Col HP Singh (retd)
RECENTLY our batch celebrated its silver jubilee of adorning the olive green uniform. The past six months had been full of excitement which climaxed at our alma mater, the Indian Military Academy, Dehradun. What was conceived to be a routine get-together, turned out to be a mega event, with over a third of the surviving members making it for the occasion — some even travelling from across the globe.
Meeting our ‘buddies for life’ was a wonderful travel back in time to the early 1990s; nostalgia was evident as we relived the memories of those difficult training days when grass became green more by our sweat than rain. Though many names were forgotten and many were unrecognisable, it didn’t take much time to connect back with our brothers in arms. The youthful looks of the bygone era were replaced by receding hairlines and increasing waistlines, but the glint in everyone’s eyes indicated a strong defiance of age. While the appearance of almost everyone had changed significantly, their ‘typical characteristic traits’ had fortunately remained the same.
A significant number of our colleagues were not around, having made the supreme sacrifice on the call of duty. This included the Sword of Honour (First in order of merit at the time of commissioning) of the batch who led from the front even in death. There were many moist eyes when we laid wreaths at the memorial of our fallen comrades. Some had signatures of combat on their bodies, having seen Lord Yamraj from very close quarters. Then there was a category of premature retirees who, though having shed their uniforms, still exhibited a strong military bond.
For three days we relived an era, danced and laughed together creating memories for life. Given the euphoria and energy exhibited it was evident that we had not grown much. Anecdotes of our cadets days were narrated much to the amusement of our spouses. Our children, though visibly embarrassed at our juvenile behaviour, would certainly have been motivated to follow suit and join the noble profession.
At the end of the bonhomie there was standing ovation with a thunderous applause for the organisers of the event, volunteers from our own stock, who were instrumental in getting people together, many of whom had not met even once since commissioning. It was, indeed, a splendid way to celebrate the special bond of camaraderie; the hangover of which is going to last for a long time.
When it was time to say goodbye my heart choked once again, the way it had done a quarter of a century ago while marching through the Antim Pag, or the final step, to commissioning into the Army. As we bid au revoir, we took a pledge to meet again for the golden jubilee celebrations! Till then, we shall relive the moments in the ‘clicks’ of the event captured in our cellphones. Many would not be around and many would be constrained by health, but our souls will certainly grace the occasion because ‘Soldiers never die, they only fade away’.
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