badge

Monday, July 15, 2013

Reflections of the Past



The day was just breaking and the lights on the ships cast a magic spell on the sea that reflected back millions of stars back, as the train rolled on Thevra Bridge just before entering the Cochin Harbor Terminus station! This was my first glimpse of the sea, which I had chosen as my career! It was like a dream that was playing as in a few minutes the train was at the station. A long journey had just ended and another new one was to begin!
I met a few more young men like me who were herded into a waiting truck to the Naval Academy. The gentle sway of the coconut trees enroute and the wind greeted us with the open arms. At the gate we got down from the truck and were advised to meet the training team in about an hour on the parade ground. We carried our bags to the ear marked cabins and after a quick wash and change arrived at the parade square. After introductions and filling up of some form, the officers inspected us closely and some were sent to the barber immediately! A few of us were still lethargic after long train journeys but then without compassion were ordered to run to every place when called rather than slouching! Those friends who had returned back from the barber could not be recognized anymore as it appeared that a lawn mower had run over overgrown grass in a garden! Those who tried to act smart were given a lesson in front roll and were soon rolling like a ball in unison with the orders and their white shorts and shirts appeared to be perfect setting for a ‘Daag Ache hain ‘ ad of Surf Excel! The remaining day was spent in showing us the sprawling academy running from place to place and as the night came, every joint ached!

The routine in the following days never left room for thinking as every moment we lived in present! The morning call for PT, breakfast, crash course in table manners of holding the fork and spoon the right way, class room lectures, a short break in afternoon followed with evening classes on boat pulling, sailing, compulsory games like football and sometimes even ‘patti parade’ ( involving changing ten different uniforms and assembling on ground).

Clearing of a swimming test was mandatory and I remember for those of us who had always admired a swimming pool from distance, it meant an ordeal each time to enter the pool. After a few days of observing us, the instructors told us to come to the deep end and made us jump. My friend Sunder, was first to go and after the splash we saw frantic waving of hand for a few moments and then like a stone he sank. After a brief wait, the instructor dived and pulled him out as he gasped for breath. I was next to follow and soon after the jump frantically tried to beat the water with hands little realizing that the concrete projection to hold at the end was near and next moment my hand crashed as I saw the streak of red color in the water and my bone on elbow was visible from the gash! I was rushed to the hospital and the elbow stitched with excuse for two weeks from swimming!

Every slack action was instantly punished with extra drills which meant an extra hour of parade in evening under supervision of the drill instructor, in boots, anklets and rifle! The inspection rounds of the Commanding Officer were always eventful as despite all care in keeping the cabin tidy, shoes/ boots polished and arranged, the brass buttons and buckles shining, he would find dust on the fan regulator which added to the growing list of extra drills!!

Every Sunday when rest of the world slept like horses, we would be galloping across streets and lanes of Cochin harbor for a 15 km cross country! Those who took short cuts or took inordinately long time to complete the course had to do a repeat in the evening!

A sailing camp involving remaining out at sea for 15 days with tinned ration and a compass and sextant to guide, and  oars  and sails to steer the boat in open sea were an experience difficult to forget The blisters on hands and sunburns were constant companions amidst laughter in sharing crude jokes.  A truly Robinson Crusoe like life!

The bonds created after this rigorous training are for a lifetime! I still remember that when one made a mistake on the parade ground and other smiled were enough reason to go running with rifles up in arms for two extra rounds of the sprawling parade ground, to learn that one man’s mistake means so much for a team!!

Despite all the rigors the stamina that is developed cannot make you win an Olympic medal  but can assure you of a healthy life style for a lifetime if one can continue with even half the things learnt!  How I wish each youngster in our country gets a chance to serve in uniform to make us a land of disciplined people! I still take pride of having joined the service as a young lad and the training made a man out of me!


PS: Image kind courtesy Google

56 comments:

  1. Now, this is interesting. When I have just written about nostalgia getting boring, I see a post which is quite nostalgic here. Bravo, Rahul ji.

