The Autobiography Of A Killer

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Manmohan
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The Autobiography Of A Killer

Postby Manmohan » 01 May 2019 23:47

Folks, I have been a lurker for a long time, till I came across this story that absolutely had to be shared with you all. I felt the need to start a fresh thread because somehow, it wouldn't fit in with the basic theme of the Military Scenarios thread.
The story is about the training imparted at the National Defence Academy as narrated by the main protagonist who is from the Killer Squadron in the NDA, hence the title.
I hope the mods will indulge this thread.
The story is shared here with explicit permission from the author.



PROLOGUE

‘Go back’.

The words rang in my ears as the Jhelum Express left Gwalior, leaving behind Lieutenant Rajiv, who’d just said these parting words. I was perplexed. Go back? Barely five hours into my journey towards my dream, and someone who had ‘Been There, Done That’ was advising me to turn back! But the train was already moving towards my destination and there wasn’t much that I could do, even if wanted to. Not after all the efforts expended in convincing my parents that giving up on a Bachelors’ Degree in Computer Application from Delhi University in favour of joining the National Defence Academy.

No way!

___________________________________________________________________

The past one week had gone by in a blur, literally. The entire year, in fact. I had cleared my Class 12th Board Examination in March and soon thereafter moved to Mysore for the SSB (Services Selection Board) interview. Got recommended for commissioning into the Air Force but the medicals that followed in Bangalore only declared me fit for Army, due to weak eyesight. The catch was, I’d only written Air Force in my choices when filling up the NDA form. As a result, after getting back home, it was back to the rut – wait for Class 12 results, go about filling up forms for various colleges and ultimately join one. It didn’t matter that in between a letter landed up from the Army Headquarters asking for my willingness to join as an army cadet in the next course in case vacancies were available and that I had gladly signed it and sent it off, without telling anyone.

Over the next few months it was all forgotten as I got busy with life in college and all that came with it, including asking ‘her’ out. That she refused point blank was a mere momentary setback as I saw it. All in all life was going on at a good clip. Until 6th Jan 1998, that is!

That day I returned from college as usual. But the moment I stepped back into my home, I knew it was no longer ‘usual’. Call it a cliché, but you could literally cut the tension with a knife! And I don’t blame my parents for that. A studious kid, doing one of the best courses DU had to offer and preparing for a professional post graduation course suddenly plans to give it all up and join the army. And the best part? They had absolutely no clue! To them, the ‘fad’ of Air Force was done away with for good. And then out of the blue comes a ‘call letter’ from the Army HQ for their son to report to the NDA 10 days later.

The scene is still etched in my mind like it happened yesterday. Siblings not otherwise known for academic pursuits were literally meditating over their school books while parents were .. well .. arguing, with Dad as usual, doing much of the talking in a voice that was a tad bit louder than normal. Loud enough to be heard even before ringing the doorbell, in fact. Dialogue of the millennium, however, was reserved for the moment he saw me – ‘Ae Munda Meri Jaan Nu Bhangra Paayega’. Can’t really translate this from Punjabi to English, or any other language for that matter. But loosely .. very loosely .. it can be explained as ‘This Boy Will Dance Over My Life Plans’, or something like that.

This was just the beginning of a long monologue directed at me. Too bad I missed most of it as I dove for cover against any projectiles that might soon come hurtling towards me. But thankfully they didn’t. Six months into college, I was still to come to terms with the fact that my old man now considered me grown up enough to let go of the ‘flying projectiles’ option when venting his anger!

But angry he was, no doubt. The insurgency in Kashmir was at its peak, as were the casualties being suffered by the Indian Army. And here was his son, working quietly behind his back to join the army. This, when there was practically no one in the entire clan who’d ever donned any uniform of any kind. To him, a BCA (Bachelors in Computer Application) degree, followed by an MBA was the path I was supposed to take in my life.

To cut a long story short, by the time the day was over, I’d managed to convince him that joining the NDA was not a bad idea. I suspect what actually clinched the argument was that of his three kids, atleast one would be settled in life, leaving one less liability for a salaried govt employee like him. Oh, by the way, my siblings, in the middle of all this drama, had managed to complete next two months’ worth of school syllabus because they didn’t dare move a muscle, lest they get caught up in the torrent directed towards their elder brother!

