Being a cadet at the National Defence Academy is perhaps one of the most prestigious things any 18 years old can dream of but at the same time, it is also one of the most rigorous training regimes in the world for the age group.
As a first-termer in the academy, life initially is a smooth ride as you are allowed to settle in during the first three weeks. A period is known as the “Orientation Cadre”. It is during this time that we learn most of the academy lingo and gets accustomed to the daily routine. Once the orientation cadre ends, hell breaks loose and cadets gain first-hand experience as to why NDA cadets are called as the “lowest form of life on Earth for three years of their lives.”
Of course, post the three years, they become the most respected form of life to walk the Earth. When I was a first-termer and my orientation cadre was about to end, we were given a feedback form. It had routine questions like, “Are you enjoying your stay?”, “Are you getting your meals on time?”, “Are you able to talk to your parents?” and so on. By this time we had realised that things at the academy worked in a different way, and most of my coursemates including me filled up the forms as if everything was perfectly fine.
However, there was one amongst us who felt that the time for breakfast was quite less, and he wrote a full page feedback as to how breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and how cadets are being deprived of it. Now, we were not aware of what exactly he had written but that evening after dinner, the Squadron Cadet Captain called all the first-termers to the battalion area and started making us do push-ups. The count never stopped, and we were physically dead within half an hour. At the far end of the battalion area, we could see our friend Deepak, who had written the long feedback rolling away to glory.
It was at that moment we realised that he must have written something and we are being punished for the same. After an hour or so, one of the seniors came in and jokingly asked, “Who wants more time for breakfast? Anybody else?”
We were all standing while Deepak was drenched in water and rolling around like a ball as he asked us. None of us replied. We were physically and mentally exhausted by now to even think of replying.
Now, most of you might be thinking that it was so cruel of someone to not allow more time to have breakfast. That is the thing about the academy, it teaches you the real meaning of privileges. As a junior, enjoying your meals is not a privilege but gradually after years of training when you become a fifth or sixth termer, you get all the time in the world. Each privilege has to be earned,
and nothing comes easy.
It might sound harsh but that is exactly how the academy turns boys into men. By the way, Deepak today flies the Sukhoi-30 and he is doing very well in his service.