I am not sure why I joined NCC when I was in school. Actually, our Karate Sempai had just left and we were looking for an alternative extra curricular activity after school hours, when NCC was introduced for the first time in our school.
I remember the students whipping some frenzy – Some of them said that they give ropes and we will be trained to climb up the school building! Some of them said that the certificate is very valuable and it will help us get good jobs/ get into the army, etc. Since we had no idea what it was, we thought it was some fun activity and enrolled anyway.
I think the NCC dress (khakis), belts, cap, shoes (boots, actually) and everything else was given by the Government to all the kids participating in the program. Of course, we were thrilled! We were also told that we would be given food on one day (of the two days per week it was conducted). We didn’t know the price we were going to pay for freebies, back then!
One army person (I am not sure of his rank) was selected to train the cadets of our school. So, we were supposed to assemble in the play ground after school and he will start the drill. Drill consisted of only one activity – March past! That was the only activity we got to engage for the entire two years that it was conducted! And that instructor was very very strict, to say the least!
What I don’t understand is, at least we didn’t know about the program and enrolled in it. But what made our juniors enroll? They should have pretty much known what was about to come! Anyway, that is not the point of this post. After about a year and a half of drills, we were told that we need to attend one mandatory NCC camp.
Again, innocently we were thrilled! After all, it was ten days outside home and perhaps we might be able to go for trekking, gun shooting, rope-climbing (yeah, we never stopped hoping for that) and all other such fun activities! It took only one day for the reality to dawn on us.
We had to stay in tents on the ground, there were no shops / no signs of any other human activity at least for a radius of five kilometers, the food/ bathrooms were hopeless, we were staying in a ground that was surrounded by dense trees and we were warned against going near the trees because sometimes there were some snakes there!
We had to wake up at 5:00 AM everyday, exercise for one and a half hours, take bath, eat breakfast, participate in some drill related activities (yeah, the same march past 🙁 ), eat lunch, take up an allocated activity for our school (ranging from pistol shooting to community service – cleaning, bringing water, etc), take rest in the evenings, participate in what was called cultural programs in the late evenings (where students were required to perform some cultural activities, mainly for the amusement of the military officers), eat dinner and sleep. We were strictly instructed not to go out of our camps in the nights.
This was a shocker for us because we were expecting the camping to be something like 10 day theme park enjoyment experience! We were obviously shocked because we were exposed to living in the natural environment for the first time – Away from the comforts of our home! A lot of us (me) got home sick. I even wrote one letter to my parents asking them to come and see me 🙂 These kind of negative-tone letters were not supposed to go to parents, but mine somehow did! Maybe it was slightly positive 🙂 They came on the seventh day to see me. But by that time, I was feeling much better and more adjusted.
My biggest problem was the food. I just hated whatever was provided. But since we were very hungry after those tedious drill sessions, we somehow started eating them fully after the third day or so. Yeah, for the first three days, I was not even able to eat! By the seventh day, when my parents actually came, I was already adjusted to the food! At least, it was no more a problem.
Of course, we had some fun moments also – We had that pistol-shooting session, for which we were waiting for such a long time! In the name of trekking (we ‘climbed’ a flat-land actually!), we went out with some senior NCC cadets (from college), who on seeing our plight stopped our vehicle in a town nearby and we bought some biscuits / drank some cool drinks. That cool drink tasted delicious that day!
By the end of the tenth day when we came out of the camp, our instructor teasingly asked if we wanted to stay for ten more days and we said, ‘Why not?’ 🙂 Sure, the experience was harrowing but we learned a surprising fact that given some time, humans can adapt to any situation. That learning, and the confidence it gave us to face difficult situations in life, is priceless!! Add to it, the discipline that those rigorous NCC drills inculcated into us.