Friday, October 22, 2010


My dad is a man of few words. His ‘KISS’ act can rattle anybody, anywhere, anytime. Here’s a classic case, which I for one, cannot erase from my mind.

I was at the NCC Republic Day Camp, New Delhi (Yes, the last 3 posts were about that, and no this is not Part IV cleverly disguised with another title!). There was just a week to go. I was asked to report URGENTLY to the camp office by my camp commandant and superiors. I entered to see worried faces and a glint of sympathy somewhere. They handed me a telegram and waited anxiously. I ripped it open, my heart almost in my mouth.


It was from my dad, of course.

I hadn't written or called my parents in the almost 1 month period that I had been in the camp. My camp superiors were furious. They got me to write a long letter to my folks back at home, right there, just in case I changed my mind when I got back to the bunker.

The telegram had served its purpose. My dad proved it yet again. Keep It Short and Simple (KISS) if used appropriately gives the desired (most effective) results. And this true story proves it beyond doubt.

You’re wondering why I didn’t write to them or call them? Well, that's me. When I get out of home, I presume everybody else knows I'll do fine and just let me be.

And here’s another lame excuse… I didn’t have a mobile phone back then, in 1996. Making a telephone call, meant waiting in long queues, and others breathing down your neck if ever you get your turn. Receiving calls was also long shot, since the lines were almost always engaged, that any sane person would give up trying.

Someday, I'll mend my ways.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Finally, here is Part III of RJ@RD 1996

RJ’s experience in NCC-Republic Day Camp… If you would like to know the whole story, what went on during the Training Camps and the Journey to Republic Day Camp (RDC), New Delhi, click here for Part I and Part II.

Garrison Parade Ground, Delhi Cantonment: The story continues...
6 AM, Guard of Honour Training begins. RJ and a fellow girl cadet from TN (Tamil Nadu) Contingent, after the grueling ground leveling task and mouth-chattering bath, wear their Uniforms with Jersey, Gloves, Cummerbund, Beret, Boots and the works, run to collect their Rifles. They’re running 5 minutes late. As they near the mist-covered parade ground, they rejoice they are the first to fall-in. As they get closer, they realize they are among the last. A dressing down and 2 rounds around the Parade Ground for being late. Nice warm-up, is how I see it!

We’re congratulated for being selected to the elite Guard of Honour Contingent, told how privileged we were. They gave us instructions and the training roster as to what to expect. Actual training began. 5 minutes parade, 10 minutes break (spent wisely – making new friends, getting our shoes shined by boys who were available at the ground, yapping and napping, alternatively). This went on for a while. Then break for breakfast. Again fall-in, 5 minutes parade, 10 minutes break went on till Lunch time. This was getting to be fun. And good food added to the cheer.

Evening was for cultural competitions. We draped ourselves in the Kancheepuram Yellow with Red & Gold Zari saree and Maroon Blazer (our formal attire). We played cheerleaders in events we didn’t contest ourselves. Then some delicious Dinner. Food choice was good, perfect for the cold weather – Rice / Roti and Chicken (non-veg) / Paneer (veg) was on the menu most days in addition to other North Indian delicacies. And desserts such as Kheer, Gajar-ka-halwa, fresh fruits salad etc. Slurp! No wonder, I put on weight in the one month at RDC, Delhi.

As the competitions were getting tougher, the bias for the ‘M’ contingent seemed to be getting more obvious. In the last 2 years, it was the TN contingent that had won the PM’s Banner. And we were rallying for it this time too, to score a hat-trick. Our scores at the end of every day decided the ranking and TN was No.1, M was No. 2 and K was No.3 for most days.

RJ was selected for Guard of Honour for the Chiefs of Army, Navy & Air Force, the Vice President and other VIPs & VVIPs, with high tea party with them. RJ was even chosen to represent the Contingent in the High tea Party at the Rashtrapati Bhavan (Official Residence of the President of India), the highlights being – tour around the place, audience with the President (Dr. Shankar Dayal Sharma), Cultural Evening and of course the yummy grub part of the high tea. Burp!