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Re: The Autobiography Of A Killer

Postby Manmohan » 01 May 2019 23:49

The task of convincing parents accomplished, focus now turned towards preparing for the move. Time was short. The younger brother was rewarded for the extra hours of study by being excused from school the next day and being sent to book a train ticket for his elder brother. On that note, thank God for the internet revolution and the IRCTC today! That day in 1998, however, he had to stand in line for nearly four hours to get the ticket. But I have no doubt that he was happy to do so, just so that he could finally get to ‘take care’ of his elder brother’s bike hereafter. Let’s not go there for the time being, however!

Next on the agenda was the shopping. And quite a list it was, that had come along with the call letter. Trousers, shirts, bedding, sports equipment, shoes, even the number of handkerchiefs and undergarments was specified. As was the size of the black painted metal box in which to get it all to the Academy. What followed was a hectic seven days of spending my middle class father’s hard earned money by day and bidding farewells to the entire extended Punjabi family at night, one relative at a time, or in groups.

In between, I managed to sneak one afternoon to take ‘her’ out for a coffee. She seemed genuinely happy upon hearing the news, though it was difficult to gauge whether it was because she was impressed, or simply glad that I was leaving. I chose to hang on to hope, though. A quiet coffee in the afternoon followed by a promise to write letters and we parted ways. For the time being.

Time simply flew by and soon Dad and I were headed for the New Delhi Railway Station on 14 Jan 1998. Tearful / cheerful farewells had been said to all concerned. Addresses and phone numbers had been duly noted down. And most importantly, my Dad was lighter by about 35 thousand bucks .. more than an entire month’s salary.

It finally sunk in as we pulled into the car park. There was no coming back now.

Yet Dad said one last time – ‘Abhi bhi bolega toh wapas le chalta hoon tere ko’. (If you say, I will take you back home even now)

Nope, I had said, I want this.

30 minutes later, the train pulled out of the station. My father’s parting words as I set about on a journey towards my future were typical of his practical approach to life. He advised, ‘Kal subah train Manmad mein rukegi. Station par Sambhar-Dosa achha milta hai. Breakfast kar lena’. (Translation: The train will halt at Manmad tomorrow morning. Sambhar-Dosa at the station is really good. Have that for breakfast). Little did I know that this would become my staple fare at Manmad during all my Delhi-Pune round trips over the next three years, regardless of the time / train I took!

Anyhow, for the time being, I was finally alone and free to contemplate on this decision of mine that had brought me to this moment. One thing was very clear, whatever shape this endeavour of mine took, the responsibility for it would solely be mine. Here I was, leaving my home against practically everyone’s advice not to do so. I had been adamant. And I had had my way. But now that I was finally alone with my thoughts, the enormity of this decision was finally dawning on me along with the doubts that accompanied, uninvited. I knew it was going to be a long train journey indeed.

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Re: The Autobiography Of A Killer

Postby ramana » 01 May 2019 23:49

Sure go ahead.
ramana

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Re: The Autobiography Of A Killer

Postby Manmohan » 02 May 2019 08:15

ramana wrote:Sure go ahead.
ramana


Thanks a lot Ramana Ji.
Will post updates over the weekends.

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Re: The Autobiography Of A Killer

Postby nandakumar » 02 May 2019 12:50

I am looking forward to reading further updates. I know of two cases of NDA recruits. Both solid Tambrahms. One successfully completed the course, graduated, commanded Rashtriya Rifles Regiment in Kashmir valley and retired as a full colonel. The other from a relatively lower middle class background. Couldn't take the punishing rigour of the Course and got out after one year of training.

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Re: The Autobiography Of A Killer

Postby Manmohan » 04 May 2019 08:38

‘Are you in the Army’?

These words suddenly jolted me out of my thoughts as the train left Faridabad. I looked ahead to find a young guy occupying the vacant seat ahead of me. I stared blankly at him, not knowing what to say. Less than an hour into the train journey towards joining the NDA and I already looked like I was in the army! Not bad. Not bad at all! I could feel the uninvited doubts beginning to melt away. I could do this, I told myself. Next four years would just breeze past soon enough.

And then he brought me back to reality. I guess he saw my rapidly changing expressions and decided to move the conversation ahead.