    Joy always,
    Susan

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Susan, I know too much of nostalgia is not good but then there are many things which are building blocks of life, are difficult to forget:)

      Delete
  2. Replies
    1. Thanks Radhika for reading and liking!Yes salute to many brave who take on such arduous duties:)

      Delete
  3. Amazing Rahul sir, thanks for giving this glimpse of such a life which we have no idea of. Salute to all such dedication and hard work to keep us all safe. Loved this post a lot. All my friends who are now going through all this have more respect now from my side.

    I hope in India also the rule of being military trained for atleast 2yrs comes into picture that way I think all of us will have something as life time take away.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ramya, am happy you could get a glimpse of the life of the soldiers and hope one day the sense of discipline comes to our nation to move forward in the right direction!

      Delete
  4. Any article,any news about the Armed forces is so exciting.
    I loved it

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks a lot Mr Chowla for those kind words! It is an exciting life for sure:)

      Delete
  5. wow, interesting article! written well.

    http://travelagent-india.blogspot.com/

    ReplyDelete
  6. I spent 4 years at Sanink School Sujanpur Tirs (HP), and lots of my friends from that time are in the Army right now. I experienced some of the things you wrote, to a much lesser degree.

    Didn't know that was called patti parade, and the thing about the whole squad being punished for one guy's mistake is something you just can't get into others' heads. They can understand it, but they will not get convinced about it being a good idea.

    In my rather inexperienced opinion, the difference between being an Olympic athlete and a soldier is in the nature of the physical activity. Olympic athletes will prepare for a predetermined effort and period of time, say for a 100m run in 10 seconds, or a 150 kg snatch-and-jerk for 5 seconds. Soldiers on the other hand, need to be prepared for anything, for any amount of time. That is, soldiers are not defined by what they can do, but by what they can endure.

    I knew someone who joined the Navy. They told me that when you need to sail in the direction of the wind, it is not possible, and that you need to sail in a zigzag fashion. Is this true or was I bluffed?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh thanks a lot KK for that comment! So you have tasted some of this life in Sainik School!When handling a critical mission the contribution of each individual matters and hence ones wrong can bring a doom! This has to be learnt early in life:)Also, training in life never ends ! Also, it is true that to keep the boat getting maximum forward thrust one has to keep changing the tack to get maximum wind in the sail or take a course which appears to be zig zag!!

      Delete
  7. The dedication, discipline of the armed forces truly prepares you for challenges of life and stays with you for a life time. Impressive and awe-inspiring :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So true Shilpa! One just has to see the reality to realize this, be it natural disaster in Uttrakhand or floods, the men in uniform are the first to reach out for assistance!!Thanks a lot!

      Delete
  8. I agree. Serving in the army must be made mandatory for all that it teaches.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hope some one is listening to your words of wisdom Rachna! True KK , conscription or a 2 year military service is compulsory in Israel for all men and women! I was fortunate to spend a lot of time in that country and have personally seen this and what difference in attitude it brings!

      Delete
  9. I totally agree with you rahul! Army is very educative
    http://www.dontcallmefashionblogger.com/2013/07/msgm-stripes-and-flowers-dress.html

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks a lot Francesca for your comment!

      Delete
  10. Wow.. was an awesome post :)
    I always admired armed force personnels..

    one thing that stands out is the kind of MAN you become after joining them. One stands out even in the thickest of crowd :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks a ton Jyoti and am happy you could find men in uniform stand apart from the rest:)

      Delete
  11. Training like these should be made mandatory for kids who spend most of their time slouched over their laptop, complaining of boredom.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So agree with you Purba! The outdoor training and involvement in creative pursuits keep them away from boredom, hitting the bars and pubs:)

      Delete
  12. What an adventure - hard work, but sounds worth it.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Past memories truly enrich the present life, amazing!

