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Force Magazine

Man of Word
Chief of Navy Staff, Admiral R.K. Dhowan, PVSM, AVSM, YSM, ADC

By Ghazala Wahab

Profile Smile comes easily to Admiral Robin Dhowan. And it reaches his eyes just as quickly as it touches his lips, forcing his interlocutor to smile too. With ambience such as this, it requires super-human effort to veer the conversation towards any subject less than pleasant. How does one judge a person, or weigh his assertions if he smiles all the time and his eyes twinkle so often?

However, his smile is not the only thing that is a bit unsettling for a journalist. His approach to the interview is unusual. Never before has any service chief left his wife to chat with a journalist for almost three-quarters of an hour. In fact, there have been chiefs who even supply the answers on behalf of their wives, not trusting them to speak their mind.

Either Admiral Dhowan is a supremely confident man, secure not only in his abilities, but in his better half’s too, or he is an extremely clever person, who understands the tricks of manipulating conversation in his favour. Perhaps, it is a mix of two, because by the time the chief joined in the conversation, there was so much of warmth and familiarity in the living room that it seemed one was chatting with friends.

But a job is a job, so the interview had to be done. Questions had to be asked. Notes had to be written. And along the way, one realised that the smile is a sweetener, deliberately employed to camouflage a no-nonsense temperament. Just as the smile rarely slipped, Admiral Dhowan’s control over the course of the interview did not relax either. Such was his level of preparation for the interview that not once he let slip anything that he didn’t intend to say. So in the end, though he spoke a lot and was generous with his time, the flow of information was controlled and edited, to the extent that he was chary of sharing anything that bordered on personal.

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