Nearly 19 years ago, during my initial days in Indian Air Force, I had learnt a slew of lessons, substantially, for my entire life-time. It was an altogether different and unique experience, right since the moment I entered the huge gates of well-fortified training academy.
My training was scheduled to start from 19th December 2001 and most of us reached there by 17th; well in advance. After vaccinations (as to reduce chances of falling sick since we all were from various corners of Bharat, the varieties of climatic conditions), we were allotted Billets, our residences. The cool breeze of early morning was fascinating. Dining in the Mess, for the first time, with such a huge company around was energising.
Wow. That first day was really special, and ever memorable. Special, not just because my newer happy moments there, but it was rather a mix. I had never left my family before, so I (still being a teen-ager) was mostly at the verge of crying my heart out. I was home-sick, to the extent that when I rang up from there firstly at my home, from a long-queued STD booth inside our training academy, for the first three minutes I was just crying and crying. There were only two such cabins; with a strict restriction of 300 seconds.
Though I was an above average student (of my small-town only 🙂 ) but still I found it very tough to cope up initially with the tight schedule there, right from 4 a.m. to 10 p.m. (people prefer 10 to 4 jobs, I chose 4 to 10 🙂 ). Right from Wake-up Whistle at 4, getting ready in PT-kit and reporting at 4:45 for Morning Health-Run, we used to have a very smaller window to cover bath, getting ready in uniform (with heavy boots having shining toe, white shining blanko-ed belt and anklet-strips, name-tab just above right-side pocket of half-sleeved shirt, head gear and so on), having breakfast in Mess; for reporting to hard-ground with drill-purpose guns for Parade; being followed by long Classes, lunch, Evening PT Games, Night Classes for Self-Study, preparing Uniform for next day and Lights-Off at 10. Full-packed, the entire day.
For all activities, one common factor was ‘Double-up’, the Jogging. Wherever you go, ‘Double-up’ was a must. No trainee can simply walk. Plus, it was mandatory to jog in groups mostly, with minimum 10 ab-initios in each group, with 3 parallel queues. It was called a ‘Flight’. So while going to Parade, Classes, etc., we had to wait for forming that ‘Flight’. If we were a bit late or so, that Flight might leave and we had to wait again till 10 buddies join-in. One more thing, our steps must match, be it Double-up or Marching. All minutely monitored by the Squadron Duty Officer (SDO) of that particular day. His office was close to our Billets.
Maybe it was destined for me to get moulded to a better version of myself.
One fine day, some 15th day or so, after coming back from Morning Health-Run, it took a bit longer to get ready for the Parade; as I could not polish my shoes the previous night. Though I skipped my breakfast, I still got a bit late. Mostly Flights from my Billet (or neighbourly Billets) had left. One Flight was in shortage of one man, seemed to be the last one. So, hurriedly I joined, though I was not fully ready. My shoe-laces were not tightened and my anklet strips were loose.
Although I myself was least confident that moment, due to my less-intact dressing. But I thought each second was precious and I felt like I had no other choice (as per my then thought process). Since I was in terrible fear for punishments to late-comers at Parade-Ground.
One more buddy joined and we hardly started Doubling-up, I heard a shouting voice of SDO, “stop everybody”. I don’t know how he had observed so keenly. To some extent, I was expecting his watch.
“Come out”, he yelled at me, “is that your turn-out?”. Murmuring “sorry sir” was the only way out there.
“Rest of the Flight; March.” And the Flight left immediately, having off-boarded me, having left me helpless. The last word ‘March’ was like 1000 decibel.
“Get ready first and go in next Flight.” with final cationery words, SDO Sir left.
Though I already anticipated his order, I was still more concerned about my presumed future punishments (actually toughening physical exercises, just called punishments for the sake of creating a frightening effect) at Parade ground. Till that day, I was a safe-bird, not a single punishment. I only saw co-trainees being punished.
I immediately tightened laces, anklet strips, etc, checked myself in the big-sized mirror (‘am I dressed properly’ painted on it) outside my Billet and ran as fast as I could towards the other Billets, since everyone nearby had gone haply.
Hurriedly I kept on running, like a mad horse, from Billet to Billet. Some precious 100 seconds passed. And finally, by His Mercy, found a group of eight, all terribly waiting for two. The moment they saw me, they cheered in celebrations. Me too, but more in my head. Still one man short.
Parade ground was some 20 minutes Double-up away and ‘0655 Sharp’ was the reporting time. 6:38 already. Generally, we used to leave by 6:30, max.
Why this system of minimum ten! Why not lesser! Not then, but later I realised this was one of the ways of inculcating team spirit and they very well succeeded in their motive.
His Blessings showered upon us all nine and one more (late-comer like me) joined soon. And immediately, the Flight, rather than Doubling-up, Quadrupled-up. But abnormally fast we cannot run, as this looks odd and chances of mismatching of our steps may occur; which might again, prove to be an invitation to further punishments. So there was no point in turning into an athlete.
“Faster, faster! Join-in faster”. Shouted the GTIs (Ground Training Instructors) at entrance. 6:54 in the Casio digital wrist watch in one of the GTIs (though trainees were not allowed to wear wrist watches, ring, etc. in the Parade Ground). Ours was haply the last Flight.
All thanks to some invisible forces. We reached at certain solid seconds before 6:55. Cannot even describe the level of the joy, of that particular moment, in words.
Later I derived that everything was in place in that occurrence, only thing the chaos was in my mind, for the entire 20-30 minutes.
Get ready first and go in next Flight. SDO Sir was right.
I find, even in Spiritual journey, in spite of undue hurry-worry, one must prepare well oneself first and then jump into the rich ocean, as to experience way richer (I request for guidance on this).
I find myself quite fortunate for being part of Shree-Hari’s abode. I am fortunate that Om Swamiji Maharaj Himself is my Path-Guide. I am fortunate that His Divine-Energy blesses me all the time. I am fortunate that I am part of the elite group, kind and well-equipped with enormous wisdom.
But I myself sometimes feel I must have prepared a bit more, in many ways, before reaching the kind patronage of Swamiji. Reverend Gurudev has accepted me as his disciple, what I was dreaming of. But being a true-seeker and a sincere disciple, it was my duty to understand the sacred tradition of Guru-Shishya (Master-Disciple), where I had lacked to an extent. Reason-why, I feel my level is still way below than the standards of a true disciple. I still need to workout upon various dimensions to fit into the shoes.
Sometimes I feel I should have ‘better come in next Flight’.
Jay Shree Hari. 🙏🏻