Matches and lighters have only recently come into vogue in rural India. Just 50 years ago, people used to light their own stoves with embers left over from the stoves of others. On one occasion, a woman went to her neighbours and asked if they had any fire. “On the mantle piece,” her neighbour replied. The woman’s neighbour was getting on in years and had become hard of hearing, so she could be excused for replying to a question that had not been put to her. Yet there are many whose faculties are in perfect order who do much the same thing.
Back in 1971, General J N Chaudhuri of the Indian Army delivered a lecture on national security. Stressing the importance of the role intelligence had to play, he said that in wartime it was essential to know what the enemy were going to do before they actually did it. Military commanders should be able to base their decisions on a sound knowledge of enemy strategy.
Any task requiring the coordinated efforts of several individuals can only be effectively carried out if each person involved plays his part properly.
To illustrate this, he referred to an incident which occurred during the Indian annexation of Goa in 1961. When Indian Southern Command was asked on the wireless if the Portuguese possessed ‘armoured cars and tanks,’ the reply came through: “Everything is OK with the tanks. But they only have a capacity of 15,000 gallons of water.” The question was about war tanks, but the answer that came back was concerning water tanks.
Any task requiring the coordinated efforts of several individuals can only be effectively carried out if each person involved plays his part properly. If everybody does the job expected of them, the work will proceed towards a satisfactory conclusion. Failure on the part of one participant spells failure for the entire project, for one person cannot be expected to do another’s job for him.
Another thing that has to be remembered is that everything cannot be spelt out in words. There are some things that the people involved in a project have to know themselves. Each individual should be alive to his own responsibilities; he should be fully aware of the part that he is going to have to play; he should know exactly what the group of which he is a member is going to expect of him at specific times. If he is asked about ‘tanks’ for instance, he should know without being told that he is being asked about war tanks, not water tanks.