Pic of Items on agenda

A ‘Middle’ on Military Meetings


Before the Television age, the newspapers were our only source of information on the current events. The morning began with a cup of tea and the ‘paper’ For many of us, the ‘middle’ article on editorial page was a great attraction. I, for one, read them with very intently. In due course of time I began to write such pieces myself. And when some of them were published, I was on cloud nine. The above piece was one of my earliest works. It was conceived during a meeting in the South Block, and I wrote it in a single sitting. 

This was more than twenty years ago. But I have a vivid memory of those unending conferences, which yielded nothing. Ever so often, one had to make a deliberate effort to prevent oneself from snoozing off. In retrospect, I think they were a reliable antidote to insomnia! 


Portrait of a Military Meeting

By Surjit

The meeting should have begun at 10 am, and it did. At the stroke of the hour, the Chairman trooped in with his staff officers and after the traditional photograph, the secretary read out the first item on the agenda. The last sentence of the prepared text was interrupted by the chairman who embarked on a lengthy discourse on that contentious issue. His explanation was embellished with anecdotes and case-studies from his rich and varied experience and he emphasized on the need to arrive at a ‘balanced’ and sagacious decision in the best interest of the nation and the army. After that, he sought the views of the participants. There were views and counter-views and the discussion went on and on. After what seemed an eternity, the chairman summed up the discussion and suggested that more information must be gathered from the lower formations and analysed. He said that the issue would be considered at a later date.

The clock in the Conference Room showed 10:45, when the second item was read out. There were 19 items on the agenda and my personal involvement was restricted to the issue listed at item number 17. I, therefore, adopted a more comfortable posture and decided to watch the proceedings, dispassionately. I observed how some of the officers present were keen to make their presence felt; they merely re-stated what the ’boss’ had said, in their own words. From the vigor with which some of them vociferously endorsed the opinion of the chairman, it was evident that they were directly under his command. And when someone was snubbed by the ‘chair’ I saw a palpable glee on the faces of his professional rivals. I also observed that more than half the talking was done by just one person: the Chairman. The members were often told to be brief and succinct by the Chairman.

I started noting the time which the different items on the agenda took. When we got up for tea at 11:45, only three issues had been discussed. Judging by the progress, I surmised that the agenda would need a minimum of three sittings to go through. Fortunately, I was mistaken. After tea, the pace quickened, and even though only ten items had been considered at One O’clock, the meeting was over by lunch time. The last 10 items were waded through in less than ten minutes, without me getting a chance to speak a single word!

Suddenly, it occurred to my dirty mind that a similar phenomenon occurs during the process of ‘mating’. The first item on the agenda, namely, ‘foreplay’ takes a long time. But once that is over, the participants hasten the pace, and in the end, they are in such a frantic hurry that they run out of breath; almost as if they have  to board a flight!  A little further investigation revealed that this is not the only similarity between ‘meeting’ and ‘mating’. The two activities are similar in many more ways:

  • Immediately after the meeting (and mating) nothing really happens. There is a bit of cleaning to be done, and you get to know the outcome, if any, in due course of time. The final result takes even longer.

  • Both these activities occur more often during winter than summer.

  • When a new boss assumes office, or soon after marriage, meetings and matings are more frequent and vigorous. The intensity tapers off thereafter.

Overtly, it may seem that there are only two participants in the process of ‘mating’ whilst the meetings are attended by a large number of members. However, this is a mere illusion. In the meeting also, there are only two parties: the Chairman on the one side and the rest on the other. I have already mentioned that more than half the talking was done by one single person.

This piece will be entirely incomplete, if I do not make a mention of a category of meetings which are peculiar to the military. These ’meetings’ have no formal agenda, and are convened by the Commanding Officer merely to assert his authority. The participants are expected to be ‘seen’ and not ‘heard’. The views of the junior officers are of no consequence. No prize for guessing the equivalent of such ‘meetings’ in the ‘mating’ game. I may also add that, whereas use of force in the pursuit of the amorous activity is an ‘affront to human dignity’ and is liable for capital punishment under the law of the land, the Defense Service Regulations take no cognizance of ‘meetings’ of the kind described above by me.

From this discussion, derives the ‘Surjit’s Maxim’. It says, “If a meeting be inevitable, sit back and ‘conceive’ a ‘middle’ article! 