‘I saw your box and thought you might be in the army’

Ah, so it was the box that looked like it belonged to an army guy .. well that burst the little bubble a bit too soon. And the doubts couldn’t have come running back any faster.

Damn you box!

Unimpressed with my retarded looks, the fellow made another attempt at starting a conversation. ‘I’m Lieutenant Rajiv’, he said, extending a hand. I finally got out of my reverie and took his extended hand. I introduced myself and told him I was on my way to report to the NDA. The moment he heard it, a smile came across his face. A smile that was difficult to explain at that time.

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Re: The Autobiography Of A Killer

Postby Manmohan » 04 May 2019 19:07

Next few hours till Gwalior were spent in Lt Rajiv sharing his experiences of life as a trainee and later, a commissioned officer. All very interesting stuff, especially for someone like me who had no knowledge whatsoever about what the Indian Army actually was. All that I had for reference was the occasional war movie that the Bollywood would come out with every once in a while, the latest being ‘Border’. Talking with him quickly quelled most notions I had of what the army was. It was a quick five hours and before I knew it, the train was in Gwalior. I was taken by surprise. I never knew Gwalior was so close to Delhi! And that was only the beginning of the geography lessons that were headed my way over the coming years.

But then, at the time of leaving why did he say, ‘I’ll give you one sincere advice, ‘Go Back’’?

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Re: The Autobiography Of A Killer

Postby Manmohan » 05 May 2019 09:22

With too many thoughts wracking my mind, I decided the best thing to do would be to take a quick nap. And it turned out to be the one decision in past week or so that I was genuinely proud of!

Woke up refreshed just as the train pulled into Jhansi for a 10 minute halt.
Hmmm Jhansi .., I thought. The station looked quite big as I gazed out of the window, with no intention of exploring it any more than that. Suddenly I saw a face that looked familiar, apparently searching for someone by trying to defy laws of physics which prevent someone from outside from seeing what is inside an AC compartment, by pressing his nose to the window. He looked a bit like my cousin Varun.

Damn. Varun!

In the midst of my ‘musings’ and then the nap, I’d all but forgotten about him. He was supposed to be bringing me my dinner at the station. Poor guy, had been searching for me frantically as the time for the train to depart neared. It was sheer good luck for him that I woke up just in time and to add to it, saw him searching for me!

I was out of the compartment in a flash. The young guy, preparing for his Class X Board Examination seemed mighty impressed that his cousin was enroute to the NDA.

If only he knew the crazy doubts running haywire in my head!

Thankfully though, the appearance of Varun and my uncle and aunt at the railway station took me away from those doubts for a while. Within the five minutes or so that we had before the train moved on, a lot was accomplished. Feet touched, blessings (and dinner) obtained, listened to glowing compliments at I making a good career choice and exchanged some family gossip. They’d even brought me some prashad from a nearby Gurudwara Saheb.

This little ritual at the Jhansi Railway Station too would become an inescapable, though welcome routine every time I would travel between Pune and Delhi.

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Re: The Autobiography Of A Killer

Postby Manmohan » 06 May 2019 07:13

Moving on after Jhansi, I remembered that I’d forgotten to have lunch in the middle of all the talking with Lt Rajiv and the siesta that followed. I was suddenly hungry now! Itching to open the dinner packet and atleast see what it contained, I tried desperately to hold myself till it was atleast a bit close to dinner time. But it wasn’t dinner time yet!

Somehow I managed to hold myself together till about 7 pm before digging into the home-made chicken curry and rotis and once again, fell asleep soon thereafter. The fatigue of the last week or so had really caught up with me.

Next morning, I had the dosas at Manmad for breakfast, just as advised. My old man had been absolutely right. They were delicious!

The long, lonely journey continued apace before the train finally pulled into the Pune Railway Station late afternoon on 15th January 1998. I realized that there was still enough money in my pocket to purchase a return ticket and head back homewards in the same train two hours later. But these thoughts were quickly brushed away.

There was no going back. Period.

