Visit to the National Defence Academy, Pune

Following is a blog I had written when I was in the 9th grade at the Loyola High School in Pune, India. In 2010, I used to use blogspot for writing and publishing my articles and blogs as a school student. Recently, my school friend Sandeepan Das who has cleared the SSB interview for the Indian Navy reminded me about a talk I gave at school after having visited the National Defence Academy in Pune. I remembered about this article I had written back then and decided to put up on my webpage immediately. 

I refrained from publishing any photographs of the stay then due to security reasons and therefore you wouldn’t find photos below. 

This report is based on the visit to the National Defence Academy, Pune on 27th, 28th, and 29th of November, 2010. I have given a detailed description of our stay at NDA and what we experienced.

This camp was an unforgettable experience to live the life of a cadet at NDA. It was all about how the cadets live, what is NDA, what are the aspects of NDA, the importance of serving the nation and instilling the qualities of pride for the nation. On the morning of the 27th at sharp 7:30 the 4 of us (Dhruv Paranjpye, Apurv Nair, Varadh Borawake and Neeraj Bhalerao) along with our teacher Mr. Chandra reported at the entrance gate of the National Defence Academy. We were the 1st school at NDA out 7 from all over the country. No sooner did our vehicle enter the premises than the jet planes which roared in the airspace of Khadakwasla. We were seeing the jets at such a low height for the 1st time. The noise it makes as it gushes through the air makes it the king of the sky. We were soon taken for our breakfast at the cadets’ mess where 1800 people can dine at a time. As soon as we entered the mess we were amazed by its royal interiors and the etiquettes followed there. Our day started off very well as we were having our breakfast with the cadets. We spoke with them about how their life is at NDA, what they do here, what made them come here etc. As it was a Saturday and we had learned that weekends are usually not too hectic we questioned them that how do they spend their weekends? We got a 100% result for relaxing! From this answer we realized the real tough schedule the cadets live on weekdays. After our breakfast at 9:40 we were taken to our rooms. The cadets are divided into Squadrons or groups and they have to live like a team in those Squadrons.

Our Squadron was the ‘N’ or November squadron. There we were accommodated and told to be outside the squadron at sharp 11:00 am. So till then we got ready for the day and at sharp 11:00 we were reporting outside the squadron where 2 cadets were just arriving to show us the National Defence Academy. We also met one more school from Pune: The S.S.P.MS. School. The cadets 1st took us to the Sudan Block which was just 500 meters away from our squadron. While we walked, the splendid beauty of the roads and nature along with the cleanliness left us awestruck. The Sudan Block is built after the African country Sudan who gave 100 thousand pounds to build a war memorial for Indian Soldiers who lost their lives in World War 2 while supporting Sudan. After partition in 1947 it was decided to build NDA on basis of giving training to cadets who later on go to their pre-commission training. Hence, the block is named after Sudan. The Sudan Block is a long and massive building where cadets mostly have lecture sessions. In the middle of the building is the NDA commandant’s office. No one is allowed to cross the office of the commandant which is on the 2nd floor. If at all anyone wants to go to the left or right he must go on the 3 rd floor and from there go to his desired place. The cadets took us inside the block for a short time. As soon as we entered the Commandant Vice Admiral Satish Soni was right in front of us. It was a great opportunity to meet and have a word with him. He encouraged us to join the Armed Forces and serve the nation. Then we were taken out again and shown the surroundings. At the left of the Sudan Block was the Habibullah Hall and to the right was the Vyas library. 2 Pakistani Military tanks captured by the Indian soldiers in the war of 1961 were on display. Then on the dome of the Sudan Block were 5 flags. From left to right they were the Army, Navy, Indian, Air-Force and NDA. We had now started understanding what pride it is to be at NDA. The cadets march while they walk. They wear a perfect uniform and have to salute their officer or instructor every time they see them. Cadets are given training related to army at the Army Training Team (ATT). We were shown how firing is done and the technique of firing a gun at the ATT. This was done by virtual firing simulator which trains cadets to do firing in different terrains, weather conditions and times of the day. We were then given a chance to shoot at the enemy using these simulators. Though it looks very easy to get trained it is not. It requires immense hard-work and determination to achieve mastery in the armed forces. After seeing the ATT we were taken for lunch at the mess again. While having our meals we again saw strict discipline at the mess. You are not supposed to come in casuals inside the mess. You should wear formals and a tie when you are inside the mess. You may take as much food as you want in the Mess but you have to finish it before a certain time-limit. In the afternoon we left to the Peacock Bay. We went via the Commandant’s residence. At the Peacock Bay we were taken for a boat ride. We could see the Sinhagad Fort as well as the gates of the Khadakwasla Dam. Though it was an afternoon time it was nevertheless a calm and gentle ride. Here, cadets are trained mostly for skills in the waters! In the evening we were taken to the Manoj Pandey Hall named after the 1999 Kargil Hero who sacrificed his life for the nation and was also an NDA cadet. It is the place where students attend lectures on subjects like Physics, Chemistry, and Mathematics etc. We were taken into an actual lecture room where we were shown a movie on NDA. It really inspired us to be a part of the Armed Forces as well as to serve the nation. What really inspired us was the courage, royalty in marching and also the pride which sits in you to serve the nation!