  1. Brig{Retd] K Harikumar says:

    Good one on meetings , the Army Way. Sir. I cannot help but reflect on the many such meetings at the Army HQ where I had two tenures , one with the MS Branch as an AMS and the other with The EME Dte as Director [Ops and Plans] . Things do not change much even in the digital age,I presume. I had another 20 Years experience with the IT Industry where meetings are the ‘Order of the Day ‘ including meeting calls with multiple participants over different time zones globally . When somebody gets up in the US in the morning , someone else in India is sitting late at night feeling sleepy . In the Corporate world , some one in a lighter vein said ‘ Meeting agenda is what happens between lunch and hi-tea and again between hi-tea and dinner , obviously referring to the 5 star culture prevailing in such meetings.

    • Surjit Singh says:

      I think we need a fresh piece on trans-continental meetings. It will make an interesting sequel to this piece!

      Do write one and send it to us.

  2. Surjit Singh says:

    These pieces will keep coming as long as I keep receiving your mails!

  3. SS Mann says:

    Snoozing off is common in meetings, the world over. Even in the parliament, our honourable ministers doze off. And that happens in many legislatures, especially when attendance is made compulsory!
    I think meetings should be ‘on line’ And people should be allowed to send in their questions on the computer.

  4. S J Singh says:

    Now we know where your ‘middles’ have been coming from!

    • Surjit Singh says:

      Yes…And now I know, why I do not write ‘middles’ any more!
      But I fine that middles are less popular now. Indeed, newspapers are not read as intently as they were, during my youth

  5. Maj Gen MPS Kandal says:

    Read your piece: it didn’t say any thing about retirement I suppose you didn’t know then !


  6. Dharambir singh says:

    My Dear Surjit
    Enjoyed reading your Meeting/Mating Article
    I liked the closing remarks of the CO to assert himself
    I was reminded of the IMA days .After about three or four months there is an exercise where in a NDA Entry is made the leader As the luck would have it I was made the Leader .I was on cloud nine There after the fourth termers go on exercise and the third termers are given appts.Having got the appt the first thing I did was to call the Company and give a strong talk to assert my authority
    I still enjoy that thought

    • Surjit Singh says:

      Wah ji wah!!
      But you were not known to be a bullshitter. I always found you to be soft spoken, and a man of few words!
      I am happy to note that this piece took you down memory lane!

  7. satish kumar bhandari says:

    Thanks. Nice reading

  8. Rashmi Oberoi says:

    Great read Uncle.
    Thank you for sharing.

  9. Dharam Paul Sabharwal says:

    Good one

  10. Surendra Rishi says:

    The only difference I can conceive between the two terms is that whereas Meeting is totally controlled from the top, mating control starts from the top and is slowly taken over by the middle.
    Very enjoyable piece. Thanks

    • Surjit Singh says:

      I think meetings can be enjoyable, too.
      And that happens when they are convened through mutual consent and both sides care for each other. And that is true for mating also!

  11. kulbir singh says:

    Thank you very much for sharing Sir

  12. Tony Rekhi says:

    In management parlance meeting, and also conference , is like going to toilet.
    “Close the door, make your self comfortable, make lot of noise and drop the matter”

  13. george says:

    Well said!

  14. B D Mishra says:

    Dear Surjit,
    Read your Article and enjoyed your wit.
    That you still fondly recall the simile is the index of your remaining young.
    Way back I heard a Joke. “When the man along with a woman landed on a Planet having humans, they got along well and by gestures discussed the process of bringing forth the progeny. Visitors from earth were given the chance of demonstrating the process first, which they did well.
    When the people from earth disengaged the host planet inhabitants asked “where is the Baby?” . The answer was “Baby will come after 9 months”.
    The surprised hosts remarked,” then what was the hurry at the end?”
    Brig Dr. BD Mishra

  15. Gurmeet Kanwal says:

    ​Dear General,

    Thank you for the ‘middle’ and all the other forwards. Each one is endearingly written. I always enjoy reading them.

    ​Warm regards,

    • Surjit Singh says:

      Gurmeet ji,
      I am looking forward to a piece from your pen.
      I still recall the piece you sent about the ACR in which the GOC wrote, “I do not agree with the above. Neither of the above officers have a personality, and so how could they have a ‘clash of personalities?’

  16. Ravi Minocha says:

    Hello Surjit Sir,

    Read your your interesting article. Yes, this is the way the Military meetings go as we all have experienced at various levels

  17. Saravjit says:

    Dear General Sahib,

    Thank you very much.

    You have given a wonderful insight into meetings. Found this so true even in private enterprises in which I worked for 35 years.

    Warm Regards,

    • Surjit Singh says:

      Sarvjit ji,
      Corporate world is a lot like the military. Their meetings are just as long and drab.

  18. Prakash Bambawale says:

    A wonderful article. I fully concur your summation.
    I attended only 3-4 such meetings at south Block &
    though I was involved in 2 of these, I did not get to
    say a single word. Being habituated to work without
    A/C & mostly in field,it was really difficult for me not
    to Doze in that A/C conference room. However it was
    also an Experience .
    Thanks for sharing.