Lest you have begun to think if this was all about the good food and a lot of breaks, nope, we had competitions going on remember? The Prime Minister’s Rally on the 27th of January (after the Pageantry RD March on 26th of January), was the high-point of the Guard of Honour Contingent. Plus the Prime Minister’s Banner (for the winning Contingent) was to be announced that day. We were all ready for the Rally. We had had many rehearsals before. And many security checks later, stood firm and proud with our rifles. It seemed like eternity. I had these black-out moments many times, but kept wriggling my toes in my boots and kept myself standing with my weight balanced between my ready-to-give-in-any-time legs and my sturdier standing-me-straight rifle.

The moment had arrived, march, brisk salutes with the rifle, and all eyes on the PM. It was a moment that was to stay etched in my memory for a long time to come. Just as the PM passed by our Contingent, the shortest girl (from D Contingent) in the farthest corner swooned. The PM didn’t know a thing. None of us knew either, until we got back to our assigned seats in the Gallery. The cadet was stealthily whisked away by the medical team. There were a lot of other events to witness. Military and Paramilitary Battalions, men & beasts (horses primarily) marched away in unison. It was a sight indeed! Then Parasailing, Gliding etc by the NCC. Air Show by the Surya Kiran Team.

We had our hearts-in-our-mouths moment when a freak accident occurred on the ground. A cadet who was supposed to take part in parasailing, had her sail tied to her, with the sail kept flat on the ground. When a few helicopters part of the air show flew close to the ground, the sail opened up and she was air-borne without warning. She hit the side rails many times over and collapsed to the ground. We thought that was the end, because she was lying motionless. She was given emergency treatment, and except for a few bruises and fractures, she didn’t have serious injuries. Thank God!

The Prizes were distributed. TN, TN, TN….first in 13 out of 18 Competitions. And the Prime Minister’s Banner goes to ‘M’ Contingent. We are shocked. The Prime Minister (Narasimha Rao) must have been shocked as well, because he was the one doing the honours, and TN was leading all along. He even asked, how is it that TN wins most of the Competitions and some other Contingent walks away with the Banner? We wanted to protest, but it would take away the spirit of the event, so we refrain. The whole Contingent was crestfallen. The others sympathized with us. And that was an eye-opener for many of us, to the bad world out there. Our commanders consoled us, said we were the real winners. We held on to our trophies, proud that we truly earned it.

The few days before the camp ended, we were taken on Delhi –Agra Darshan. It was time to say goodbye to RDC, and goodbye to the series of RJ@RD 1996 Posts. Thank you bloggers for your patient hearing :)

* Images courtesy Google Images / Wikipedia

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Part II of RJ @ RD 1996

This blog is Part II of RJ @ RD 1996 (click on the link if you have missed out on Part I , if you would like to know the whole story). My journey to/through Republic Day Camp, the story continues...

At the final training camp, just 2 days to get our backpacks ready and head to Delhi for the RDC…the cadets were given permission to go home to do their laundry and get cleaner clothes. RJ’s folks weren’t home, so she went along with JN (fellow cadet) to her place.

We put our clothes into the washing machine and went on JN’s Hero Puch (motorcycle) for some LMS (Last Minute Shopping), with JN riding pillion. On our way back, it started drizzling. We didn’t have much time to hang around (take shelter) since we had to be back at the campsite by 5.30 pm.

RJ & JN were cruising (on wet slippery road) at normal speed (it’s a Hero Puch not a Harley!). At an intersection, a truck decided to cross without indication and all of a sudden. RJ clutched on the brakes with all her might. Narrowly escaped colliding head-on with the truck, but skidded right across the road. RJ scraped her knees badly with the pants completely ripped-off at the knees. JN got a silencer burn on her legs. A huge crowd was gathering. But the brave girls, didn’t want a scene and picked up the fallen Hero (motor cycle) and scooted.

We escaped JN’s mom’s scrutiny, went to the bedroom, applied some anti-septic cream, changed clothes and put up a normal appearance like nothing had happened. Ironed the clothes, packed, took an auto and dashed to the campsite. Nobody noticed anything unusual, obviously (we tried hard not to overact!). By night, I had fever and a fellow cadet who coaxed the real story out of me alerted the camp commandant. They rushed me to AFMC (Air Force Medical College) Hospital nearby, gave me a tetanus shot and some paracetamol for the fever to subside. Back at the campsite, and everybody chided RJ & JN for behaving irresponsibly. We got away with our sheepish grin and innocent nods.

