Friday, September 24, 2010

RJ @ RD 1996 - Part I

Once upon a time (it's been ages, hence the start), in 1996, RJ (now RGB) was one of 2 girls from the TN contingent to be chosen for the Guard of Honour, Prime Minister's Rally…

The preparatory camps were grueling. Felt like prisoners under leash. Hours of non-stop training under the hot sun. RJ was in the Air Wing. With uniforms, beret and shiny black shoes, we moved about like robots tuned to precision at the command of our commander. The part of the skin under the beret and sleeve was in stark contrast to the black colour (sun-tanned or rather sun-burnt) that made up the rest of the exposed areas.

Our barracks were most often School or College Campuses, where classrooms were converted into bedrooms (sans the bed – just sleeping bags!) during vacation time. Wake-up time: 5.00 am. Bed time: 10 pm officially (when lights were switched off), but 12 midnight unofficially. The girls had to wear their hair in the figure of 8 (plaited in two and crisscrossed to form the figure of 8 with a net and many pins to hold it). Thankfully RJ had short hair, cut shorter for the crew-cut look, which meant - less time spent on dressing up.

People from different backgrounds, some didn’t know a thing about hygiene and left the WC unclean after use. The early birds got cleaner loos, which got progressively worse through the day! Sometimes these WCs itself seemed a luxury, coz we had to use trenches (pits dug out, and covered on 4 sides with rexin). The queues for taking a shower were usually long, that some conveniently skipped it, the others took showers en masse, but RJ went first or last to avoid the awkwardness of waiting, skipping or sharing.

The food used to be sticky-yucky upma / kichidi, idly & non-veg sambhar (with worms and what not!), yellow-yellow-dirty-fellow lime rice (even the best of which I hated), rock-like buns (that you could use to chase the dogs guffawing at your plight), rubbery parotta that you could chew-on forever like cud, and such…that RJ preferred to stay hungry most of the time, surviving on bread and jam, biscuits or snacks.

Cherry Blossom or Kiwi black boot polish, a dot of saliva and off we went with brush in hands and a cloth until we could see our mugs on our boots. The Brasso added the sparkle to our brass badges on the beret, belt and shoulder.

For someone who couldn’t stand for 5 minutes without shifting the leg, wriggling the toe, or swooning, RJ made big progress, standing for hours in the scorching hot sun without complaining. Each camp was a challenge. The numbers were dwindling. Only the fittest and the best made it to the final camp.

The cadets (that’s us) were judged on various parameters.
  • Minimum height – RJ was 182 cms, the only worry was whether she would fit in with the rest of the not-so-tall contingent.
  • Drills – Precision in act (the height in which you raise your leg, the clack of the boot when it hits the ground, the brisk march with just the heels touching the ground unsettling a layer of dust below, the click sound when the palm hits the butt of the rifle, as the parade commander yelled at the top of her voice - Saav-dhaan, Vishh-rram, Bayen mode, Dayine mode, Aage chal, Salaami dega salaami shasth, Baaju shasth….), and coordinated timing (ek-do-theen-ek) for every action
  • Being the Parade Commander (PC), Right Marker and Left Marker of the contingent meant straight selection for RD camp. They tried hard to make RJ the PC of the contingent – what with a height, physique and upright posture like hers (ahem!), but in vain. Try as much as they did, one of the superintendents remarked that RJ sounded like she was screaming from 2 kms away and another remarked that RJ needed to get her voice-box tested! So PC was ruled out for RJ :(. Right Marker was reserved for the tallest boy in the contingent and Left Marker for the tallest girl. So Left Marker RJ became, flaunting the red sashay.
  • Best Cadet – RJ was one of the Best Cadets chosen and trained for the Best Cadet competition – Written tests (that included GK), Shooting (.22 rifle), Physical tests (drill) etc
  • Cultural Competitions – RJ was chosen for National Integration skit (On Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, the region we represented) and Western Music
  • Fitness – 4 Kms Jogging early in the morning with rifle in one arm; Break for Breakfast; Drill for 2 hours; Break for 10 minutes; Drill until lunch time; Lunch Break; Drill from 4 pm to 6 pm; One hour Break to freshen up and reassemble; Cultural Activities (preparing for competitions) and Best Cadet Training….phew!
RJ won a place in the TN Contingent for the Republic Day Camp 1996 Delhi, one among 21 girl cadets chosen to represent the State. It was a feat indeed, coz only the best made it to the end. The rigorous training camps braced us for the worst. We became stronger, brighter, more competitive and more confident. And we looked forward to Republic Day Camp (RDC) during the cold winter month of January 1996, like eager puppies still wet behind the ears...

Part II coming soon!


Shilpa Garg said...

Wow!! A remarkable feat at the end of the day but with a lot of hard work and struggle!! Damn cool!! Must be a very proud moment!!
Looking forward to part -2!
Cheers :)

Kavi said...