  19. jsdullat says:

    Worth publishing again sir. I enjoyed it.
    Thanks for sharing.

  20. Satish Manocha says:

    Great analogy in Military official meetings with a private affair . Thanks.
    Wish I had read your article long back, had no idea. My short experience as follows :
    I had attended many meetings at AHQ and Defence Ministry for Projects for Signals. Being a prime vendor from a GOI – PSU, ITILtd., the objectives were different. Despite presence of a majority from the buyers or users side, I could have my final word and summarise before lunch break, and nice lunch very often at cost of the PSU , I worked for.
    It was taken for granted that lunch, and sometimes high tea is by the PSU; it helped steering the decisions in direction of the vendor a PSU; a few points were always good to postpone for next meeting, for another good treat of the prime customer. It helped to have more than one meeting, for me personally for balance agenda undecided, I did not mind another flight to Delhi, at cost of the PSU. Twice the meeting were chaired by the Army Chief, more often by the S-o- in C , a Lt Gen sometimes by the ADG (T), a Maj Gen.
    I am talking of years 1995 to year 2003 for a few large global Telecom Tenders for the Signals, and a couple of Tenders jointly with the Home Ministry. And with most items from the internal designs of hardware and software or manufacture of ITILtd.
    I have Not made any analogy, now I leave that to you Sir. Your insight and writing is great, enjoyed reading your note. Thanks again.
    Best regards,
    Satish Manocha,

    • Surjit Singh says:

      You have a very good memory, and have described your experience very lucidly.

  21. C Uday Bhaskar says:

    tks for sharing

    like u sir, i was also a TOI ‘middle’ addict
    and vividly remember the cloud 9 feeling
    when my first M was published in July 1980….

    more power to your pen….& recall

    • Surjit Singh says:

      We look forward to receiving a piece from you.
      Please do look into your drawer and send us something.

  22. Tej Sapru says:

    Great one!!! Bang on…….

    • Surjit Singh says:

      Dear Gen Sapru,
      I would love to upload something written by you. Do send us a piece.

  23. As rightly brought up by the Gen , most of these Meetings are “HMV records”(His Masters Voice of 33 RPM gramophone records, but still playing) and the only outcome of such Meetings(nee …Matings)is -’without any conclusion/decision) to meet again’.
    After all,whats the other alternative to show as to who is the boss and opportunity of career-conscious to earn their ACRs.Wont the long working hrs boring and monotonous in just pushing the files.This is socialisation during the working hrs and platform to decide the evening’s party.

    • Surjit Singh says:

      Dear Name-sake,
      Air Force is a shade better than the Army. But being raised and groomed in the same Academy, they are also a lot like the foot-soldiers!

  24. colls says:

    Suddenly, it occurred to my dirty mind
    that a similar phenomenon occurs
    during the process of ‘mating’.

    The first item on the agenda,
    namely, ‘foreplay’
    takes a long time.
    But once that is over,
    the participants hasten the pace,
    in the end,
    they are in such a frantic hurryyyyyyyyy

    that they runnnnnn out of breath;
    almost as if they have
    to board a flight!
    and you r abs right

    Many have not read
    your this one
    nor seen your
    of words
    now reading my comment
    you will know
    how many more must
    no spelling correction
    Sir well done

    In my experience
    all Top guys are deaf
    they only want to hear
    their own voice
    and rejoice

    this I have now learned
    since I have become
    DEAF and you know it
    CSM once again did it!
    fore what etc….

    • Surjit Singh says:

      Dear CSM,
      I admire the ease with which you are able to churn out a verse every time!

      • colls says:

        From 2 now to 44
        in such a short span
        foreplay many more
        we all adore
        this piece will be read
        by many many more
        of that your open foreplay
        does assure
        help more to
        serve more
        teach life’s realities
        to many more
        FOUR-play more

        The comment you made for me
        now I know
        the cause of kicking me
        out of EME
        were you in MS then
        I know not

  25. Dave Sood says:

    Never had a chance at the HO Delhi in my short life.

    Your comment on mating and meeting is very well made. Not only that is correct but it has a great humour attached to it.

    Keep writing. You are good at it.

    • Surjit Singh says:

      When are we going to receive a piece from you.
      And when are you going to make a trip to Kasauli. Rev Samantaroy will be glad to show the Church to you.
      Thanks for the kind words.

  26. J Thomas says:

    Meeting leads to mating which leads to babies.
    Happy birthday Surjit !

  27. Col VRK Prasad says:

    Nice one sir, let us have more of such pieces.

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