In the short life that I have led, there have been many an occasion for happiness and as they say, ‘congratulations and celebrations’. But there are few that are the real memorable ones.
And one of these was when I successfully passed my ‘A’ certificate exam of the Army N.C.C. I had joined the Army wing of N.C.C. when our class teacher in Eighth standard made it compulsory for the boys to join either the Scouts or the N.C.C. So many of my friends chose to join N.C.C. and I followed suit.
I think, when some things are forcibly loaded on us, we grumble about the same which can be ironical at times since we do often need to be coaxed and cajoled into doing that very thing but just pretend otherwise. So initially there was a lot of hue and cry on this compulsion but all of it eventually subsided. Soon we settled into the routine of parades, marches and line ups. In my first year as a N.C.C. cadet I attended the N.C.C. Camp that was held at Alandi, close to Pune for ten days.
There we had courses in drill, line discipline, weapon training, map reading, march past and shooting. We also visited the temples and other historical sites. It was a tough period and the first time that I had spent 10 days on my own without anyone from my family around me. We came back to a rapturous welcome as we had stood fourth in the Camp where 18 groups had participated.
Soon as months flew past we became the Senior cadets. Many of my friends had clear plans of pursuing ‘B’ and ‘C’ level certification as well to pursue a career in the armed forces. But the very first hurdle was our ‘A’ level certificate examination. Our Sir explained to us the procedure and asked us to prepare well for the examination.
On the D Day we were all nervous and tense though some of us tried to lighten the atmosphere by cracking jokes. Oh! Wouldn’t it have been nice if time came to a grinding halt. No such luck and soon my roll no was called out. I got up, stood in attention and then started my march towards the examiner’s desk.
Presently I stood in attention as the Officer, sitting some yards away, looked on rather wearily with inattention. I marshalled my courage and kept up a steady march towards him. It was expected that he will say ‘Thum’ ordering me to stop. But he just kept quiet even as I came very close to the table. My mind was in a bit of turmoil as I kept deliberating on whether to stop or keep on marching. Orders are meant to be followed instinctively and without any questions in the Army.So there I was all set to ‘bang’ into the table when the Officer hastily asked me stop. He went on to explain that if one is ever faced with such a situation, the expectation is that I should continue to march on the same spot and not move further. I looked a perfect fool I guess. But thankfully we moved on and the rest of my examination went off well.
When I rejoined my friends they kidded me a lot on the incident. And just before we disbanded post the examination, I was recalled to present myself again to the panel. The examiners were very relaxed now and casually chatting away. They asked me a few more general questions and wished me luck. I was not very sure why I alone was called up again and whether to regard it as a good or bad sign with reference to the exam.
Well some four months went past and we received our results. I had passed my N.C.C. ‘A’ level certification and the certificates were to be distributed by the Principal in the school assembly session. It was such a proud moment for all of us.
Post receiving my certificate I sought out my old class teacher to show her my achievement and to thank her for ‘forcing’ me to join the N.C.C. She was very touched and fought back her tears. Even I felt rather moved as I reminisced about my joining the N.C.C. only to find that it was treasure that wasn’t buried but lay open for all to explore. The treasure of adventure, fun, unity and above all pleasure.
This article appeared on January 15 1994 under the column, ‘Happy Moments’ in the youth supplement of the local newspaper The Indian Express in Pune, India.
Camaraderie and egalitarianism best describe my schooling in a Kendriya Vidyalaya school wherein the majority of the children were from the defence background. And the N.C.C. was by far the most popular example of the discipline and hard-work that most kids demonstrated as a reflection of their upbringing by strict and determined parents.