Next day we woke at 5:00 in the morning. We had to be ready by 6:00 am in tracksuits as our activity was horse riding. The reason you have to wear a tracksuit is so that your skin does not touch the skin of the body of the horse which irritates it. We were first taken to the Air Force Training Team. As we reached there so did 3 Air Force helicopters land on the helipads which were almost 50 meters away from where we were standing. It was really incredible to see such a big machine come and land in front of us! We were then shown the Super Dimona Aircrafts which are used by the cadets for learning flying in their last term. These aircrafts are built in an amazing way. They have really long wings. The reason is that if the engine stops mid-air the Super Dimona can glide for a certain distance. It is the 1:26 aircraft. It means that if the plane loses 1000 feet at a height of 6000 feet it will glide around 26km in that period. So if at all any emergency takes place safety measures can be taken like the above as the area of NDA is 32 square kilometers. So the plane can easily come towards the runway by gliding! After having a glance at the Air Force Training Team we were then taken to the Equitation Training Team. Here cadets are given training regarding horse riding. The horses are kept in a very hygienic stable and utmost care is given at its health conditions. We were allowed to do horse riding and also told about the manners observed. Before you get onto the horse you must give respect to the animal by patting it with care. We followed the instructions and moved with our horses onto the field. It was for the very 1st time that many of us were riding horses all alone. The main aim is to be able to control the horse whatever the condition may be. It was enjoyable to ride especially when the horse used to take speed and run. What we had learned up to now that whatever may be the circumstances you must fight them out and find your way to victory. The academy is giving such beautiful training that if one works hard on his own to achieve some basic necessities for NDA he will prosper. After having breakfast we proceeded to the Habibulah Hall where the convocation ceremony of the 119th Course was going to take place. The Vice Chancellor of Pune University Prof. Shirgaonkar was the Chief Guest of the ceremony. He along with the Commandant and Deputy Commandant congratulated all the cadets who got graduated from NDA. After the convocation ceremony we were again taken to the Peacock Bay where kayaking was arranged for us. The Training Ship Ronnie Periera which was used in the 1970’s was kept at the Peacock Bay. We were shown the parts of a ship such as the focsle which is the front part and the back part is called quarterdeck. After that those who were going for Kayaking were called and their names were written down. The reason they do this not only for us but even for the cadets is to check after the event whether everyone has returned or not. Our team immediately got ready and we wore the life jackets and out we went into the Khadakwasla Lake for Kayaking. Kayaking involves not only arm strength but also teamwork and coordination. We were Kayaking for almost 20 mins and all were drenched in water. After that at around 12:30pm we went to the Rakesh Sharma Hall where there was an exhibition of various models and arts prepared by the cadets. We saw extraordinary drawings, crafts, aeroplane models, security alarm models, memories of the Academy in a huge photo album (some even of the NDA ball) along with some video clips. Not for a single time did we feel bore wherever we went as there were something or the other worth visiting. So came one more place the museum where different tanks, artillery machinery, war machines etc were on display. These machines are a symbol of courage which our soldiers who fought so many wars proved to the world. After sometime of relaxing at around 4:15 in the afternoon we went to see the Tattoo show organized at the Bombay Stadium. The Tattoo show signifies the courage, valour and passion for India in the cadets who have graduated after 3 years of training at NDA. The programme commenced with the arrival of the chief guest Air Marshal P.V. Naik at the Bombay Stadium at 5pm. Soon paratroopers entered the stadium from the skies. We could see them at a height of 60 feet and some of them had even completed 1000 landings. They came in various formations which enthralled us especially the one when 3 of them came in colours of the tricolour. What we learnt was that their speed in the skies would be around 200km/hr!! Then the cadets performed a display on how the soldiers penetrate into the enemy territory and finish the enemy. It was a fabulous show on earth. There were bombs (not real though) going out on the fields, noise of the firing and smoke all around the stadium. The soldiers start getting inside the land slowly and tactically kill many enemies. Then the soldiers come towards the enemy and with all might do the ultimate march i.e. dhava bol. They shout out loud and go ahead and put down the enemy onto the ground by conquering that land. The love for India, pride in serving the country and the quality to protect our nation was all seen in this amazing act. Then were the horse riders who showed their skills in horse riding. They were doing all different techniques of horse riding like shooting while on the horse, jumping over obstacles, picking up things on the ground while on the horse etc. Then were karate performances, boxing shows, bikes going over cadets and other forms of military art that were performed. At 6:15pm the salute was given to the chief guest and with that the programme ended. We were given liberty i.e. free time to move around the campus.

