I was a cadet at NDA from 1979-81 and then an instructor from 1989-91. In this blog I have written about the important people who affected our lives at NDA and some interesting facets of NDA training.
The Commandant addressed us at the commencement of the term. I do not remember even one word of what he said during my cadet days. I slept off as soon as he started to speak and woke up only when he had finished. I am embarrassed to admit that even as an instructor I continued the policy of sleeping through the opening address after the Commandant had explained how the world had become unipolar with the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The Commandant reentered our lives during Commandants’ Tea somewhere during the mid of the term. As a cadet I was privileged to attend it because of my proficiency in Tennis and I do not remember the reason for it as an instructor. This was very good. The eats were very nice. As cadets we were perpetually hungry, so we kept eating. I do not remember any conversation I had with anyone during five years of attending the Commandants’ Tea but only the snacks.
The Commandant’s Parade at the end of the term was a ceremonial occasion. He always complimented the cadets for good turnout and drill.
Rear Admiral VS Shekhawat, (who later became the Chief of Navy) was the Deputy Commandant for the large part of my cadet days. He exercised great influence on our lives. The first thing that struck a person when he came across the Deputy Commandant was awe. We kept wondering as to how a person could be so good at almost everything. Forget his academic abilities, he was a winner of some 7-8 blues in sports. He was the gold medalist of his batch in 1953 and had been awarded with the “Vir Chakra” in 1971 Operations. I have some memories of guys four courses above and below my course. We had some guys who represented the country, like Adhiraj in horse riding, Tarapore and Pushpendra in sailing, or those who became chiefs, but in overall abilities, no one came close to the Deputy Commandant. He was often in pain. Sample this:
· He will come across a group of cadets. He will stop them and check the size of the fold of the stocking. If it is not precise then there is punishment.
· I heard him talking to the NDA Football team. He told them that their shoes were not well shined. Thankfully he did not point out that some of their laces were twisted!
· On a drill day one of my friends was exempted from attending drill and was sitting on the staircase of the Drill Square. The Deputy Commandant came there and checked the turnout of the cadets sitting outside. He told my friend, “I compliment you for the shine on your brass work but when I examine closely, I note that remnants of the polish have not been removed, thus you are liable for punishment.”
He was very polite in conversation; too good but it was good not to come in his proximity!
Adjutant was associated with the drill test and passing out parade rehearsals. He was a stern man. He smiled only once in a term and that was on the passing out parade day after he had narrated a bawdy joke after numerous requests from the cadets.
Cadet Sergeant Major (CSM)
The Squadron CSM was a very important person. Upon his efficiency or inefficiency depended as to how much time of ours got wasted in standing for numerous fall-ins. On the eve of the cross-country competition in my second term he asked the cadets as to what as per them was the key to success in cross-country. Quite a few cadets gave the answer. He did not like any answer. He then gave the answer: “The key to success in cross-country is a good shit in the morning prior to the event.” I still remember this answer of our CSM today after 42 years because I admired the “Effective Intelligence” quotient of the CSM!
Cadet Niranjan Singh, 60 NDA, Charlie Squadron
Niranjan Sir always came first in the cross-country. Since he was just one course my senior, I ran with him from 2nd to 5th term. I never saw him at any stage of the run. The first twelve used to get medals. All of us got assessed based on the enclosure we came in. Each enclosure was closed at a two minutes interval each from the arrival of Niranjan Sir. He was so much better than all of us that only 5-6 guys could come in the first enclosure. We cursed him for running so fast and adversely impacting our assessment.
Our Riding classes Subedar Major was an interesting person. He was an international level rider. His briefing before each class was classic,
“Yeh sune, aaj ghore fresh hain, ghoron se girne ki koshish na karen; agar giren bhi to halke-halke giren!” The unanswered questions which remain in my mind till date are:
· When were the horses stale?
· Why would one want to fall off a horse?
· How can one plan a gradual fall from a horse?
Weapon Training for Army Cadets in Fourth Term and Sixth Term
Two periods of weapon training in 4th term implied a duration of 80 minutes and 15 min of break time. These two periods meant 60 minutes of turnout check-up and punishment for all kinds of imaginative reasons and 20 minutes of teaching. In the 6th term, bayonet fighting practice was the essence of weapon training. Some 6th term cadets were so enthusiastic about bayonet fighting that they would use hockey sticks as notional rifles and practice “dhava” in the Squadron corridor. Around the “dhava competition” day shouts of “ghonp”, “nikaal” could be heard coming from all the Squadrons in the evening. I found this, “ghonp-nikaal” business quite humorous and consequently spent more time in haunching around the dummy more than bayoneting it with the rifle held over my head and yes, I never practiced “dhava” with a hockey stick and of course I did not win the “dhava medal”!
–BY COL M M NEHRU