Wednesday, June 1, 2016
Izzat ka Sawaal
As a 16 year old in January 1969, I felt proud to join the National Defence Academy (NDA); an amazing institution that transforms boys into men, or rather into gentlemen. These gentlemen eventually go on to lead the three defence forces of India, as President’s commissioned officers. The course at NDA is completed in three years, comprising of six 6-monthly terms. The training is rigorous and action packed, wherein the cadets are exposed to every outdoor and indoor activity, in addition to pure academic studies.
In the second term, we were required to clear our swimming test, which comprised of completing 25 metres of breast stroke followed by 25 metres of any style swimming. This had to be followed up by a jump from the 7 metre board. A friend and I had gone to the swimming pool to practice this so as to be able to clear the swimming test in the first attempt itself.
The NDA swimming pool with the 1, 3, 5, 7, and 10 metre boards
Image Courtesy: Sainik Samachar
We both managed the 50 metres of swimming. However, the seven metres board looked challenging. We thus decided that we would go up the diving boards in ascending order, starting with the 1 metre board. The first two, 1 and 3 metres, did not pose much of a problem. The five metre gave me a feeling of increased degree of difficulty. We hesitated for a bit, but both of us managed to jump. We then went up to the 7 metre board. Our hesitation was palpable but we managed to jump, after a few false starts. We thus decided to repeat the jump from the 7 metre board. This jump was better, but we did not consider it to be good enough, keeping our Physical Training Officer (PTO) in mind.
Our PTO was always present at the 7 metre board while the swimming tests were being conducted. The jump sequence had to be clean; climb up to the 7 metre board, walk to the edge, and jump. Any sign of hesitation always prompted our PTO to push the hesitant cadet in to the pool. Our hesitation was thus not acceptable. Also, we did not want to be humiliated by the PTO. To overcome this hesitation, I suggested that we jump from the 10 metre board; this would make the 7 metre jump look less challenging.
We both agreed on this, and trooped up to the 10 metre board. On the way, we also entered in to a private bet that the one who does not jump will have to give a ‘treat’ to the other. The all around view from 10 metres (33 feet) was breathtaking, except when looking down; the Olympic size swimming pool looked like a small match box; it seemed that we would fall on the concrete, and not in the water. We were now very hesitant to jump. My friend was already in the process of descending the stairs when I asked him to wait. I once again moved forward to the edge of the board, looked down, felt the ball in my stomach grow in size, and fear taking hold of my mind, and body.
I was just about to agree with him to go down the stairs, when some teenage girls entered the pool premises. They stood there watching our antics at the 10 metre board. Imagine our plight - we were scared of jumping from the 10 metre board, and these pretty girls were looking up at us (literally). An on the spot decision was taken that we would not go down the stairs, even if we had to ride back in an ambulance, because it was now an ‘izzat ka sawaal’ (matter of prestige), and that too in front of pretty girls. I jumped, followed by my friend; he did not want to lose the bet too. Lo and behold, we both fell right in the middle of the pool. We both passed our swimming test in our first attempt.