NDA Khadakvasla tales: Reliving 50 years of the National Defence Academy
Callow young men, still in their teens, join Indias prestigious National Defence Academy (NDA) as cadets every six months and three years later they are well-trained military officers in the making and branch out to the army, navy and air force. The most cherished event is the 50th anniversary of the passing out from the NDA and this week. On June 15 the 36th course will meet at Khadakvasla, Pune for what is a poignant and perhaps last such course get together - the Golden Jubilee Reunion (GJR).
 
A memorial meeting at the Hut of Remembrance (HoR) to pay silent homage to those we lost in operations and otherwise is the most sombre and the course has shrunk in numbers from the original 270. The wives of course-mates who are no more are accorded a special status at the reunion and the bonding among the course-mates, many who would be meeting again after 50 years, is distinctive.
 
I was privileged to be part of the 270-plus young cadets who made our bewildered way from then Poona (now Pune) station to Khadakvasla in mid 1966 and certain memories and vignettes remain luminous as they are distilled through a shared experience of having been brothers-in-arms for half a century.
 
Officers from the 36th course were among the junior most who took part in the 1971 war for Bangladesh and later at senior ranks in the Sri Lanka operations and the 1999 Kargil war among other such exigencies. Every NDA course has its share of outstanding officers who acquitted themselves in the highest traditions of the Indian military and the 36th is proud to have four Vir Chakra awardees (P.C. Bharadwaj, Tamal Roy, A.S. Ahlawat and Rohit Sethi) and three Shaurya Chakra winners (P.C. Bharadwaj, Timki Randhawa and Thayi Hari). The 36th also nurtured an Army Chief and now union minister of state (V.K. Singh) and a large number of three star officers among others. Some were injured in combat and related operations (Anil Bhalla and J.J. Smith among others) and yes, there will be a few who have lost limbs or were differently injured while in service - but are still stoic and cheerful.
 
Luck and chance play a very important role in any military trajectory and I had my fair share, which enabled me to stay the course for almost 40 years in uniform. The alternate path was that I would have faced the ignominy of being discharged from the NDA as a first termer in 1966 for very odd reasons. My accidental benefactor was the commandant of the NDA, the esteemed Major General Ranbir Bakshi who had won the coveted Military Cross (MC) in World War II.
 
Within my first month at the NDA I fell ill with a high fever that was not responding to the usual medication and very soon I burst into a severe skin allergy with attendant puss symptoms. My condition deteriorated and I was shifted to the Military Hopsital (MH) in Poona where a team of specialists tried to diagnose my unusual condition. At the time I was a little over 15 years of age and knew little beyond what one imbibed in boarding school and through the books one read.
 
I noticed an odd pattern at the MH where my skin condition elicited much professional interest - local civilian doctors came to examine me (rather rudely) and I was shifted to an isolation ward. Unknown to me the preliminary determination was that I had contracted a rare STD (sexually transmitted disease), for the skin condition was apparently similar (particularly in the groin) to venereal diseases and suddenly I had become a medical and disciplinary case!
 
Various stern looking officers came to question me about whether I had visited the red light area on arrival in Pune, or if I had slipped away from Khadakvasla to indulge in the carnal pleasures of life! I was completely stunned and my condition was absurd. I was often strapped to the bed naked - to prevent me from scratching myself and had no one to speak to, except for a dour nursing orderly who changed my bandages and brought my food. Worse, he insisted on calling me ‘rangeela cadet' (colourful cadet) and a ‘chhupa rustam' (hidden hero), alluding to my alleged sexual detour.
 
I was informally told that I had contracted an STD and I would be sent packing home. Very luckily for me the skin specialist, a senior World War II veteran, Colonel M.L. Gaind, finally reviewed my case and concluded that I had a congenital allergy that was exacerbated by an antibiotic which had led to the skin flare-up. And as chance would have it, when I was lying unclothed on the examining table with a sheet over me, the NDA commandant General Bakshi walked in for a personal consultation.
 
Clearly the doctor and the general were friends from younger days and my curious case, as it had unfolded was explained to him. I was made to sit up and Gen. Bakshi looked at me empathetically and said: "So son, you are not the ‘rangeela' I was told you are. Get well soon and join your course."
 