Fantastic !

I was in the NCC Navy ! I didnt quite make it to the Rday parade. It was just way too much for a young chap much enamoured by what life had to offer !! ;)

However, i did make it to a few national camps ! I even won an All India Best Cadet Award in a national camp !

Cherry blossom + dot of saliva, dot the mind The other thing that occupies the mind is the three poories that we used to get... !!!

But then... One big salute to you !

Bikram said...

Were YOU in NCC wowow I was tooo in the air wing, I was the senior under officer for chandigarh... and did my 60 hours of flying at the sahnewal flying club in ludhiana .. I did not know you too were in Air wing...
and RD parade Ah well I did not do it but i was in lots of camps.. I just read the first few lines of ur blog and I got excitied and wrote this comment Now i will go back and read your article :)

Did you attend any camps where when.. the all india camps where..

A New Beginning said...

Wo RGB, Im really impressed :))

RGB said...

Yes, hard work does pay off. It was definitely a satisfying accomplishment. Part II is the other side of it.

NCC Navy? Oh Good! All India Best Cadet Award in a National Camp is even better:) I won the Best Cadet Scholarship in 1997.

I almost forgot the tug-of-war sessions we had with the puris, thanks for reminding!

Yeah, I was in the NCC Airwing. I'm so glad I enrolled. Was Senior Under Officer of our Battalion. Have a solo wing in Gliding (winch-operated), went parasailing, attended several camps and what have you...Enjoyed it through and through. Was keen on becoming a fighter pilot, but destiny had other plans for me :(

@A New Beginning,
Thank you :)

The Holy Lama said...

And the story unfolds...waiting for next part. Loved the post, perfectly written, not a word more , not a word less.:)

Kavita Saharia said...

I am impressed and in awe !The training part sounds like a lot of hard work.Very interesting account of the camp- at first i was surprised to read the term 'non-veg sambar' but then lol.Tug of war session for puris - i can very well understand.

I am meeting all inspiring women -lucky me.

Rajlakshmi said...

Remarkable indeed... I heard the same tales from my brother who went for RD parade :D and he even lost his mobile... the food conditions are still the same :D
182!!! wow :D you really are tall :D

Bikram said...

Ok I am back again.. this may be a long comment .. :)

YEah WE did our gliding from Pinjore in haryana and parasailing too, tie a parachute run behind the jeep and it took you off..

Then I was good at skeet shooting and I came second in Punjab-haryana-himachal Camp held in Ludhiana and got through to represent punajb in All india Vayu sainik camp in Luckhnow..

I attended the Sikkim Trek, The pre vayu sainik camps.. The attachement in hyderabad...

Ncc was fun made so many mates all over india because of that..
The early morning PT and I was always on tent duty my friends hated me for that.. We also won a few Bhangra contests ...

I have so many pleasant memories, took a lot of advantage of it the uniform, we had our own one made and wehn i was a warrant officer the Bronze buttons looked like starts and most people thought we were real officers, also a friend's dad was Wing commander we borrowed his IAF eagle, and took the IAF out of it and had them sewn to our uniform..

Chandigarh was under CUrfew but we would wear the uniform and go and the poor policemen would salute us he he hehee

It gives me a idea i will write a article put some pics on it ..

Lecture shortage in college every year and NCC came in handy we got days for all camps and activites thats how we got them completed It was indeed amazing...
I have lot of good memories of it , did not go to RD cause could not do all that walk and practise ..

The food you mentioned oh man YUCK.. have had Baingun Curry, and Cauliflower with watery curry.. YUCK but survived cause we made sure we took our own ration of alcohol and snacks :) he hehe

Teeno teen main daiyne se TEJ chal...

sahmne salut salute...
he hehe ek do teen ek ... salaami shast , baju shasth..

GET THe part TWO COMING and I will write mine tooo Lovely i loved this article THANK YOU RGB for reminding me the good old days...

Rama Ananth said...

Wow! that was really tough. I am really impressed, you had the determination to see it through and come out with your head held high.

radha said...

This was so much fun. Like being in the camp along with you. Was never in the NCC or Guides, but reminds me of NSS camps we had. It took me back so many, many years. Awaiting Part II.
PS - Am impressed by all the achievements!

Ugich Konitari said...

Wow ! Here's a great big virtual pat on the back. And a Shabash ! Really enjoyed reading this with all the details . I wonder if NCC et al are as greatly looked up to today, as they were in your time, and certainly were in my time. When i was an undergrad in Pune , one of our hostelites was selected for this Republic Day parade and I cant tell you how thrilled we were.Greatly looking forward to the next part.

Rachna said...

Wow, RGB! Lovely post. You are a tough girl. I am looking forward to part II. hey, and amazing, you are 182 cms. tall! Cool!

