As I marched out of the Drill Square of IMA and crossed the “Antim Path”
(The Last Step) to the melancholic tunes of “Auld Lang Syne”- the boys had
turned into men- you were a leader – entrusted with the responsibility of
leading troops who at one call of yours would lay down their life, if required.
Easy!! Well! All but that!!

No sooner than I reached the regiment I was packed off to Tenga valley for a
Basketball tournament with a diktat – win the trophy and come back! I was
the designated captain and as I entered the team barrack, I met the Senior
NCO (with 17 years’ service) who introduced himself as the coach and player
of the team and told me ‘Saab- don’t worry, I will tell you everything, aap bas
poore time court mein rehna”. The first life lesson I learnt in team building: a
parchment of paper does not make you a leader. Acceptance of the leader
is critical to team building and thus performance.

“Know your men”- Before I left for Tenga, I had got the team list and jotted
down the team details (hometown, family etc). As we trained each day, I spent
a lot of time talking to them post the training sessions about them and their
families, their issues, life in the regiment – slowly I could feel the thaw in the
behaviour and openness to take my suggestions.

“Be with your men”- Regimentation (for a young officer) is about building
bonds for life and that cannot be built from a distance. So, I shifted into the
barracks of the team much to the awe of the young jawans and quiet
approval from the team coach. This boosted the team morale and instantly
the “Berlin Wall” came crumbling down. As the days went by, I could see the
group converging into a team and we entered the tournament with full josh!
Yes, we won the championship (after 15 years), yes, I was hugged and
embraced by each team member and carried on their shoulders! I was
“accepted” (A small but unimportant detail – having played Basketball at a
competitive level a couple of times during school and college did help).
The feedback which any young officer yearns to hear from the jawans-
“Saab tagda hai”- I had passed the litmus test.

This team won all championships for the next 2 years.