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Re: The Autobiography Of A Killer

Postby UlanBatori » 06 May 2019 07:53

Nice. Brings back memories of heading out into the wild Badlands of Ulan Bator with the Bredators hovering. I don't think return was an option. :eek:

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Re: The Autobiography Of A Killer

Postby Aarvee » 06 May 2019 10:11

Manmohan wrote:Moving on after Jhansi, I remembered that I’d forgotten to have lunch in the middle of all the talking with Lt Rajiv and the siesta that followed. ................


Writing is pretty good. Is the story already written or is it being written? If already written, can longer passages be posted in greater frequency please?

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Re: The Autobiography Of A Killer

Postby Mukesh.Kumar » 06 May 2019 10:49

It's very well written. Captivating.

Maybe you could post in slightly larger segments, maybe once a day or once in a couple of days.

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Re: The Autobiography Of A Killer

Postby Manmohan » 07 May 2019 07:32

Thank you for the feedback, Sirs!
The book is nearing completion but all that I have right now is the first two chapters and that too in a print copy. So I am having to type it all over again. Hence the posts restricted to weekends and the lengths of the posts.
Will try and post longer portions of the story starting this weekend

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Re: The Autobiography Of A Killer

Postby Aarvee » 07 May 2019 07:54

Manmohan wrote:So I am having to type it all over again. Hence the posts restricted to weekends and the lengths of the posts.


:shock: :shock: Really appreciate your effort, please, take your time. Cant wait for the book to come out.

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Re: The Autobiography Of A Killer

Postby UlanBatori » 07 May 2019 08:19

Seems like a while to go before The Killer starts Killing. I am here mainly to read about the Sambar-Dosa. The "Hot Parts".

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Re: The Autobiography Of A Killer

Postby Rahul M » 07 May 2019 19:26

Manmohan wrote:Thank you for the feedback, Sirs!
The book is nearing completion but all that I have right now is the first two chapters and that too in a print copy. So I am having to type it all over again. Hence the posts restricted to weekends and the lengths of the posts.
Will try and post longer portions of the story starting this weekend

please scan/take a photo and OCR the image to get the text. Much faster and easier than typing by hand.

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Re: The Autobiography Of A Killer

Postby Manmohan » 12 May 2019 10:16

CHAPTER I


Home Sweet Home?



I had finally reached my new ‘hometown’ and what would soon be my new family. First step towards that direction was getting the damn box out of the compartment and thereafter look for the NDA reception at the station as was mentioned in the very detailed joining instructions. I had hardly any idea what the said ‘reception’ would look like or where to find it, but the coolie carrying the box did, and took me straight over there.

The reception was quite a functional setup. I guess it had been scaled down a bit since bulk of the guys had already reported nearly two weeks ago. As of right now it was a desk and a chair close to the entrance of the station, with a uniformed guy sitting there. A signboard saying ‘NDA Reception’ was placed right next to it.

I went ahead to the guy sitting over there. Just as I was about to open my mouth, I realized I didn’t know how to address him – do I call him Uncle (he did look the age), or is Sir a safer bet?

Before I could open my mouth, the coolie took it upon himself to introduce me. ‘Ye naye aaye hain Saab’ (Sir, he has just arrived), he told the uniformed uncle.

Hmmm ..‘Saab’ .. I could get used to this word!

And once again I was very quickly brought back to mother earth.

‘IDHAR AAO CADET’ (Come here, cadet), a voice boomed. Startled out of my reverie, I searched around to identify the source. Apparently, it came from the sleepy uncle in uniform. What made me somewhat sure was the fact that he was no longer sleepy, but looking at me with eager eyes. And at the same time, there were dozens of eyes on him, mostly from people who were just as startled to hear the loud request.

Or was it an order?

By the time my mind processed all these thoughts, somehow my legs had carried me towards the said gentleman.

Damn .. I still didn’t know how to address him!


‘NAAM KYA HAI AAPKA?’ (What’s your name), the voice boomed again. Now it was confirmed, it was the same uniformed uncle who owned this voice. But did he not have any concept of toning it down a bit? From 10 feet, the distance between his vocal cords and my ears had now reduced to a mere 3 feet, yet his vocal cords refused to acknowledge this proximity.

‘Manmohan .. Sir’, I suddenly heard myself squeak. Anyhow, atleast my sub-conscious mind had clarified the conflict between Uncle and Sir!

