A Curious Army Wife

I joined this crazy tribe when I married into the Indian Army

Archive for the tag “IMA Dehradun”

Two books by Tanushree Podder that have nailed the NDA-IMA experience

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Boots, Belts and Berets  & On The Double

I had been meaning to write about these two books earlier (months ago actually) but staring at the walls in my house and the computer in office took up most of my life’s time all this while.

Book 1: Boots Belts and Berets by Tanushree Podder traces life of a group of friends through their years at the National Defence Academy (NDA) in Pune.

Book 2: Its sequel, On The Double, is obviously the story of a Cadet’s transformation into a Gentleman Cadet at the Indian Military Academy (IMA) in Dehradun.

The latter was released just last year, and I was fortunate to be a part of its unveiling at the Pune Literature Festival, where I had the honour of meeting the author! What’s more — I even dressed for the occasion in a new camo print shirt (remember military style was in vogue at that time). I was secretly quite proud of myself for this brilliant stroke of thinking. UNTIL.

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Yeah, that’s me. I later searched for some chullu-bhar paani too.

UNTIL I saw who was seated in the audience. A few veterans, some super-smartly dressed women (who had to be Army wives, I can sniff them out from a distance now), serving officers (in civvies) and AND AND… about a 100 odd cadets from the NDA.

See it’s one thing to flaunt camo print in front of the aam junta, but a totally different ball game when in presence of people who actually wear it (or in case of NDA cadets hope to wear it) as a part of their life.

I am sure they hated my guts. I hope they don’t remember my face.

Coming back to the point, I met Mrs Podder there, and introduced myself, expressing a desire to meet her once I finish “On The Double”. She gave me her number and we parted ways.

By the time I met her months later, she was fresh off the launch of her latest book “Solo in Singapore”. On a hot summer afternoon, we met at RSI in Pune. In a wonderfully candid chat, she told me how she had written the first book as a surprise gift for her husband, a retd Col, and how everyone who’d read this one was eagerly anticipating the IMA book.

Having spent a good two years in IMA myself, I was bound to be a little biased in favour of “On The Double”. It was like having a 3D imagery in my head giving me the visual aid as I read about the matar-gashti of the Gentlemen Cadets in Dehradun.

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Tanushree Podder

I was a little surprised by the omission of the IMA ball parties, events that an army man remember as vividly as their first cross-country run! I asked Mrs Podder about it, but it seems the ball was not ‘rolling’ at that time. The books are set in 1970s, you see!

She recalled stories of her days as a Commanding Officer’s wife, various postings and of course, Ladies’ Meets — yes, two Army wives always talk about it whenever they meet, in this case it was fascinating to compare the ‘then’ and ‘now’ notes.

Get these two books ladies! Trust me, reading material on what our husbands went through in NDA and IMA is gold if you wanna know about the ragda they went through in their ‘pre-us’ years. These two books also make an awesome gift, if you are going through the what-to-gift-a-fauji phase).

In other news, do check out these latest books by fellow Army wives, Shuchi Singh Kalra and Aditi Mathur Kumar.

Solo in Singapore   i-am-big-so-what-shuchi-singh-kalra

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This one’s the story of an Army Girlfriend! 🙂

 

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Kamar kass ke!

Innovation is the mother of.....

This should be a part of life hacks lessons. ‘

So there we were, dancing at the IMA Ball in Dehradun, where future officers training at the Indian Military Academy have a gala time before military service beckons, and this strange thing caught my eye.

I wish I had taken a better picture. But there is only so much I can do with a normal camera phone that refuses to click decent pics in low light.

All the Gentlemen Cadets (better known as GC) were dressed in their muftis, a dress code set for such fun events in the Indian Army. Their ball partners were dressed in some of the most stylish western outfits fashioned out of a one metre cloth (of course I am exaggerating, it’s my blog after all :P).

The ball party had just started off and there was this group of young girls and GCs dancing in front of us. Suddenly I realised that the kamar-band of this GC’s uniform looked a little odd. I normally do not go closer to take a look of what is hanging off a person’s belt, but in this case I had to, cause (a) it was dark and (b) I had left my glasses at home.

There was this sparkly-sequency-golden clutch purse securely held by the GCs kamar-band. His partner would obviously have thought it would be cool to get this clutch but must have realised what a pain it is to handle it while dancing. So I am guessing our GC gulped down a glass of chivalry and offered to get rid of this object in this unique fashion,

Unique my foot. My awe for his innovative idea evaporated the moment I spotted around 10-12 more GCs with a clutch purse snuck in their kamar-bands. Aah, so even they wanted the purse out of their way, it seems. 🙂

IMA, where gentlemen become officers

IMA, where gentlemen become officers!

My friend’s brother had survived 18 months at the Indian Military Academy 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, and since I was living in that city, I couldn’t have been happier (because it is quite far from all other cities and no one ever comes here).

Her brother, a skinny and dark GC (Gentleman Cadet, what all trainees at the IMA are called) was allowed to invite four guests to the passing-out-parade (POP) — 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, which is really unusual for a military event. 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! Lets not forget the impressive parade which the GCs put up after getting grilled for the drill for the past 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.

A man cleaning the Adjutant's horse's poop!

A man cleaning the Adjutant’s horse’s poop!

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, moves to the left end before the march-past. As soon as he left his position to move, 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 of his relatives 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, which said, “Oh boy, that used to be my brother.”

Now 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.

Time to celebrate!

Time to celebrate!

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.

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