THE ACADEMY CHECK UP
Once during breakfast break in hell, the devil decided to visit the head of an Academy Appointment to see how a devious brain works. While tinkering with the circuitry, he probably short circuited something and out of it came an event called the ‘Academy Check up’.
It is an event which is notpart of any documented Standard Operating Procedures.
But it is all there. The procedures are sacred, rigid and inviolable. Passed through
generations of appointments as On Job Training(OJT), it follows a cycle of violence which sometimes produces unexpected turn of events bordering on the unbelievable.
A typical academy check up during the late 70s and early 80s went something like this.
The event generally occurred on a half day which also happened to be the club day. Eating into the club time was permissible, but even a minute into the squadron PT time immediately after lunch on a normal working day was just not acceptable.
This was an event decided by the academy appointments. The staff and authorities, though not directly involved, played on. This was an opportunity for the instructors to scout talent for future appointments and disappointments.
It was meant to be a closely guarded secret – the occurrence of this event on a particular day. But as soon as the ACA gave out his mind during his passing of orders to the Battalion appointments, the functionaries at lower levels, ie the Squadron appointments leaked it to their wards which was an essential part of Squadron type ‘lift’.
Receipt of this coded information activated a series of events by the cadets. Some of these as I remember are:
* An attempt to get hold of onions which every cadet believed, if kept in the armpits would get one a fever.
* Diarrhea was another option which could be invoked by eating soap.
* Conjunctivitis was an option in extreme cases by putting tobacco in ones eyes.
* Fudging a category slip bordered on extreme courage. If caught, one could end up with serious repercussions but then who cares about day after tomorrow? The concern was tomorrow.
* Getting hold of atleast three new handkerchiefs with one’s number on it preserved in a polythene packet.
* Infinite number of ‘I slips’ and refills to be given to anyone asking for it.
* One’s dress had to be perfect. Even those air-conditioned socks had to change as there was no certainty as to how deep the appointments would go checking.
* The identity card also had to have a stamped, addressed envelope along with it.
* Preparations included all these and more. But they were never adequate. The whole event was so unpredictable that if one carried his hankies in polythene it was a violation. And if it was not, it was a violation too. It all depended on the mood of the Sergeant.
This was an opportunity provided by the Academy to the Appointments to get around the panga takers. No questions asked.
As the intended time approached, the appointments are in a hurry to get out of the classes early to spread their dragnet before the others get away.
The others, lesser mortals, who took pangas with the appointments throughout the month know that their salvation is only in getting out of the classes before the appointments can. To achieve this, anyone could go to any ludicrous extremes and display their skills by even concocting excuses like having to go early to QM fort and get a tank issued. History of the Academy is proof that sometimes these even worked with some gullible civilian instructors. It was indeed a test of skills between two groups the academy got divided into on this day: the appointments and the ordinary mortals.
It was on such a day that a decent sergeant (an oxymoron) who dreamt to become a DCC atleast was warned by his Div O that this Academy check up was his last opportunity to display some initiative.
He got out of the last period early and took post near the MH gate. This indeed was an unexpected location and standing in ambush behind the letterbox, he patiently waited for his prey. This position of course was strategic and taken with a purpose as he thought that it was visible to his Div O from his office. After all, what is field craft unless it provides certain advantages??
And this cadet in his fourth term, a born panga taker, knew he had no other way but to get out of the class earlier than the appointments if he was to have any semblance of non violence in the coming weekend. Convincing the geography professor that he had a severe bout of diarrhea, he got out and like lightning, took off on his cycle towards the squadron. From science block, up the slope till the Hut of Remembrance was no problem. Over the top, he found appointments moving in to take their positions. All his self preservation skills came to play and he pedalled as if his afterburners were on. Down the slope he went like a rocket with appointments of all hues yelling at him to dismount. In this battle of life and death, who cares! And he went with his momentum increasing with each revolution of the wheels. And when he thought that he was safe, the ambush was sprung by the Sergeant behind the letterbox. Having seen the commotion all along the road, he was convinced that this rogue cadet wouldn’t stop just by yelling. So he moved to the middle of the road, looking straight into the eyes of the cyclist and yelled, “this cadet, dis f*****g mount”, praying like hell that his own Div O is watching the scene from the Squadron Office.
That’s when devil decided to play his trick. The events after this is a big blurr for both the hunter and the hunted. Apparently the nut holding the front wheel of the cycle moving at the speed of light came off. With the front wheel gone, the cycle did a double somersault with the rider still on the seat. Along the way, it took a smart sergeant along too. Some of Newton’s unspecified laws played their part a little later and, this heap of a broken cycle, a cadet who was happy to have missed an Academy check up and a sergeant who missed his last opportunity to become a Squadron appointment, came to a stop exactly in front of the MH gate into which they, less the cycle were scooped in.
Rest of the Academy check up went off as usual as if nothing had happened.
The Sergeant and the cadet spent some quality time together in neighbouring beds in the MH and later came out as thick pals.
Brig K Nandakumaran