Insignia said...

Woo what a grill. More than the physical wear out; mentally it could have been too much to handle. That should have prepared you for anything later. Not an easy feat. Waiting for the next part. :-)

Jon said...

A proud moment rite?
The toughest days turn to be the sweetest later.
The food sounded funny, but certainly not when eating

And you are 182? pretty tall girl!

RGB said...

@ The Holy Lama,
Glad u like the post :)

@ kavita,
Tough it was, but I guess it made us stronger - physically & mentally. Food & Hygiene were the worst part. Otherwise I enjoyed it through and through. Blogdom is indeed a wonderful place to meet interesting people and know them better through their blogs.

@ Rajlakshmi,
Wonder why they compromise on food. Guess, we then enjoy better the rewards of hardwork, which is really sweet! Your bro lost his mobile? Too bad:( Yup, I'm quite tall, people look up to me ;D

RGB said...

Those days were wonderful indeed. Missed the aero-modelling,skeet-shooting & vayu-sainik camp bcoz it coincided with our training camps for RDC. So you too strutted around in your uniform, huh?! LOL! Thanks for sharing your experiences. You must post them on your blog sometime, with the pictures, as promised.

@ rama,
When the going gets tough, the tough gets going. I guess that's what they put to test. And in the end, we emerged victorious:) Thanks for your comment.

@ radha,
I started off thinking I'll write a quick post on my RDC experience, but got a bit carried away by memories of those days and just couldn't stop myself. Perhaps, the part II will get to the Republic Day Camp. When I was little, I used to be in the Guides too. I still remember the songs we sang back then:) Thanks for your comments.

RGB said...

@ Ugich Konitari,
Thank you :p Glad you enjoyed the post. Guess NCC has lost its sheen over the years. But I think the Unit / Battalion Commandants can make a big difference. They have such passion and energy, which is sort of contagious :)

@ Rachna,
NCC has made me tough. Yeah, I'm tall and my hubby is 192 cms! As a couple we are the cynosure of all eyes (ahem!). My 71/2 year old daughter also seems to be shooting up real fast! Thanks for your comment.

@ Insignia,
Yup, I've become this tough girl, thanks to NCC ;D A few fellow cadets have actually broken down emotionally, the rejection part is too much to handle.

@ Jon,
Proud and standing tall ;)
Yeah, like you said, the food sounds funny + totally unappetizing! What we got to live on, during our training camps :(

wise donkey said...

I know what a big deal it is.
the description of the food and bathing was hilarious but true.
also the shoepolish spit:d

R. Ramesh said...

wow really gr8 ya..i took part in the parade in chennai somewhere around '81...on behalf of NCC New college take part in delhi prog is real tuf n prestigious..proud to be yr friend buddy:)

Destiny's child... said...

RGB tujhe salam! :)
I loved the writing, sharp and blunt :). Ekdum NCC style!

RGB said...

@ wise donkey,
ha, ha...thinking back it certainly sounds funny. But it was an ordeal, believe me! I loved shiny shoes though. Wanted mine to shine better than the others;P I use the 'shining shoes' ability on my daughter's shoes now ;)

@ R.Ramesh,
Privilege is mine, buddy:) And do you have any interesting NCC experiences to share?

@ Destiny's Child,
Thank you dear. Hope it wasn't one of the stories I've rambled about earlier...hee, hee!

sm said...

thanks for sharing

Unknown said...

i was always fascinated by NCC. But i was such a weakling that my physical strength never gave in..DAMN*

RGB said...

Thanks for stopping by:)

Though I was tall and athletic-looking (with the stress on looking), my stamina was close to zilch. I chose NCC in spite of my cousins warning me about 'the drill under the hot sun' and still thank God for it bcoz I got to experience many things I wouldn't have otherwise!

budh.aaah said...

Whoa, that sounds tough.

Tara said...

my first visit and got the most of it !!

R. Ramesh said...

hey thanks ya...btw..interesting ncc experiences? ooof i was in ncc in '80 ya..poor memory..lemme recollect n get back..meanwhile, take care dear friend and best wishes:)

Chandrika Shubham said...

I would love to meet u in person. :)

Salute to a talented person!

I liked the discription of food. :)

RGB said...

@ budh.aaah,
Was tough, but the result of hard labour was sweet :)

@ Tara,
Welcome to my blog. Thanks for your comments.

@ R.Ramesh,
You were in NCC too? Oh good, let's hear your experiences...

@ Chandrika Shubham,
I'm honoured:) Hope to see you around more often.

Nona said...

That is a lot of hardship to go through for being in the contingent! The way you describe

it, it was worth the hardship. :)

Joseph Pulikotil said...

Hi Greetings:)

Welcome aboard RGB.You are one my juniors who represented the Tamilnadu and Pondicherry Contingent in the Republic day Parade at New Delhi.

