61 Injuns in front of India Squadron
Injuns at Habibullah Hall
61 NDA: Reunion:07/08 Dec
Arjun and I sat in Dehradun Express from Meerut Cantt Railway Station and reported at NDA Wing Ghorpuri on 13 Jan 1979. Arjun and I, with our better halves, took the same Indigo flight from Delhi to Pune on 07 Dec 2022. 07/08 Dec 2022 was our course reunion. The big thing about the reunion was that the three Chiefs were from our course. I had a few words with them during the reunion. What struck me about the Army and Navy Chiefs was the quality of their hair cut-once every week-just like the good old NDA days.
Brig Vaze-the Architect
Assisted by a few others, Brig Vaze, based at Pune was the chief architect of the reunion. When e-mails became popular, he connected us through a group: 61 Goldies (we Army guys were the Golden Jubilee passing out course from IMA) about 25 years back. Vaze has displayed tremendous course spirit and patience of the highest order in getting the whole thing planned and executed to the appreciation of all. Vaze is a brother Infantry officer from the Maratha Li. We were in the same class at NDA-61-3. We have done courses together and handled the important operations appointment in Nagaland in the vicinity of each other-he was at Chakabhama & I at Kohima in 1995-96.
Meeting less, Seeing More
Planning the reunion was great. I tried to catch up with a lot of guys. Catching up was made difficult owing to the collection of Squadron guys and better halves for photographs at the different venues and then during the evening functions the loud music was a great barrier to holding conversations. Thus, I felt that I saw more guys than met them. The three Chiefs had a good time & were merrily singing on the stage. Another common feature I noted about Pande and Hari, apart from the haircut, was their ineptitude at singing.
Catching up started from Terminal 3 of the Delhi Airport. Around 30 of us were in the same flight. There were embarrassing moments, when I knew the guy as a course-mate but could not put a name to the face. I felt comfortable when a guy came and hugged and said, “Tera naam yaad nahin aa raha”. Embarrassment got magnified when a guy came and said, “Hi Nehru, where are you?” and I did not have a clue as to who he was. My worst moments were when I:
- Did not recognize our cross-country champion-Baljeet.
- Guessed Mahak Singh Pawar as Rudra Kumar Jadeja.
Vivid Memory Flashes
I asked Sabbarwal, “Do you remember that you treated me to lassi, on the day we got down at the Railway Station to be taken to the NDA Wing on 13 Jan 1979?”. He said, “Wow-what memory”.
My Injun buddies (India Squadron) remembered how I used to walk at the tail in the second term camp, often sleep walking and falling the maximum number of times. I was nicknamed, “Dopey”.
Golu (Air Vice Marshal Anil Golani) and I shared memories of being the worst in the Squadron in riding and as to how we had fallen from a mare, “Rexona” and horse, “Akbar”.
We remembered how Arjun, Golu and I were so bad at drill that we did not pass our drill test in the first term. I was the worst because I was not found fit enough to even appear for the test. We passed the test in the second term, Arjun because of his competence at Drill and Golu and I because we had some connection with the Adjutant!
We began losing our buddies from 1984 onwards-Aulakh of Charlie Squadron, Belliappa from India Squadron and the list is pretty long and saddening. The causes of losing friends have been operations, nature as well as Covid. It was joyous to meet Maj Arwari, son of late Prakash Arwari of our course and Maj Sneha, daughter of late BK Sharma of our course. We spent time in the “Hut of Remembrance” as well as the auditorium remembering our lost colleagues. The memories moistened the eyes of many a toughie.
An impressive mural was established during the reunion. It gave our course a unique permanent identity at NDA.
Charlie Squadron Drill Class
All squadron mates collectively visited their squadrons. We, Injuns too did the same. Charlie Squadron friends relived their memories of winning several drill competitions by practicing a session of drill in the squadron. I found the unique idea impressive.
Gill, Nijjar and Chaturvedi
DS Gill (General) and PS Nijjar (Colonel) were essential to my survival at NDA. We three were from the same Division in India Squadron and our cabins were always nearby for the training stay at NDA. Since I was too lost to understand what was going on, I had to depend upon DS Gill (the most meticulous chap of our course) to reach the right place at the right time and avert punishments. Since I slept through the NDA classes, I survived on notes prepared by Nijjar (one of the brightest guys of our batch) to help me scrape through the academics. Incidentally I depended upon Nijjar to get my flight tickets and hotel booking done even now in Dec 22. When I reached a critical stage due to Covid in 2020 I had asked my son to reach out to my Tennis doubles partner, Chaturvedi (General) to help me survive.
Memories I Carry of the Reunion
Meeting buddies in the background of the impressive NDA was the biggest thing. Just holding hands or hugging was great. Humans often fail to express feelings through words. When Sabbarwal said, “Nehru you bastard”, I knew he still loved me. The ladies were there to be a part of our shared past and became integral to the memories we shall carry hence. I learnt only on 08 Dec 2022 that Golu used to compose poetry even in 1980 but then cross-country runs were far more important then for me to even spare a thought for poetry. The last dinner in the Cadets’ Mess, the biggest mess in Asia, along with the buddies and ladies was memorable and what else—I can’t express-my capacity to express emotions in words is highly limited. In short, 61 Course and NDA are a significant part of whatever I am.
–BY COL M M M NEHRU