To say that I was relieved would be the understatement of my 15-year-old life. I returned to the ragging, cycle lifting and front-rolling that first-termers at the NDA undergo with cheer and gratitude. But for the fortuitous visit by the NDA commandant on that particular day, I would have been denied the opportunity to be part of the 36th course for over 50 years.
 
This weekend a bunch of soon to be 70-years-olds will share their individual trajectories at the Golden Jubilee and recall General Baskhi and scores of other officers who molded the callow lads, as also Subedar Major Kanshi Ram, our drill JCO and the chance cum luck factor that shaped our lives.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.
 
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Cyclone Vayu begins skirting Gujarat coast, brings heavy rainfall: IMD
Moving north-westwards, Cyclone Vayu on Thursday afternoon started skirting the Saurashtra coast in Gujarat while heavy rains which lashed the coastal areas were likely to continue till the evening, the Indian Meteorological Department said.
 
As was feared, the 'severe cyclonic storm' did not make landfall in Gujarat but was passing over the Saurashtra region, affecting Amreli, Gir Somnath, Diu, Junagarh, Porbandar, Rajkot, Jamnagar, and Dwarka districts, bringing widespread rainfall with heavy to very heavy rains.
 
Pankaj Kumar, Additional Chief Secretary, said that although the IMD has informed that the cyclone has changed its course, "it may still cause heavy winds and rains, and so we are still on stand-by mode".
 
"Cyclone Vayu is 110 kilometres from Veraval to the south-west and 150 kilometres from Porbandar to the south. The cyclone is moving towards the north and was crossing over Saurashtra," he said.
 
The Chief Minister's Office in Gujarat said Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to Chief Minister Vijay Rupani immediately after reaching Bishkek for the SCO Summit and inquired about the cyclone preparedness and assured all assistance and support from Centre to mitigate the effects of the storm.
 
Skymet Weather had earlier stated that the 'Very Severe Cyclone' might weaken into a Category 1 Cyclonic Storm from Category 2, though the wind speed will be 135-145 kms per hour gusting up to 175 kms per hour.
 
Gujarat has, meanwhile, already evacuated over 3.1 lakh people and the Union Territory of Diu that touches the Saurashtra coast has moved over 10,000 people to safety.
 
The Coast Guard has stated that the cyclone would take up to Saturday before it completely moves over into the sea at Dwarka.
 
Iqbal Singh Chauhan, DIG of Coast Guard, Porbandar, told reporters that, "The next 50-60 hours will be very important for Gujarat." He said all fishermen and coastal residents were requested to shift to safer places if they had not done so.
 
Those living in 'katcha' (thatched) houses were advised to take shelter at the relief camps set up by the Gujarat government as the sea was expected to surge to about 1-1.5 metres.
 
"I want to inform all the citizens of India that the pre-emptive steps taken by the administration, government agencies and armed forces will ensure that there is no loss of life," Chauhan said.
 
Meanwhile, the Western Railways have cancelled as many as 70 trains from the Saurashtra and Kutch regions, while 28 trains had been short terminated.
 
According to Western Railways PRO Pradeep Sharma, special relief trains had been started to supply essential commodities to the areas that are affected and move people to safer places. Hundreds had been shifted through state transport buses.
 
According to the Airports Authority of India, the impact of the cyclone has been mild at most airports in Gujarat and no damage has been caused to the infrastructure of aerodromes.
 
Flight operations at airports in Porbandar, Diu, Bhavnagar, Keshod and Kandla had already been suspended since midnight of Wednesday.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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Wave Group VC Manpreet Singh Chadha arrested in Rs100 crore fraud case
Manpreet Singh Chadha, the Vice Chairman of the Wave Group, has been arrested in connection to a Rs 100 crore fraud case, a police officer said here on Thursday.
 
The Economic Offences Wing (EOW) of the Delhi Police arrested Chadha on Wednesday at the national capital's Indira Gandhi International Airport while trying to escape to Thailand, Additional Commissioner of the EOW, Suvashish Chaudhary told IANS.
 
Before his arrest, the airport's security staff and immigration officers were alerted and Look a Out Circular (LOC) was issued against Chadha.
 
EOW had registered a case against Chadha in connection with the case including other promoters of Wave Group, Chaudhary said, adding that it was stated in the FIR that the group duped buyers of over Rs 100 crore and made wrongful gains to the company on the name of promising a Hi-Tech township project at NH-24.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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