Your post opened the flood gates of my memories.

In 1968 I was selected as a cadet of the Naval wing of the NCC for the Republic Day Parade in New Delhi and we won the All India Banner.

I had to go through three selection camps for getting selected.The first selection was in our college,Loyola College,Chennai.The second one in Kottagiri and the third in Red Hills.

Perhaps I will be able to make a post of my experiences in year.

I can recollect all the things you have mentioned including the sticky plates which were difficult to wash.I overcame this problem by being the first to reach for food after the parade and invariably I ran and took some plate other than mine so that I didn't have to go through the trouble of washing it. I was very naughty,you can imagine.

I did so many naughty things at each one of the selection camps.Here is one more mischief we played.We used to draw mustaches with black Kiwi polish on the face of cadets who were sleeping.As you know navy cadets have clean shaven faces.

I enjoyed reading your post thoroughly. I hope to recollect the numerous mischievous things we did when I write my post in Jan.

Best wishes:)

Sandhya said...

I admire you, RGB! I am proud to be your friend. The way you narrated your days in the camp is, like we were seeing them in a movie.

You should be very tough mentally to go through these strenuous exercises.

Waiting to read the next part.

Let me send this to my son. He was in the NCC for some years in school.

Sanjaya Srivatsan said...

@RGB, That's an achievement indeed. I was in the NCC navy. Was always a year younger for bigger things.. that were offered to my other classmates(senior cadets) at Class 9.

While i consider my NCC days as memorable, i understand the drift you have while you write this piece.

Nice to stop by your blog and thanks for stopping by mine :)

Btw, you are 182 cms... 8) ???

Tomz said...

It could be a great experience. and you very beautifully narrated the post without wasting any of its elements. I was never to NCC or such things..but my friends were..

Aleta said...

I'm impressed. After reading all that you went through, I know that I couldn't have done it. What an accomplishment you did!!

RGB said...

@ Nona,
Yeah, definitely worth it.

@ Joseph Pulikotil,
Oh, wonderful to know that you were my seeenior and won the All India Banner for our Contingent! And thanks for sharing your experiences. Would love to read more of it in your blog:) And yeah, you reminded me of the pranks we used to play on the early-to-bed or late-to-rise cadets - Use tooth paste, powder and boot polish to decorate their lovely faces:D

@ Sandhya,
Glad you enjoyed reading my experiences. Yeah, I've certainly become tougher - physically and mentally after these camps. Your son was in NCC while in school? We didn't have NCC at School, only in college. And I attended the RD Camp while in the II year of graduation.

@ Sanju,
Thanks for the comment and for stopping by :) You got to go to NCC too? Wonderful! Yeah, I cherish those memories of camp days, when we literally lived out of our suitcases & sleeping bags!

@ Tomz,
Glad you liked reading it. And hope to see you around more often :)

@ Aleta,
But you trekked up the crater, so you could have done what I did with a wave of a hand ;p

Haddock said...

Good to go through the good old days isn't it?
Reminds me of my NCC days (Naval wing) in college.
Must write a blog on that as I have some B&W photos of me in Uniform !!

RGB said...

@ Haddock,
Yes, feels like it happened just yday! Good to know that you were in NCC too. Would love to read about your experiences (with the pics) too :p

Unknown said...

Oops. I never know RGB was your name until I read this " RJ (now RGB)". I always thought it is the prime colour - Reg Green and Blue :)

On a side note : I am not able to reply to your comments on my blog, I might require some technical help [afterall I am an engineer you know LOL! ]. Thanks for visiting my blog.

RGB said...

@ sreejith thampi,
Yup, the abbrev stands for both - my name & the 3 primary colours - Red, Green & Blue. Cool, isn't it! And it was indeed my pleasure reading your blog :)

Not sure what could be wrong. But you could perhaps try this. Once you sign-in, click on the link 'Design' on the top right menu bar. Click on the 'Settings' tab,then on the link 'Comments' and chk out if everything is in order.

Unknown said...

Thanks RGB

Sandeep Kodam said... were an NCC cadet,must've been really tough going through all this.I went till Pre-RDC and without any proficiency in any musical instrument,I don't think any JD cadet would survive.I was seriously not into it 'coz we had to take huge leave from the school....As for the food and the accomodation,the less said,the better.It's a splendid achievement.kudos!!!
well,hoping that you are not a cadet any more...I would've said,Cadet K.Sandeep,AP Sainik School Coy JD NCC Korukonda,reporting maam(haha...)

RGB said...

@ sreejith thampi,
My pleasure :)

@ Sandeep Kodam,
Till Pre-RDC as a JD cadet? That's good! And no, though I did dream of being a fighter pilot with the Indian Air Force I didn't, advertising chose me instead:) So no association with the forces or the NCC anymore, if that brings some relief to you ;D