I was a happy go lucky chap in school interested in everything co curricular. I had no particular aim in life as such. Then one fine day my “brainwashing” started. I was in a school which wore a uniform, had a kind of military discipline; it also had strict teachers as also officers of the Armed Forces such as Colonels, Squadron Leaders, Flight Lieutenants, Captains of the Indian Navy and Army above all my dad was more OG (Olive Green) than OG can be. I was made to focus on only one thing and that was NDA. So I actually got used to this indoctrination technique, where everyone you met did not ask you how were you, but how well your preparation for NDA was. I did not disappoint anyone as I joined the illustrious institution.
My second makeover was done in NDA. Whatever shades of the civil life was left in me got converted into becoming a cadet? My morning prayers used to start with I love my country and continues as such. This cadet could manage a cup of cold coffee to a bicycle valve, a KD (Khaki Dress) to a raincoat out of thin air. I could roll in my sleep and crawl while resting, eat doing a head stand. I could dance without music and enjoy my supper in empty plates. I could produce a pen and paper even while wearing an under wear, though we hardly wore any. I fought daily battles with bedbugs which is a torture technique I mastered. I could let a bee or a fly sit on my nose without scratching or swatting at it. I could blow hot & blow cold in the bathroom sessions; I could roll up hill and up a staircase. I could jump in blind wells of the “Charlie” kind. I could navigate with no map in all out of bound areas. My nose was so sensitive that I could detect a fag three squadrons away. I did “Savdhan Chal” to every scooter, car, horse and dog on a leash. I could watch movies with my back towards the screen. I could run fifteen miles between dinner and lights out. I could beat Shivaji in climbing Singharh fort. I could sham, I could pill, and I could feign the biggest limp. I could improvise conjunctivitis with paste rubbed in my eyes. I could sleep 25 hours in a day if I had the choice. I could only keep awake if a lady teacher took my class. Overall, I was brain washed in such a manner that I forgot who I was. It was surprising they conferred on me a graduate’s degree at the end of it. After all I was on a journey to be in the noblest profession.
My brain washing continued in IMA. Well, I was promoted from Cadet to Gentleman Cadet. You learnt the honour code, you learnt military law. One mastered the art of disguise, not to camouflage for battle but from the Drill Ustad to go to Dehradun to meet some girls. I was drilled hard to keep the integrity of my motherland till the peril of my life. I promised to go where my duty needed me by land, sea or air. I pledged my life to the nation and the tri colour, to keep it safe from all external aggression and internal disorders. I was put through my paces of everything what I needed to lead men to battle. I was conditioned to keep the safety welfare and honour of my men foremost always and every time, the honour of my country came next and my own safety and comfort came last always and every time. I was now transformed into becoming an Indian Army officer, young, full of josh, rearing to go.
I joined my unit in the deserts and was conditioned to become a desert fox. I was trained to not only fire weapons but to strip a vehicle apart and put it back together again. I was accustomed to learn to change oils, open a BMP track, taste petrol or diesel depending on the flavour of the day. I could munch on sand with food, and live on limited water. Above all, I was hardened to be happy in all circumstances. I was skilled to be a jack of all trades. I was supposed to know what a pink Gin was as also a Molotov cocktail; I memorised names and numbers of everyone in my Unit. I could fill a 3008 or a 958 as if writing letters to my “would be”. I learnt to ride a camel and drive a BMP as a second profession. I could communicate with hand, flag, radio, eyes, bird calls, and you name it. I was taught to remain silent and avoid even the rustle of my clothes. I was tempered to walk in the sands survive in the heat, snow and jungles. I was determined to eliminate the enemy before they get into our side of the border. I was at ease to look after the ladies as well as children, I was told to be compassionate and kind. I was taught how to live and work with the men; overall I was made into a unique fighting machine, tough, resolute, upright, caring, honest, dedicated, and professional, a man proud to adorn the uniform, a man proud to lead his men.
As I led my life’s journey I learnt cultures from the north to south, east to west of this country. I learnt to ski with the same ease as I could jump with parachutes from all sorts of aircrafts. I mastered the art of being a champion rock climber. I mastered many languages including three of foreign origin. I soon became a professional logistician during near war situations and moved everything by rail, land and air including the dogs we befriended at our posts. I learnt to balance between private and professional life. I learnt how I could live without my family especially my child whom I could never see taking her first steps or when she started to talk. I was sent to the Capital where I saw the highest offices of the government of India function. Overall, my indoctrination continued unabated.
I one day brainwashed myself to revert back to the civvies streets. I let myself to be trained again at India’s finest management institute in Ahmedabad. I prepared myself that hence forth no lunch is free. Privilege to get a gypsy at the railway station with a glass of tea won’t be there anymore. I will have to stand in queue if I want to pay my bills. I must re-learn to ride a scooter, buy milk and vegetables. I brainwashed myself to iron my clothes and go to the market for a haircut. I prepared myself to wash my own car, polish my own shoes and shine them better than while in service. I just transformed myself to now live with and live for my family. I geared up that now my priorities in life are different from what they used to be but I shall continue with India first and a veteran for life.
In a life span of 54 odd years, I would have adapted myself to 54 types of places, circumstances, living conditions, bosses, situations, state of mind and state of affairs; basically I learnt to remain cool under any circumstances that life can throw at me. My blood and DNA will always remain Olive Green. Will I keep learning as I go? I wonder!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
© Noel Ellis