Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Commissioned into Indian Army

Chennai -- While pursuing my Masters degree in English literature, in H.P. University at Summer Hill near Shimla , i appeared and qualified in the Combined Defense Services examination. Since the Army was in my blood, i did not give a second thought and joined Officer Training Academy at Chennai leaving my MA incomplete. I got commission into Indian Army after the completion of induction training of nine months at OTA Chennai.


This was the place where we, the civilians were broken, ground into powder and again formed into a new shape, as 'officers of the Indian Army'. We were transformed from boys into gentlemen. Here we learnt how to walk, how to talk , how to eat and how to dress.


There are a number of memories attached to OTA but here i will site just one of them as to how we were welcomed on our first day in the Academy. A vehicle was sent to fetch us from Madras Central railway station. We were off loaded at the main gate of the OTA with our luggage which consisted of a big iron box and an equally big bed roll which each candidate carried as per the joining instructions. From here the cadets of the senior batch took over. No, not ragging , but they called it grooming. We were asked to stop walking any more after crossing the gate. We had to reach the Administrative block a few hundred meters away by not running nor jogging. We were to crawl or roll on the metalled road from the gate onwards. And hold your breath, while rolling or crawling we were also required to drag our luggage consisting of the two pieces as mentioned above. That gave us some idea as to what was in store for us during our induction training. More about all this in a different post later.


Faizabad (U.P.) near Ayodhya --- I was commissioned into Dogra Regiment. The Britishers called it a Military Aristocracy of the Indian Army. There were five more officers who were allotted the Dogra Regiment along with me. We were all instructed to report to the Regimental Centre before joining our respective Units which were located at different places. The Dogra race hails mainly from Himachal Pradesh, and in addition to that they also come from Jammu region of J&K and some pockets of foot hills of Punjab. Having been brought up at Shimla, my familiarity with the race was the very reason of my having opted for the same regiment. Dogra Regimental Centre is located at Faizabad in Uttar Pradesh. It makes a twin town along with Ayodhya. The aim of an officer reporting at Regimental centre is to give him some regimentation training as well as carry out the documentation. After that we were to report to our respective units. The stay at Faizabad was very short but i have included this place because it falls in the chain of my life journey.


I will narrate here two very distinct memories of Faizabad. Those days bell bottoms were in fashion. All of us young officers had got our uniform trousers stitched privately with wide bottoms which was a strict NO in the army. The Adjutant (the officer looking after administration and discipline of the centre) gave us a few verbal warnings not to wear our uniform trousers with wide bottoms. We did not pay much heed to his warnings and one day he, an officer of Major's rank, called all of us to his office. He looked at our bell shaped bottoms and rang up some one. In a few minutes a tailor came with scissors. Our bell bots were cut to size in his office itself and we were made to walk back to the officers' quarters with slit trousers at the bottom.

The six young Dogra officers at Faizabad.


Another interesting incident was, that on the very first day when all six of us young officers were walking up from the bachelor quarters to the office in the morning, a jawan came from the opposite direction. He gave us a customary salute. In the excitement of having got our first salute as officers, we all saluted back. Suddenly we realised our mistake. Only the senior most officer out of the group is supposed to acknowledge the salute and he walks on the right most edge of the group. Since we all were batch mates, we considered ourselves as equals. The sepoy who had saluted us must have controlled his laughter with a great difficulty. We decided that regardless of our seniority mentioned in the merit list, the officer walking on the right most of the group will acknowledge a junior's salute and same rule will apply when giving salute to a senior officer while walking.

This post also forms part of series on my life journey. To read all the posts in this series, please click here.

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