Next day, was d-day. The cadets got to the Railway Station. RJ’s folks were also there, waiting to see us off. RJ was trying hard to hide the limp. The folks noticed that the fellow cadets were being extra nice helping RJ with her luggage. They asked, but RJ pretended not to hear. RJ and the other cadets got into the compartment and occupied their seats. The folks stood by the window to bid their adieus. And then…

The Wing Commander came by RJ’s window and enquired “Hope you are doing fine now!” And RJ was like “damn, not now!”And mustered a feeble voice that sounded more like a sheep bleating “yes sir, yes sir (3 bags full!)”. RJ's folks were perplexed. The curious mom asked “what’s happening? You’re walking like you have one flat shoe on and the other heeled, others are carrying your luggage, everybody is extra concerned about you…Tell us the truth!” Confession time, so RJ tells the story (can’t get away with anything, from your parents, can you?!) And then, more chiding over the “ting-ting…announcements”, “chai, vade” and the chaos at the Station. The Wing Commander and Camp Commandant also pitched in. On the receiving end, there’s nothing much else you can do, but nod your head gently (to vigorously). The train started to move, and RJ was relieved. Quickly waved “goodbye”, promised to stay in touch and looked forward to the RDC we’d all been waiting for, eagerly.

01 January 1996 - Garrison Parade Ground, Delhi Cantonment

It was a cold winter morning in Delhi. We were transported from the Station to our barracks in a big army canter. The boys were led to their tents. The girls were taken to their barracks, which was like a dormitory with many cots, no mattresses. The sleeping bag was used as a mattress-cum-quilt. They settled down and there was a call for breakfast. Bread, jam and butter. And apples (from Kulu Valley, we were told). It was the sweetest apple RJ had ever eaten. A good feeling already. Lunch was even better. And dinner was, well what can I say, the best! RJ suspected if this was like a demo version where everything would look good at first glance and the real thing would be hell (with all the bugs), considering the bad taste of food still lingering, from the training camps.

On the first day, the cadets were allowed to get familiar with the whole place which was huge and it took us a while to find our way around. 2nd Day, morning up by 4 am, and level the ground with our bare hands touching the cold soil and some spade and tools to make the irregular terrain right outside our barracks into a beautifully landscaped area (part of the competitions). Then brush our (chattering) teeth and have bath in hot water (that turns cold by the time we get to the bath). Then slip into our uniforms and get ready for a long day of drills and competitions. This was pretty much our routine for the whole month.

Various competitions are conducted in National Integration Awareness, Drill, Line & Flag Area, Cultural programmes etc, amongst the16 NCC Directorates, to decide the Champion Directorate for award of Prime Minister's Banner. The first was of course in drill. The whole contingent is judged and given points based on performance, uniformity, uniform (including the sparkling shoes and buckles), precision and other such parameters. Then cadets are selected for the Guard of Honour. Cadets from all contingents are mixed and asked to march forward one row at a time. Then each cadet is judged based on their individual performance. The selected cadets are retained, while the others are sent back. RJ was one of 2 girl cadets selected from our contingent for the Guard of Honour. The other cadets get a 2nd chance in the RD Parade selection. Each selected cadet earns some points for the contingent.

Later, we discovered (cadets from other Contingents), that there was clear bias in the selection. The chief commandants were basically from 'M' Directorate. All cadets from the 'M' Directorate had their butts (riffle butts I mean) painted white, which you can clearly distinguish from a distance. And each one of them from that contingent (12/12) made it to the Guard of Honour, inspite of their not-so-great drill performance. The rest of the contingents were fuming. It was an unfair competition, everybody knew about it, but the show had to go on. So we took it up as a challenge and competed with greater vigour.

Break for scrumptious breakfast. And break from the post (it's getting longer than I intended). I'll be back with the rest of the story, when we pick up our riffles and fall-in at the parade ground, for guard of honour training....


For those of you who are not familiar with these abbreviations:
  • NCC: National Cadet Corps
  • RDC: Republic Day Camp