My friend’s brother had survived 18 months at the Indian Military Academy (IMA) in Dehradun and so it was indeed time to celebrate. She was going to come all the way to Dehradun to attend the Passing out parade (POP) and since I was living in that city, I couldn’t have been happier.
Dehradun was so far away, none of my friends or family members ever passed by (like Delhi or Mumbai folks do?).
Her brother, a skinny and dark GC (Gentleman Cadet – all trainees at the IMA are called GC) was allowed to invite four guests to the POP that is a ceremonial culmination of their rigorous training. He ended up being swamped by 11 relatives and friends, all wanting to see him stomp the parade ground in front of the Chetwode Building like a crazy guy before he became an officer in the Indian Army.
Now, this POP is a pretty sought-after function in and around Dehradun, with civilians and faujis clamouring for entry passes. Parents, friends, relatives, distant relatives, would-be in-laws… everyone wants to be there when their boy gets his stars.
So my friend’s brother, lets call him GC Bub, somehow managed to get passes for everyone, and so, at 0600 hours, all 11 of them were seated in the battalion enclosure in front of the Chetwode Building.
Though the POP doesn’t start before 0900 hours, the three hour early arrival was because of limited seating, which is allotted on first-come-first-serve basis. I had passes to a special seating enclosure right behind the chief guest, but I preferred to sit with my friend along with other family members. A shudh-desi civilian like me would never let go of any opportunity to have some civilian-chhap fun.
And what fun it was! Let’s not forget the impressive parade which the GCs put up after getting grilled for the drill for 3 weeks. Yes, it takes that long to get the moves right and in sync with 600 other GCs.
Now while the GCs were standing in attention while the emcee was ranting about the academy’s history, we decided to take up this impossible task of finding GC Bub among all those lookalikes. He had given us a vague idea about where he would be standing, so a super-zoom camera came to our rescue and after about 10 minutes, we found him! Nothing short of a Christmas miracle.
And what else do we see in the view-finder? Some GC in the back row would comment on something the emcee said and a bunch of other GCs around him would try as hard as possible to control their laughter! Men will be men 🙂 .
Then there was one time when the Adjutant of the academy, sitting on a handsome mare on at the right end of the parade, moved to the left end before the march-past. As soon as he left his position, a man, probably hiding behind one of Chetwode’s pillars, ran out with a dustpan in hand. In a matter of 30 seconds, he swept the horse’s poop, and ran back to disappear behind the Chetwode! As my husband later told me, he is the man “whose only job is to watch the horse’s ass”.
After the parade, families were to move to the Somnath Stadium for the pipping and oath taking ceremony. It is pretty hard to handle to group of 11 grown-ups and so GC Bub…. sorry, Lt Bub was fuming at the stadium since only half the bunch had turned up. “I had time to run back to my room, shower, change into a different uniform and come to the stadium, and you guys can’t walk 300 metres in that time?”
Aah, that’s your Army man speaking. My friend exchanged an all too familiar look with me, that said, “Oh boy, that used to be my brother.”
The stadium was full of people high on emotions. It was like a Karan Johar movie unfolding right in front of my eyes, as teary eyed mothers embraced their sons in uniform and fathers were proudly introducing them to others. Sisters just couldn’t stop taking pictures as parents uncovered the stars on their brother’s shoulder.
The oath-taking ceremony, where the new officers vowed to serve the country, was a moment right out of another Bollywood movie — Lakshya. There were hundreds of Hrithik Roshans in front of me and in typical filmy fashion, my head was full of “Lakshya ko har haal me pana hai” music.
No hats were thrown in the air (we kept waiting for that to happen but I later came to know that’s not allowed in IMA anymore), but the dancing, hugging and push-ups (yes our fauj is full of weird traditions) continued for a long time.
These officers are now bonded for life. They may not meet again for months or years, but their “course-mate” would always be the first person they help when the need comes.