‘CADET MANMOHAN, SAAB’, the voice boomed again. ‘AAPKA AAJ SE YE INTRODUCTION HOGA’. (Cadet Manmohan, Saab. From today this will be your introduction)

There was that word again .. Saab .. Not bad!

My voice squeaked again, ‘Cadet Manmohan’. As I heard myself again, I made a mental note to put some more force into the sound that came out of my vocal cords.

‘CADET MANMOHAN, SAAB’, the uniformed uncle thundered again. ‘AAJ SE AAP APNE SABHI INSTRUCTORS KO SAAB KEHKE BULAYENGE. CLEAR HAI?’
(Cadet Manmohan, Saab. Today onwards you will address all your instructors as ‘Saab’. Is it clear?)

NOW it struck me. The ‘Saab’ was for him and not me!

Talk about bursting petty little ego bubbles. And this was just the beginning!

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Re: The Autobiography Of A Killer

Postby Manmohan » 18 May 2019 21:18

Suddenly I realized that the uncle must be waiting for an answer. Focussed back on him and yes, there he was, clearly expecting a correct reply.

Cadet Manmohan, Saab’, I squeaked, a bit louder this time.

This reply seemed to satisfy him and he broke into a half smile, perhaps satisfied that he had imparted the first military lesson to yet another soul. Satisfied that I’d learned the first lesson, he introduced himself. He was Subedar Kripal Singh Rawat, from 9th Battalion The Kumaon Regiment, a drill instructor in the Academy.

Now came the formalities. Call letter was demanded and produced. The box and other small pieces of baggage were deposited into a waiting truck while he jotted down something in the papers lying on the table.

Soon he and I both were done with our respective tasks. I looked at him expectantly and he told me that we would move after waiting for the Goa Express to come in at 4:30pm. There was about an hour to kill. I took permission and went across the road to the nearest phone booth to call up home so that I could let them know I had reached safe and sound.

The phone call went by in a blur of mixed emotions that cannot really be described. It was my first contact with my parents from my new home. I can’t say for sure whether they too saw it that way. Especially with my Dad, I could never be sure. He is exceptionally ‘gifted’ when it comes to conversations with me. This day too it was more an interrogation than a conversation!

It went something like this:-

He: Did you have the Dosas at Manmad? (Yes, this was the opening question!)

I: Yes

He: Where are you now?

I: Reached.

He: Koi aaya tere ko lene ke liye? (Did anyone come to pick you up?)

He too had no idea about how military receptions worked

I: Haan, will be leaving shortly.

He: Ok, tera bill badh raha hoga. Phone rakh de ab. Call me once you reach the Academy. (Your bill must be increasing. Disconnect now. Call me once you reach the Academy)

I: Ok Dad.

The next call home would happen 11 days later.

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Re: The Autobiography Of A Killer

Postby Manmohan » 19 May 2019 08:58

For the time being however, I was blissfully unaware of this as I walked back towards the reception and the uniformed uncle. Wait, Kripal Singh Saab was what he had told me to address him as. No more ‘uncle’ business. Glad I hadn’t actually called him uncle!

Soon after Dad disconnected, I had dialled ‘her’ number as well. I knew she would be in college at this hour, but hoping against hope, decided to take a chance. Nope. She wasn’t home, her mother replied. Hearing ‘her’ voice too would have to wait for some time. Even though I knew ‘she’ wouldn’t be there, yet I was sad I wasn’t able to speak to ‘her’.

HO GAYI BAAT? (Spoken home?)

Damn, it would take a while to get used to this booming voice. Even for someone like me who came from a loud Punjabi family.

Ji Saab, I replied.

A moment of silence followed as he probably realized my mental state. I was down in the dumps. Home as I knew it, was more than 1,500km away. And I still had no clue what the new ‘home’ looked like. To pile on it all, the much needed balm of hearing ‘her’ voice again too had eluded me.

BAITHO (Sit)

Compliance on my part was instantaneous, partly because of the loud authoritative voice, and partly because my back was killing me. Yes, this realization suddenly dawned on me the moment my backside made contact with the plastic chair.

Kripal Singh Saab had given me the stare of death when I started searching for a coolie to put my box in the truck. No words were exchanged. I had automatically ‘volunteered’ to help the lone orderly manhandle my box into the truck.

