Updated: Sep 7, 2020
Imagine Mathematics without numbers! How it is possible, right? It is like living without oxygen. But I have not come across anyone using numbers in the names like Sun238il, no Ma2563 etc, except as user IDs in various social media platforms. But there are many stages in real life, where people are identified just by numbers. In a police station, even now a constable is identified as PC-347 – not by his real name. Same goes for a convicted criminal in jail. In the defence forces, it is one step ahead. Not only the identity, even the entire career revolves around a few digits. When two officers meet somewhere for the first time, they just shake hands with blatant unfamiliarity on their faces – as if the heavens would fall down if they bless each other a smile! Quickly, it all gets into numbers! It may start with the NDA batch number, the course number, unit number and so on. Very soon they will hug each other and talk as if they were the thickest pals in the world! One can spot this frequently in the forces– in meetings, parties, joint exercises. At times it turns a bit funny too. While in service, I had to move on a temporary duty with a team to a remote station in the North. Once at the station, there was a bit of trouble regarding our accommodation. The unit adjutant informed that one Sqn Ldr (Ms) Nehral (name changed) was the liaison officer and she would be able to guide us – and he gave me her number. The name was familiar – as there was one by the same name in my parallel course during the initial training. Just to confirm, I asked the adjutant, if her first name was ‘Manpreet’. He confirmed and I was glad that I could use the course mate tag to manage a decent accommodation for the team. I immediately called her up – as soon as she took the call, I asked her – “You are sixteen, right?”- though it was not the right way of framing a sentence in English, that was the way we used to speak in forces – focusing on brevity and at times at the cost of clarity. She took some time to respond – definitely she had crossed that age two decades ago, and might have been wondering who was this guy calling up and asking if she was sixteen! From her pause in replying, I realised she was not very accustomed to the number way. so I re-framed my sentence and asked again ‘Are you from the sixteenth course?’ I could hear a sigh of relief (or was it sadness?) on the other end!