    ReplyDelete
  14. I remember, after riots in Mumbai, the army had to be sent in and it was the most reassuring sight. Hats off to you guys.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A big thanks KayEm for remembering the contribution of Army men:)

      Delete
  15. That sure was not easy. I think in England there was or is a rule of every young man to be in services. I wonder how people of my age sleep till 11. What's worse is those with kids do it, even their kids sleep after 11 at night. I wonder what's wrong with people around me or am I wrong.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Saru, in UK the conscription or compulsory military service existed only during World War I -1916-19 and World War II-1939 till 1960. In Israel it still exists!If you follow a healthy life style do not worry what others do as it is more a matter of choice to lead a healthy life or do things at odd times and be constantly afflicted by problems or disease:)

      Delete
  16. Lovely post Rahul, army life is tough so that during trying times one can be fit and also tough.
    However some ex army officers who came to my Aerobics class could not perform aerobics without huffing and puffing, and they used to cry doing ab. exercises. Then they would proudly recount tales of the tough army life they had led and about the rigorous physical training they have had. I could not understand them for the exercises we do were hardly difficult.
    Even in some Australian TV shows on aerobics, i have seen some shows where the instructors do aerobics with the navy people, all in their exercise uniforms struggling to keep up with the instructors, who used to pull their legs.
    I suppose each of us are used to our own kind of exercise, that we end up looking very stupid doing some other kind of exercise which might look simple to others but is challenging for us.
    Nice trip down the memory lane.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Rama, hats off to you for your aerobic regimen and a pity the paunch belly veterans huffed and puffed recalling old times! It is the excessive beer and lazy routine more than the old training responsible for what you saw! In Armed Forces, the physical exercise is not a fad but a requirement of service.

      Delete
  17. Nice write up again. Always respected armed forces. Salute!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Shreya, for your kind appreciation:)

      Delete
  18. been preparing for the cds exam for a while now..after reading your post I am all thrilled about the very fact that someday I could be a part of defense.. its fascinating to know that beyond the hardwork. determination and disciplined routine lies a life worth living for...
    salute..:)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. How nice, Jemina to know a budding young one with military aspirations! May your dreams of donning a uniform be fulfilled:)Thanks a lot for your nice comment.

      Delete
  19. Hi Rahul, I never realized the depths of training, the intense schedules and the sheer discipline required to be in the navy/army. It takes someone of strong character and resilience, much like yourself, to make it there!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sam, it was intended to share the story of sweat behind the glitter and thanks a lot for your lovely comment!Always a pleasure to read your comments:)

      Delete
  20. Such a beautifully nostalgic post, loved the glimpse it gives into the life of a man in uniform. With so much strength of character and discipline in it, this is definitely something that should be made mandatory for our youngsters.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks a lot Arti for such a lucid comment!At least a few things out of this if imparted honestly to the younger generation will bring a perceptible change in behavior and attitude:)

      Delete
  21. Superb post Rahul. It was like I was on the training grounds with you, your descriptions are that wonderful. Have seen such things mainly in movies, its nice to get a real life account! :)

    ReplyDelete
  22. Thanks a lot, Jaishree for that very nice comment! I hope I did not make you run hard:) BTW since you mentioned having seen such scenes in movies, do see 'An Officer and A Gentleman' and you will love it, if not seen already!

    ReplyDelete
  23. You know something Rahul, I have always admired the dedication, discipline and training the armed forces impart. Its something that sticks on to you for life. Thanks for sharing this lovely post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A big thanks from a man who once donned a uniform, Rachna!

      Delete
  24. I feel guilty after reading experiences of people like you, Rahulji. We just go to school, go for a good job with a handsome salary and enjoy life without much hard work.

    I wanted one of my sons to join the forces. I can see that you remember your days of hard work to be useful throughout your life. I admire you, Rahulji!

    Thanks for giving us a glimpse of your life.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I bow to thee, Sandhya and express my gratitude to people like you ! We all rise to the call of duty as required so please do not feel guilty:)

      Delete
  25. Wishing you a wonderful and relaxing weekend!

    ReplyDelete