Aap Kahan Ke Rehne Wale Hain, Cadet? (Where do you belong to, Cadet?)

Did I just detect a tinge of softness in the voice?

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Re: The Autobiography Of A Killer

Postby Manmohan » 25 May 2019 18:37

Delhi se, Saab.’ The ‘Saab’ came more naturally this time

What followed was about half an hour of conversation before Subedar Kripal Singh and I would officially become instructor and instructed later in the day. Apparently, his own son too had just appeared for the UPSC entrance exam for the next NDA course.

Aapne numerology ke baare mein suna hai? (Have you heard about numerology?)

I knew a bit about numerology. Ok, so my knowledge was limited to the fact that I had heard of the term. But that was the exact answer I suspect he was hoping for.

I had merely said yes when he launched into his own numerological analysis about the prospects of his son clearing the exam. He worked and re-worked some numbers on a sheet of paper and came up with a 70% chance of success for him.
Conversation then veered on to my family background. He seemed genuinely surprised to learn that no one from my family had been in uniform. His eyes grew even wider when I told him about my marks in Class XII Board Examination and the BCA Course in Delhi University which I left to be here.

I in turn asked him about life in uniform in general and life as a cadet in particular. All he did was smile and say, ‘You will soon find out’.

Of course I would .. and how!

Soon the Goa Express too arrived. We waited for exactly half an hour before concluding that no one in the just arrived passengers was headed to the NDA. It was time to wind up the reception and head towards Khadakwasla on the outskirts of Pune, where the National Defence Academy stood.

Within 10 minutes of Kripal Singh Saab deciding to move, we were on our way – tables, chairs, papers – everything travelling back in the truck and a grand total of four souls in a huge army bus.

Oh, by the way, Kripal Singh Saab’s son didn’t make it to NDA at all. But he did land up as a junior when I reached the Indian Military Academy three years later. I guess he had been right with his numerology somewhat, just off by a few years, though!

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Re: The Autobiography Of A Killer

Postby Manmohan » 25 May 2019 23:31

Pune city traffic was at its peak at this hour. It took us the better part of an hour to clear the city. Soon, however, we were on the NDA Road – a long, winding road flanked by small hillocks and very little traffic. It was about as far from the chaotic Delhi traffic as one could get.

Soon there was a sign to the left of the road – ‘First View of NDA Coming Up’.

Excitement!

I started looking left and right as the bus climbed up a gentle slope. Soon it was going downhill. Kripal Singh Saab asked, ‘Cadet, aapne dekha NDA ka first view?’ (Cadet, did you see the first view of NDA?)

I once again gave a dope-ish look. His reply was in the form of an unamused grunt. Nothing more than that was owed to me. Back in the hallowed precincts of the Academy, his persona had undergone a not so subtle change. Defying all laws of nature, his back had become even more ramrod straight! There also was a small tinge of arrogance in the way he surveyed the surroundings. Arrogance that comes naturally to one who is supremely confident of his professional competence, and apparently, he was amongst the best that the army had to offer in terms of Drill Instructors.

Soon the bus reached the entry gate of NDA. Pashan Gate, it was called, since the road out of it led to Pashan Village. Some decades ago it would have been the first sign of habitation outside of the NDA but alas, since then Pune had grown and engulfed the small village, very nearly reaching the Pashan Gate itself.

Necessary formalities at the gate were soon completed, ‘JAI HIND SAABs’ exchanged and the bus entered the Academy. Apart from the No 2 Air Force Selection Board at Mysore and subsequent medical check-up at the Institute of Aerospace Medicine in Bangalore, I didn’t know what the inside of a military establishment looked like. So I eagerly waited to see what this one would be like.

And the National Defence Academy didn’t disappoint!

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Re: The Autobiography Of A Killer

Postby UlanBatori » 27 May 2019 23:44

Wow! When do we get to the part where he learns to fire a 0.303, and hits the embankment cement wall 2 inches in front of the barrel?

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Re: The Autobiography Of A Killer

Postby Manmohan » 02 Jun 2019 11:02

The moment the bus entered from the gate, it was a different world altogether. It was nearly dark by this time and most activities were winding up. Yet, not even the creeping darkness could hide the beauty of the place. The smooth roads and the ordered surroundings were a sight to behold. And the cleanliness. For someone like me, having his roots in Old Delhi, this place seemed a bit excessively clean!