On the 3rd and final day we got up at 4:00 in the morning for the most awaited programme, the passing out parade. At around 5:15 we started moving towards the Arun Khetrapal parade ground where the passing out parade was going to take place. All the passing out cadets were taking snaps with each other as it was their last day at NDA. We were seated at 6:00am at the Parade Ground. It was still dark and cold. At 7:00am there was description of NDA and its history. After a few minutes the chief guest’s arrival commenced. Air Chief Marshal P.V. Naik was the reviewing officer. Soon the cadets started entering the parade ground from the Quartermaster’s Fort where all the equipment for training is stored. Then, the reviewing officer went around the whole parade ground and every time he came in front of a group of cadets they gave him a royal salute. Along with him were honourable guests like Lt. Pradeep Khanna, General Officer Commanding – in – Chief of the Southern Command and Deputy Commandant Air Vice Marshal Ajit Bhonsle. The perfect timing in the salute, vishram-savdhan and marching of the cadets left us awestruck. As the cadets performed a march past 3 super dimonas flew at very low height followed by the 3 Sukhois which out of nowhere boomed towards us leaving excitement in the minds of the audience. Then cadet Karan Kothari, Vaibhav Bharadwaj and Tapesh Singh were presented the President’s medal for their performance at the academy. They won the gold, silver and bronze medals respectively. Then the cadets began the slow march as they moved out from the quarterdeck i.e. the rear part of a ship. How symbolic can it get? They were saluted by their juniors who stood on the quarterdeck. Finally the cadets passed out and the traditional pomp as well as shouting of cadets was to be heard by everyone. Then wing commander Sajjan piloted a Sukhoi aircraft and put up an amazing display of various manoeuvres and skills in the skies. It was breathtaking to see such a performance high in the skies and nobody on ground could stop him from taking the charge of the sky. Also 4 helicopters of the Sarang team performed different formations leaving out smoke in the air. The DLTGH (Days Left to go home) was finally 0 for all the cadets as it was end of the term and everyone was getting into whatever vehicle they could to go home. In the evening we departed to go home with a party outside NDA campus with our whole group. It was not easy for us to get back to the city. We were enjoying the atmosphere and discipline so much that it was not an easy thing to get back in the normal city life where things are done however people want to.

After having seen the National Defence Academy I certainly feel that it will be very difficult to find such a place on earth. I have learned that if you live for others you will ‘live life’ in a real sense. The pride and valor it takes to be in the Armed Forces are not seen anywhere else. Let us all spread awareness about our Armed Forces and their qualities amongst everyone. It was such an amazing place to be at that it has motivated me to join the Armed Forces and I aspire to be an Air Force Pilot. Hope that somebody reading this article will be inspired too to join NDA. Jai Hind!

Dhruv Paranjpye
Loyola High School

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