Travel Tales

An Army wife’s guide to surviving the first NDA visit

Sudan Block (NDA) in 2008. Photo by Major Sa'ab.
Sudan Block (NDA) in 2008. Photo by Major Sa’ab.

I don’t know what is it about taking the love of your life to NDA for the first time that gets all Army officers super-senti. It’s a big deal for them. Which is really surprising as very few things come in that category — the big deal category.

But it is going to happen some day. The sooner, the better.

The National Defence Academy in Khadakwasla (Pune) is that place where thousands and thousands of officers of the Indian Armed Forces have spent their most crucial years of life. So when you were out with your college friends eating samosa or bunking a class to watch a movie with your crush — they were in NDA, in an ALL-BOYS academy, dreaming of what it is like to be normal!

When they finally do manage to get a girlfriend/fiance/wife (whichever comes earliest), they will make it a point to take them to NDA to show them the place where ‘boys became men’.

I will not go into what happens at NDA and why it’s where the foundation of a good officer is laid and blah blah. You will get to hear all that from an enthusiastic Colonel at a party someday.

But I WILL tell you about all that you need to be prepared for when you visit the NDA for the first time.

When Major Sa’ab (my husband) took me there for the first time, we were just a couple of months into our relationship. I was working in Pune and he had come to visit me in the tiny mid-term break during his YOs.

He said, “Yaar, NDA jana hai ek baar.”

I said, “Ja naa…”

“You also come, I’ll give you a guided tour.”

To any other person, that would have sounded so tempting. Not to me, as I had visited NDA many times (professional hazard). I still agreed to go.

One thing is for sure, visiting the NDA with an officer who knows his way around the academy is a novelty. It feels good. And Major Sa’ab also lost no chance to say that this visit seems special. Back then, I thought he was saying that just to impress me. Until I met many Army wives (years later) who told me about their special trip to NDA. (See, I told you, it’s a big deal for these men.)

A typical tour generally starts with ye Sudan block hai, ye Habibullah Hall hai, ye drill square, ye swimming pool, ye NDA mess etc. Which is a lot to take in, specially for us civilian girls.

Photo by Major Sa'ab.
Photo by Major Sa’ab.

Almost every lane, ground, field, building — any place where humans can possibly tread — was used for punishments during their days as cadets. Major Sa’ab seemed to feature in an awful lot of those.

He pointed towards austere gray buildings that had alphabets written on it. He pointed to one such building (which looked like a copy of the next one) and said,”That’s my squadron.”

“You were in K squadron!”

“No! I was in Kilo squadron.”

Oh! It’s not ABC here, it’s Apha Bravo Charlie! So not K, but Kilo. Mental note to self.

“That was my room in the first two terms,” Major Sa’ab suddenly became Raju guide and pointed towards one tiny window of the Kilo Squadron. We were doing this while standing outside as it would have been inappropriate for a woman to enter the cadet’s buildings without prior notice (for obvious reasons).

And the mini-monologue started off…

“That window next to me was my best bud’s room. We used to share Maggi at night after lights out. Then that corner room was occupied by a very psycho/saddist senior. Made our life hell. In the third term, I moved to that other room. At the end of the corridor we had the common bathrooms that have partitions but no doors… where we were supposed to clear SSB (shit, shave, brush) before the seniors woke up in the morning. When I was a sixth termer, I chose that cozy little room where I would play loud music…”

And all I heard in that little speech was the bathroom thingy! NO DOORS? Is it even legal!

He then took me to the juice bar to introduce me to the maushi, who promptly recognised him! She was the lady who ran the shop and a fairy godmother for all cadets. Just at that moment, a group of 8-9 cadets came and greeted Major Sa’ab! They were the current sixth termers, who were first termers when Major Sa’ab was a sixth termer. It’s complicated.

More so, because they all looked EXACTLY the same to me. White t-shirts and shorts, lean, extra-small crew cut and skin that had enough sun for another decade. They all looked like clones to me.

“Banana shake for everyone. Maushi…!” Major Sa’ab got the cadets excited at the prospect of having free banana shake. We all sat there for a good 20 minutes (seemed like 3-4 hours) in which they all talked about ‘Academy stuff’. That was one conversation in which I could contribute in no way. So I just sat and switched off.

After the cadets left, we went to the Gol market. “That’s Kapoor’s shop right there. Itna loota hai usne hamein! You see that shop… that is Hamsa, where we used to eat paratha bhurji and chicken lollypops. He used to say ‘Garam nai hai, fresh hai’ for every item he sold. Hahaha…”

Hanss le beta. Little did Major Sa’ab know that he is going to hear the “Garam nai hai, fresh hai” dialogue every third day from his wife.

But a truly emotional moment for us came when we went pass the lawns where the NDA Ball was held years ago, where I was Major Sa’ab’s ball partner.

So that concludes the first part of the NDA darshan for me. Subsequent visits had greater details coming in from my Raju guide, with which I won’t bore you.

One of our friends came to the NDA after taking a detour from their honeymoon, where the guy in question got an earful on what constitutes as a romantic visit and what doesn’t.

