Indian Military Academy (1/2) – In Quest of the Last Victory

Training in the Army 39
summer break. During the summer break I went on a holiday with
family to the sea paradise of Goa.
Indian Military Academy
After three years at the Defence Academy I went to the Indian Military
Academy at Dehradun for the fi nal year of specialized military training.
I had liked this city since my childhood. The jungles and the forested
hills around the city fascinated me. Also, here, at the Academy, I was
a step closer to the career I had always wanted to pursue.
The semi-fi nal losses continued. Two or three times I missed the
rst enclosure in cross-country by a second. In debates, twice I was
given an honorary third position instead of the decisive second which
could see me through in the team. On one occasion, in a swimming
competition I failed by one-hundredth of a second to qualify for the
nals. Now I could be glad that I was doing well in so many activities,
but then I wanted to win. I had not participated and reached there
to lose by a whisker. I had not participated to play only till the semi-
nals. Losing every time caused pain and frustration, especially
because it would happen at a stage when I would be close to victory.
However, being a sportsman, I tried to take it in the positive spirit.
At the end of the day it was sports, notwithstanding the kind of
efforts I had put in to win.
Life is not about giving up. Life is about going
on … despite the failures and setbacks that
may come your way.
I might not have excelled at a particular sport because I participated
in a very wide range of sports. Frankly, the experience of participating
in so many activities and sports gave a better feeling than excelling
40 In Quest of the Last Victory
at one, and given an opportunity again, I would still choose to par-
ticipate in a variety of sports and activities rather than excel in one.
That applies to most of my life. Even if I were given another chance
at life, I would most probably make the same choices again.
I might not have excelled at competitive sports but I was always
physically very fi t. My fi tness used to amaze even me. It was a revela-
tion to be that fi t. Most people perceive a fi t body as something super-
cial like ‘a show of muscles’ or something but it is not so. To have
a shapely, muscular and healthy body needs tremendous sustained
efforts and also has a spiritual dimension to it. It is like meditation.
It is like self-realization. Your own strength humbles you. I don’t
remember a single instance when I might have imposed myself on
somebody weaker than me because I was physically stronger. Yes,
I did pick differences over principles, but I never tried to take advan-
tage on account of my physical might. I think achieving the level of
tness I had done was an important factor in the realization of the
strength of my inner being as well. Thankfully, I never left any op-
portunity of extra-curricular activities or adventure. This fact made
me happy about myself then and makes me happy even today. I never
said, ‘I wish I could do this’ or ‘I wish I could do that’. If there was
something I wished to do, I would rather do it than regret not doing
it. I always loved life. Life has always inspired me.
Rock climbing
In the middle of the term at the Academy, I got a chance to go to
the hill town of Nainital for a rock-climbing course for 21 days.
Surrounded by hills on all sides, Nainital is a beautiful place located
around the Naini Lake and is also known as the Lake City. I was
fascinated by the place. It was love at fi rst sight; my love affair with
this place was to last a whole lifetime. Clouds coming on to the lake
Training in the Army 41
and then fl oating away is a sight I can watch forever. Rain falling
on the lake and the surrounding hills gave such a musically spiritual
feeling. There was a marketplace close by and with a little trekking
one could go to places of absolute silence with only the sound of the
mountain breeze in the trees and hills. I would not say that this is the
most beautiful place in the world but then this is the place I fell for.
And when you fall in love, it is also because of the different ways in
which you connect. The place/person might not be the most beautiful
in the world but you fall for it hook, line and sinker.
During the course of the training we would run up the hills to
the point called Barah Pathar (12 rocks). Under the supervision of
expert rock-climbing instructors, we would run and exercise, rock
climb over huge rock surfaces and cliffs. Walking face down from a
very steep and high cliff with the rope around your waist, which you
gradually released with your hands, was the most thrilling experience
of rock climbing. It was all an experience to remember for a lifetime.
This rock-climbing trip to Nainital was one of the most beautiful
experiences of my life till then.
Parachute jumping
In the term-ending break of one month, instead of choosing to go
home I chose to go for a course in paratrooping (jumping from a
flying plane with parachutes). It was not a choice many would con-
template when one got very few holidays, but when I had the oppor-
tunity, I wouldn’t have let it go. I was not the only one. There were
21 other cadets from my course, who chose to go for this course.
Barring a few disciplined ones, everyone in the group was naughty
and playful and came up with some or the other prank, making the
course memorable in more ways than one.
42 In Quest of the Last Victory
We would go to watch movies and if ever a fi lm turned out to be
pathetically boring, we would go back and praise the fi lm so much
with imaginary scenes and descriptions that the others in the group
would go to watch the movie the next day. We would get eatables
from the market and the whole group of boys would attack the packet
like the players of rugby attack the ball. There would be a bunch of
22 guys on the top of the packet and after devouring everything, they
would say ‘I think it was something made of potatoes’. Sometimes,
just for fun, we would bring in an empty cardboard box and pretend
it was full of eatables. Everyone would pounce on it with the same
spirit only to discover that it was actually empty. Of course, choicest
expletives were used to vent out the anger after that.
Paratrooping gave a great thrill. Standing at the open door of a
ying plane and looking down at the fi elds below that looked like
small rectangles over a vast surface was no less than staring straight
at death. Even with the parachute behind your back, one knows for
sure that if the parachute fails to open, even God can’t save you.
In cases where parachutes have not opened up, the remains of the
paratrooper have had to be collected from the fi elds with the help of
shovels and sacks. To be safe in this activity, one has to give 200%
in the preparation for the jump. There is absolutely no scope for
error. I had always been an adventure lover and would always be.
Adventure gives an opportunity to live life and experience life to the
extreme of realization, extreme fear, extreme efforts, extreme pain
and extreme calm.
Adventure does not mean ‘taking’ risks. Adventure
means ‘eliminating’ risks, with your preparation.
The fi nal term of the training
The last six months of my training were left. The fi nal term already
meant a lot of freedom as we were now the senior-most trainees.
Training in the Army 43
Besides, at the end of the term a dream awaited us; just in six months’
time we would be getting commissioned as offi cers into the Indian
The honour, the respect, the career and the freedom from this
gruelling and binding four years of training was no less than a
dream. One would also have more freedom to pursue one’s dreams.
Through our schooling and training days we were told to work
hard and focus on our goals because once our career was in place,
we could have all the time to enjoy life and pursue other interests.
I wanted to ride motorbikes. I wanted to go and meet the girl I loved.
I wanted to pursue my hobbies and interests and I wanted to enjoy my
life with more freedom. With all the years of hard work behind me,
I thought I deserved every bit of it. Nothing could possibly stop me
from fulfi lling my desire to do many more meaningful things with
my life.
During the middle of the term, a group of us went to an army
regimental centre down south on a training visit. It was to be a
routine visit but something different was in store for me. On my
travel by train to the place, I developed some rashes which caused so
much pain that I couldn’t sleep the whole night. I wasn’t sure what it
was. When we reached the place, I thought of reporting to the doctor.
The doctor diagnosed it as ‘Herpes Zooster’. It was a version of chicken
pox which infects the adults. It being a contagious disease I was put
in an isolated ward which was located in a big compound with a
few rooms. There was no one there besides me because I had carried
this disease with me. No one in this new town was affected by it.
Otherwise, I would at least have had the company of other patients
with this disease. It would take a few weeks for me to recover fully.
I was alone the whole day, doing nothing. I didn’t get to see any
human life-form throughout the day. I was not allowed to go out.
I exercised, read and slept all the time. I had always been a very active
person and therefore found this state of idleness awful. This phase