As the end of 41-day nation-wide lockdown is nearing there are different voices and opinions emerging across the nation depending upon one’s means of livelihood, place of residence and surprisingly the political affiliation. The prevailing scenario reminds one of the days spent at National Defence Academy as a young cadet and budding Officer of the Indian Armed Forces. National Defence Academy, the premier tri-service institution in the world is located at Khadakwasla, near Pune. In short, it is popularly known as NDA.
In the late 1960s and early 70s, NDA was the most preferred destination of most of the High School pass outs in the country. For those like me who had dreamt of a career in the Armed Forces while in the Primary schools and had left our homes at the tender age of nine or ten years to join Sainik Schools, King Georges (later Military) Schools and Rashtriya Indian Military College (RIMC), joining NDA meant a dream come true. Incidentally, joining these Institutions exposed the young kids to their first ever All India Competition (A written exam followed by a viva) at the ages of just eight or nine.
For others who didn’t join these Schools having a crack at the UPSC written exam for NDA used to be a craze. Yes, literally a craze. In those days career options in India were very limited. Doctor/Engineer, IAS/IPS, Teacher/Lawyer were the other popular choices but they involved very tough academic regime after passing High School (Class 10) and long years of study before one could join the chosen profession.
On the other hand within 4 to 4.5 years those joining NDA became Commissioned Officers of the Indian Armed Forces drawing a handsome salary package apart from the thrill of wearing starched uniforms with stars on the shoulders at the time one had barely finished the teens.
Most of us apart from other motives preferred to join the Armed Forces under a notion that it would mean an end of academic studies and we would be spared the cumbersome burden of reading books and passing exams. But after joining the respective services all our dreams were shattered when confronted with voluminous studies during various professional courses of training, for passing compulsory promotion exams (during our times one had to pass four exams Parts A, B, C and D before one could become a substantive Major) which were mandatory not only for promotion but also retention in service.
Incidentally, these exams proved waterloo for many officers who were compulsorily discharged from the service at the pleasure of the President of India, Supreme Commander of the Indian Armed Forces and the sole authority to grant or withdraw commission.
The training in NDA was spread over three years and was divided in six half-yearly terms referred to as “Spring” and “Winter” terms. The tough training regime included academic subjects including a foreign language, physical fitness, hobbies and outdoor training with emphasis on discipline.
The official training regime was laced with the unofficial regime known as “Ragdha” (Punishments) which was the privilege and prerogative enjoyed by senior termers and appointment holders. This part of the training aimed at making us ‘men from boys’ and was meant for mental toughening, building tolerance and developing unflinching camaraderie.
Thus, every cadet wished to finish the rigours of training, pass mandatory academic tests, keep a clean disciplinary record for the entire term and look forward for moving to next term with his batch mates (known as course mates). Any faltering anywhere could lead to the most dreaded “Relegation” which implied to repeat the term but along with the next junior course.
At the beginning of each term one enthusiastic cadet would take upon himself to maintain a record of Days Left to Go Home (DLTGH) which signified the end of term. It began with 180 and every one eagerly awaited for it to reach zero and hopefully qualify for the next term till you reach the sixth term and finally passed out from NDA moving on to service specific institutions like the Indian Military Academy, Naval Academy, Indian Airforce Academy before realising the cherished dream of becoming a commissioned officer. Before the end of each term, many cadets suffered from what was commonly known as “End of Term Fatigue.”
To overcome this the seniors used to increase the frequency and quantum of “Ragdha” and use to motivate us by saying, “When rape (not literally) is inevitable better enjoy it.” This kept most of us motivated and egged us to carry on so that relegation is avoided. But there were few who were overtaken by fatigue, leading to slackening in their behaviour and performance which meant sure shot relegation.
The after effect of it was realised only the next term which meant joining your junior batch, making new friends and above all spend additional six months.
These days our nation is also going through a similar phase of Lockdown Fatigue. The voices for lifting the lockdown have increased since Lockdown 2.0. Certain amount of social unrest is also being anticipated due to large number of stranded migrant labourers getting restless. Economy is definitely on the downward trend and unlikely to pick up in the very near future.
The government is faced with a very tough and difficult situation. But the tough get going when the going is tough and majority hopes that PM Modi will once again take a decision upholding the lofty ideal of “Nation First.”
The situation is neither very grim nor very rosy. But the fact remains that we have still not succeeded to flatten the curve. There is no vaccine against Covid-19 as yet. Whatever success we have achieved so far is due to pro-active administration, self-discipline, social distancing and staying indoors.
Can we afford to remove all these restrictions and allow free mix of population once again? Overtaken by fatigue, if we slacken we may have to repent later and may have to suffer endless lockdowns. Pragmatic thinking should be the order and not let emotions cloud our minds.
In Army there is a popular saying “More you sweat in peace less you bleed in war,” meaning sacrifices made during the time when going is good pays rich dividends in the hours of crisis. We should be prepared to follow the same.
Oh, my countrymen let the Lockdown Fatigue not overtake you. Prepare yourself mentally, physically, emotionally and financially (difficult but can be achieved through better self-management) for difficult times ahead. For how long the difficult times would last is very difficult to predict at this stage. But take your minds back and you would realise that great nations have emerged stronger at the end of each adversity.
Our nation is undoubtedly great and led by a great leader. Let’s prepare for Lockdown 3.0, if needed in national interest. Leave the shape and contour of the lockdown to be decided by the national leadership.
“Om sahanavavatu I Sahanaubhunaktu I
Tejasvinavadhitamastu ma vidvisavahai II”
“May we together be protected.
May we together be nourished.
May we work together with vigour.
May our study be illuminating.
May we be free from discord.”
Tattiriya Upanisad 2.1