After graduating from Army School, Secunderabad, stepping into the war zone of confusing career options, I almost thought i was done with academic stress and identity crisis, now moving onto bigger challenges to accomplish certain goals in this race to the finish line. New doors opening into a whole new world of survival.
I was one of those guys who could deal with a lot of studying as long as they have all the possible options to a successful, accomplished life. So, i indulged in Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry & Biology till i could ! Now, i could be an Engineer or maybe a doctor since i did know a little about Biology and not because i saw myself helping people with bodily or even mental discomfort. I barely managed myself !
My father was an Army Officer and i always looked up to him for he was a man of immense strength and honor ! It was easier for me to visualize myself in the Olive Greens, following his lead and joining the forces . I did exactly that and a year later i was on my way to the Indian Military Academy, Dehradun. I would've been the third generation alpha male from my family serving the Defence Services of India and i couldn't have been any happier.
All of this seemed to fit in just right as I'd imagined and now i needed to get through with 12 months of rigorous training in the Cold valley of Dehradun before i could proceed to the next level of training which would bring back academic chaos in my so far accomplished life. I like academics, helps improve your cognitive abilities. What i don't understand is the strict time lines drawn for EVERYONE to wallop big fat books written to bombard our mind with TOO MUCH INFORMATION, maybe too soon ! God knows how many of us are needed to build bridges and buildings or save people from the guns and bombs we make to uphold peace ! A little variety would go a long way.
" We need to think more creatively, don't ya think ? "
Among the distinguished 45 of the pioneers of the PCM technical course selected from across India, i boarded the train to New Delhi with a strong sense of pride of being in league with the OG Family. On reaching IMA we were greeted by a JUO ( Junior Under Officer ) who had been instructed to take charge of our arrival and help us with the joining formalities of the Academy. I had already begun to feel like an officer when it was suddenly taken away by well sequenced mind numbing sessions to help us all to get to the nothing state or the zero ego state. For the first 4 weeks we were acclimatizing ourselves to the coldness of the Academy with little or no view of the world outside. Soon, the outside world would seem like a desperate getaway from the pressures of being a Gentleman Cadet at IMA. For some even ridiculously unorganized and laid back. Yes, we are talking about the Adrenalin Junkies who have come to enjoy the physical anguish passed on as legacy by their seniors. FAT is resentful and you can be anything but FAT once you've walked through those gates.
It was time for all to start taking the pounding of a heavily beaten yet strong, sustained system of principles, ethics and moral values laced with some unimaginable hours of repetitive physical acrobatics. The experience takes away all that you were holding sacred in that cozy head of yours. Some give in and take all that comes with an open heart while some reason there way back home to Mama or whatever that keeps their minds and bodies from being hammered day in and day out. I was broken and pushed to the limit and soon i realized that there is no limit, it just gets better with time. So i stuck my head in with the herd and did whatever was to be done.
The running miles grew longer and the pain seemed to get smaller as the days rolled by. Early morning starts to late night snoozes it all seemed like one never ending exercise. There were no dreams no nightmares, just a few hours of complete shutdown of the mind and body system. I don't know what it felt like but i would've done more of it if i could. As the junior most of all the courses at the Academy, we were obliged to finish our morning chores by 4 am so the next course in seniority could make use of the time and lavatories, until it was time for the third termers to rise to the occassion. The twilight zone start to the day was nice in a way 'coz we got to lay our hands on some freshly baked cookies from the Battalion Bakery while sipping on some piping hot tea followed by a Wills Navy Cut cigarette to kick start the day's proceedings.
The usual day began with either Drill or PT after waking up to the Platoon JUO playing and screaming along his regular morning anthem from a recent Hindi movie. Certain privileges are well earned i suppose. I had never known how much heat our body can generate until i saw fumes rising from all our worn out bodies gleaming in the sunshine. So much for exercise and all the hungry feeding. Oxygen is the original high and after a point, you break all barriers inside your head. You can always go a little further than you think you can. You are so high on Oxygen all the time, that a little intoxication is almost justified. You might find an occasional drinker, but most just smoked cigarettes. It sure helped us calm down apart from all the excessive loving we administered ourselves with.
It was the Wednesdays, Saturdays and the Sundays which used to bring a lot of color along with many pretty women into the Academy. The Cafeterias and almost all places in the Academy were brimming with life on half days and holidays. The phone booths were all queued with anxious cadets waiting to dial their loved ones. Some made most use of the free time relaxing back in their cabins sending out their jangoos (Slang for Juniors) to get them food like Butter Nans, Chicken Masala, Rajma, Samosas, Cola / Beverages to feast on. The jangoo didn't mind doing so coz' his dinner was also sorted by his big hearted over study.
All in all, a fair deal !
Life wasn't restricted to the confines of our Academy. There were many instances when we had to go out to nearby rural areas for camping exercises. Though we weren't amidst the buzz of the city life, the peaceful tranquility of the wild, beat all the living I'd ever known. The bright starry nights when we had to march for over 12 hours couldn't have been anymore enchanting and fun to say the least. Foot rot, Fatigue and the occasional homesickness were all forgotten in the company of our course mates. Walking through villages, wading through surprise flash floods, exchanging a randomly found Reynold's Jetter Pen for half a pack of Wills at a local pan shop is a whole lotta fun filled adventure one can only imagine now. The occasional break outs of aggression within the team added on to the fun quotient. A few punches, followed by a nasty headlock is how fights would normally end. It was all forgotten the next day as good sense returned to most involved. Some just carry on with a grudge in their hearts hoping to settle scores when the next one happens. Normally, one backs down for the best interest of the group. Call him the sensible one, but it certainly wasn't me. I was always ready to fight given a reason good enough. All anger and frustration vented out in a fair fight with both parties game, may sound like anarchy to you, to me it was like taking a hot water shower on a cold frosty morning !
The year 2000 brought about a whole lotta change in my life. Personal grievances and low motivation took the best out of me. It all started slipping away slowly and i was 4 days short of my passing out parade when i was relegated. I trudged along for a month after all my course mates had passed out except for another friend / course mate who temporarily lost his eye sight thanks to an injury he sustained while playing Hockey for his Company and was sent home packing, no questions asked ! Doesn't seem fair ? Maybe ! However, he is now an Actuary in London and doing well for himself, while i have all the time in world to cut a long story short... while i keep filling in the spaces as and when memory and intention coincide...
I was withdrawn on disciplinary ground after 13 months in IMA for my prolonged defiance to attend training which lasted almost a month. I was counseled however, i had no will to carry on disillusioned with the politics of the organization, so they had no option left but to throw me out. It's been a different story ever since and though i never got to wear the OG's i will always live by the Code.
"Status Quo : In The Army Now"
Someday we will need no armies to protect us from ourselves and the world will truly know Peace !