The Kanchas (young men) recruited by the Recruiting Depots and BRO are raw village boys. Rustic in the extreme, often semi-literate, with no concept of discipline, training, esprit de corps, or familiarity with technology. What they do have is a burning desire to serve in the Gorkha Regiments of the Indian Army, to follow in the glorious footsteps of their illustrious forbears and keep alive a tradition that is now close to two mountain villages for days to reach the Recruiting Centres. The trek is often one that would tax even the most experienced mountaineers. Nevertheless, they are put through a rigorous selection procedure including a medical fitness test before being signed on.
It is this eager but totally raw youth that the 39 GTC will mould and polish over the next eleven months to turn out some of the finest fighting troops in the entire world. A soldier whose discipline, dedication to duty, loyalty and ferocious fighting spirit is remembered with awe by all who have had to face the blood-curdling battle cry of Ayo Gorkhali – The Gorkhas have arrived!By the time the GTC is finished with this new Kancha from some remote hamlet in north western Nepal, he will be able to disassemble and re-assemble his INSAS Rifle blindfolded; his physical stamina shall be such that he shall be able to march for days over the toughest terrain imaginable while carrying his full load of equipment and personal weapons; he shall learn how to drive vehicles, read maps, understand signals and commands and operate sophisticated weaponry, communication equipment, night vision, and other devices; he shall learn not to break under shelling or enemy fire; he shall become adept at unarmed combat and at surviving in the tropical forests as well as in the trackless sands of the desert. He shall become a formidable fighting machine. And yet underlying all this, 39 GTC, his Alma Mater shall ensure that he also imbibes human values and takes pride in his culture, his religion and his tradition; that he develops into an excellent sportsman, with a love for nature and the outdoors and an innate compassion that moves him to willingly extend a helping hand to his civilian brethren, be it in the ‘quake shattered cities of Kuch or the strife-torn villages of Rawanda’.
Ram Bahadur Realises His Dream
Let us follow the progress of a young Kancha, Ram Bahadur Gurung, born of sturdy peasant stock somewhere in Nepal.He regularly sees Gorkha soldiers from the Indian Army who come home on leave and dreams of joining the Army himself. One day, soon after completing his VIII standard examination at school, he hears of a Recruitment Rally to be conducted by the Gorkha Recruiting Depot at Kunraghat, one of the depots responsible for conducting recruitment of Nepal Domicile (ND) persons into the Indian Army. Having cleared his physical, medical and written tests, young Ram Bahadur reports to Kauraghat for further instructions and is told that he has been allotted 3rd Gorkha Rifles and is to proceed to 39 Gorkha Training Centre at Varanasi. Clutching his few belongings and his all-important papers, he joins the 50 odd other youths who are to travel to Varanasi under the escort of an NCO.Vey soon, upon entry into India, he undertakes his first ever train journey. Surely he is in heaven and this is the Celestial Express rapidly chugging him along to Paradise! Before long he finds himself at the Centre and joins a batch of Gorkha boys of Indian Domicile recruited from North Bengal , Dehra Dun and Dharamasala. That night he dreams of going home to his month with a chest full of medals and a jaunty swagger to his walk just like that of the Subedar Sahib who had welcomed them all to their new life.
His dreams are shattered at the crack of dawn as he and his newfound saathis are tumbled out of bed for an early morning run and then made to undergo the ministrations of one of the Centre’s barbers who unceremoniously crops off his luxurious and assiduously cultivated mane. But the crestfallen Ram Bahadur’s spirits are restored when he is issued with a set of brand new clothes and shoes. He carries his prized possessions back to the barracks and stores them proudly in his allotted space after duly endorsing his personal number on them.
Ram Bahadur soon falls into the rhythm of the daily routine. PT, Drill, Weapons Training as well as basic training in all aspects of life-toilet etiquette, grooming, how to sit, stand, walk; how to address one’s seniors; how to behave at meal times; how to dress properly, tie one’s shoelaces, fold one’s clothes. He even starts getting used to being addressed as a number – 5250301 – often shortened to just 01. This is a necessity as there are quite a few other Ram Bahadurs in his batch. Gradually, he masters the intricacies of left and right, leans adequate Hindi to follow all words of command and even read instructions. Ram Bahadur is a fast learner and keen to excel as a soldier. Very soon he has mastered the stories of valour and the proud traditions of the 3rd Gorkha Rifles. He considers himself indeed fortunate that he was selected for such an illustrious regiment.
He still remembers that glorious morning when he fired a rifle for the first time. The recoil hut his shoulder but he hardly noticed it in his exhilaration. But that was many weeks ago. Now he can fire his weapon most confidently, in any position, and is on the way to becoming quite a marksman. He also enjoys the bayonet drill and uttering the battle cry of his Paltan sends a real thrill down his spine. He is already so accustomed to his INSAS rifle that it is almost like an extra limb of his body.
Some aspects of the training remind Ram Bahadur of his village which appears to distant now – making use of the folds in the terrain to conceal himself, orient himself by the stars at night, lie patiently in wait while camouflaged – very similar to the games he used to play with his class fellows, the hide and seek, the long walk at Dessain time to his maternal grandmother’s village.
Ram Bahadur also finds some of the games played by his seniors very interesting and soon picks up the basics of football and handball and practices whenever possible so that he could make it to the Centre’s teams in both sports. He also takes to boxing like a duck takes to water, giving as good as he gets even though the restrictive rules of the referee never failed to irk him. On the other hand, he does not really enjoy the compulsory lessons in swimming that they have to undergo. No they are no fun on a frosty winter morning! In the meanwhile, one of his Indian saathis teaches him how to ride a bicycle and he now eyes the shiny new bicycle in the CSD store window every time he walks past. One day, he promises himself, I shall buy one just like that!
But it is not all games and outdoors. Ram Bahadur found that apart from Hindi they had also to sot at Map Reading, Military Law, First Aid, Service Rules, Basic Military Tactics, General Education and so on. There was so much to learn and all so interesting. A whole new world of knowledge and information that he never knew existed when he was in the confines of his native village. Already he feels so much more confident to tackle the world and to take care of himself.
His 44 weeks of training is drawing to a close and both physically and mentally he feels years older. Would his parents even recognize this tough confident young soldier as their own shy diffident Kancha who had left the hamlet just a few months ago? No matter, the Indian Army was about to recognize him as a Gorkha Soldier and he would soon stand and fight shoulder with the bravest of the brave!