Well, to be fair, the NDA is the place where every man’s romance with fauj starts, right?


45 thoughts on “An Army wife’s guide to surviving the first NDA visit”

  1. Fun read!! But how is it possible he was a 6th termer when the current lot were 1st termers?! That makes him 3 years senior na? From Lt to Capt to Major in 3 years isn’t possible!! Takes 3 just to become a captain. Hmmm?

    1. Superbly put across Ma’m. I am also KILLER/71/72.My compliments for penning down near exactitude of life at NDA. Rgds

  2. What a coincidence… my hubby AirForce K-93. We went there within 6 months into our relationship, for the guided tour. Everything you say is the exact same…

    1. free juice to his first termers who were then 6th termers
    2. Shock at the no door bathrooms
    3. anteroom and an introduction to the unique kilo sqn anteroom tradition can you forget the kilo sqn announcement? the 6th termers made my hubby do the announcement as well.

  3. I was invited to the NDA ball by a gentleman cadet on the 19th of this month. It was a wonderful experience.. dressing up at pool no 2, then walking down with our partners to the location of the Ball, first a formal ball dance, later dancing to the DJ till 11 in the night.. afterwards, having dinner at the mess.. my partner also gave me a guided tour of the Mess and replied to my questions with a lot of interest.. we saw Sudan block and were dropped off by the NDA bus.. it was a very memorable evening!

  4. Very well written Maam, very detailed and truthful review. I guess we all take pride in our alma maters especially the ones who change your entire life.

  5. Very Nicely written. I too had taken my GF in January 1976 when was a cadet my self. I write stories post retirement in Hindi. Karnal ki kahaniyan series. Wrote a story on that part also. It was almost similar except the Juice part.
    You have excellent communication skills. My compliments.

  6. So reminiscent. Extremely well elucidated the mental state of Ex NDA offrs w.r.t. their alma matter. Was there 81-84.
    Thx Anamika. You’ve the skills with your pen. Let it grow. God Bless.

  7. A marvellous read, you have a nice frothy style of writing. Very effervescent. I can relate to every word you’ve said, Coz my wife and elder daughter had the same nonplussed look on their faces (as I imagine you had too) when I took them on a conducted tour of NDA. I was a that stage a Sqn Ldr, and they were the hapless victims of my enthusiastic Raju guide!! Keep writing, great read.

  8. That was very nicely written and brought back fond memories. My wife and sons love to go through albums with old photographs of those days.

  9. Dear Anamika,
    First & foermost you deserve a big CONGRATULATIONS.
    Second I just can’t share your experience & sentiments: you see I can’t ever be a army wife for biologically I am born to the male of the species.
    I have never been to the NDA, though heard plenty about it. You see my alma mater is Sainik school, Bijapur.
    I have been a corporate executive, very successful at that. Now, even at 60 I envy my “fauji” batch mates at the get togethers at the RSI. Two of them are retired generals and plenty veteran colonels.
    I envy their health, attitude and the opportunity to serve the nation.

    1. Thank you. Sainik Schools are just a prelude to life at NDA, as I have been told by friends who went there. And who knows… Some of your friends must be envying your corporate success as well (grass greener wala scene).

  10. Truly a nostalgic article. You do have a keen eye for details madame.
    I’m Kilo/92 so missed the luxury of a “Juice bar”.
    Your memoirs would be a best seller !

  11. Iam 62 years old , was in same kilo squn 54th course left navy as a ltcdr after 20 years and since sailing for last 20 years as capt in merchant Navy . After reading your article I think I must take my wife daughter and son to NDA . The kids were small and wife saw ver little of navy. My batch mates one rose to be vice chief another MS as lt gen one maj Gen two died and many cold The 54th course gave 10 lt gens maj gens Vice admirals . Last get together which imissed over 180 still alive and in touch on a group called Bamboodoor.

  12. Most of the juniors were religated after Man Sab left NDA.Dont be too …… Probing into the write up.

  13. It’s beautiful the way you express ma’am. It’s as if I am in the scene. Had goose bumps reading every word and almost expecting what the next one would be. Would love to read more from you. Nostalgic, indeed. Next half an hour gone, I’m sure. Looking for my NDA photographs now!!!! Thank you ma’am. May I know which course is your husband ma’am. I’m 97 Olympian

  14. Nicely articulated mam . I remember my days at NDA . I am 77 g . Our mission used to be looking partner for NDA ball and we hogged so any pani puries standing next to every girl at Deccan trying to convince them that all we wanted was their company for NDA ball and we are not bad guys . But alas finally it was one girl dancing with 10 or 11 cadets and we envied all who were able to manage girl friends for the ball . NDA also was a place of all impossibles one the first day of arrival one was expected to know all the names of seniors . Stich 100 buttons on a handkerchief overnight just because one button decided to fall off or was missing from the shirt . The list is endless and can speak for hours especially another coursemate is in front of u . We will repeat
    the same stories again and again and still not get bored .

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