. The only small responsibility bestowed on us is to remain at home and take care of our own health along with our family.

The very natural question now posed to us is, what do I do during this lockdown period and how do I make the best use of time and resources available?There is a plethora of information available around us and especially with the internet being so handy, there is no dearth of ideas. According to me, this is the best time to learn and also to bond with your teams.The first important team is your family. This opportunity to be with your family will surely help you to re-connect with your loved ones.

The next important team in our lives is the one which you are associated with i.e. the workplace. It’s very critical our teams are connected and bonded together during this phase of social distancing. Sharing of experiences, knowledge and ideas over conference/video calls could be a good way to start. This is the time when team leaders can listen more and speak less to get an opportunity to understand various personality traits of their team members.Another crucial team we all are a part of is the society and the community we live in. I have seen people who never looked at each other during normal days have now teamed up and are providing food to security guards and other people who offer essential services in their area. This is the best example of one team one nation which has emerged during this period of adversity.

The next best way to make use of the time is to follow your passion and inspire people around you to follow their passions. I am a strong believer of the fact that passion keeps an individual alive throughout his life. It’s also very common that we fail to identify our passion and most of us feel it’s already too late to do so and forget about it instead of following it. On the contrary this is the best time for those who have not yet done so. Look within and identify your passion and follow. It can be cooking, painting, reading, cycling, body building and anything else which makes you happy and brings you inner peace. Look for people with similar passions, team up with them to explore further and enjoy the journey by taking it to the next level. It’s been a couple of years since I found my passion in cycling. Now not being able to hit the roads is the worst thing to happen with a cyclist, but thanks to my indoor trainer, a web application and a strong team of cyclist I am able to train myself indoors and do it along with my team using a web cam. The goals are set, and the journey has begun to chase success!! It all depends on what’s our approach against adversity – that will determine what will be our story.

Author of this story is Major Ajit Kulkarni who currently works with Schindler India as Project Manager Infra TRD. Major Kulkarni has served in the Indian Army as a Short Service Commissioned Officer and has participated in active field operations at the Line of Control at J&K. He is an alumnus of Officers Training Academy, Chennai and IIM Indore having corporate leadership experience of 10 years post his Indian Army tenure. He is an avid sports enthusiast and s passionate long-distance endurance cyclist, having covered more than 7500 km by cycling in last two years, with major achievement such as completing Paris Brest Paris, 1200 km cycling event and winning a couple of domestic races in Nasik and Goa. He has dreams of racing in international endurance cycling events in the coming future.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this story are personal.

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