Then there was the occasional tank / aircraft / ship on display by the roadside. Lots of them, in fact. Soon we were by a roundabout that doubled up as a marketplace – the very aptly named Gole Market. My eyes were yet to adjust to this orderly marketplace when the bus exited the roundabout onto the Trishul Marg.

It was a beautiful tree lined road that could put even the diplomatic enclave in New Delhi to shame. On both sides were what I presumed to be cadets’ living quarters in form of imposing double storeyed buildings.

Ah, Cadets!

The first thought that crossed my mind when I saw a few was that they would soon be my colleagues. But they seemed to be in an insane rush, running for their lives literally, mostly in groups of four.

And they looked famished. All of them. At 60kg, I too was a thin guy, atleast by my Punjabi family’s standards. But these guys would have sent my folks into shock!

Seeing those malnourished bodies running about made me wonder about the standards of food being given to them. Even as these thoughts coursed through my mind, I subconsciously patted the bag carrying the pure desi ghee panjeeri that my Mom had packed for me.
This chain of thoughts about food and nourishment was suddenly interrupted when the bus turned right and halted next to a beautiful lawn. I turned my head left and saw the Cadets’ Mess.

More questions in my mind. Cadets’ Mess .. what exactly did that mean? What sort of mess did the cadets make here?

CADET, MOVE OUT. The voice boomed again, as Kripal Singh Saab got down from the bus.

I quickly followed suit, with a sense of anticipation mixed with trepidation.

I was finally here.

NDA MEIN AAPKA SWAGAT HAI, CADET MANMOHAN (Welcome to NDA, Cadet Manmohan), Kripal Singh Saab shouted .. err .. said, and pointed towards another reception desk next to the entrance of the building, implying that I was to go there. With that came a handshake. Atleast I think that was what it was supposed to be, instead of an attempt at crushing the very bones of my hand that it actually felt like!

Soon he was gone and I climbed up the stairs towards the reception, this time manned by two cadets, just as famished as all others I had seen. But there was one noticeable difference – they might all look the same from a distance with their cropped hair, starving bodies and similar uniforms, but when you got closer, you could actually differentiate between individuals!

Hurry up, Khalsa.

Another voice suddenly hit my ears. It was loud, but not Kripal Singh Saab loud.

Nothing could be that loud.

As I neared them, I smiled in greeting.

In return, they frowned.

Hi Guys, I said as soon as I reached them.

The frowns vanished and smiles appeared in lieu. Yes, things were looking up. It was a friendly place after all.

But the smiles kept on growing and growing until both of them very nearly teared up trying to control their laughter. Hi Guys, they kept repeating and laughing even louder.

And I was back to reality.

Good Evening Sirs, is how you greet seniors, Khalsa. This is the National Defence Academy, NOT your ****** college. Got that?

I nodded in embarrassed acknowledgement. And in order to avoid further embarrassment, I (correctly) assumed the moniker ‘Khalsa’ to be the default method of addressing Sikh cadets. And that explained the frowns on their faces. They had been telling me to hurry up, instead of trudging up the steps at my own slow pace.

Once again, the call letter was asked for and produced.

Now came another round of laughter.

Oye, tu ek din pehle aa gaya! (You’ve reported one day early!)

Yes, Sir, I replied. I thought about telling them the importance of being punctual and early for important appointments that my Dad always harped upon because of which he ensured I reach Pune one day earlier than what was mentioned in the call letter.

I thought that by coming one day early, I will get some time to rest and prepare for the training.

This time the laughter was even louder.

Yes, good idea. You can rest for one day .. Hahahaha

Manmohan
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Re: The Autobiography Of A Killer

Postby Manmohan » 09 Jun 2019 11:00

They finally managed to gather themselves and one of them suggested that they call someone called Adju (short for Adjutant, as I learnt later). The phone call was short and crisp. I could hear only one side of it, though.

Good Evening Sir, this is Cpl (Short for Corporal) Mohit Sharma. One new cadet has just reported, Sir.

Yes Sir, Jhelum Express.

Cadet Manmohan Singh, Sir.

Yes Sir.
Roger Sir.

Good Evening Sir.


And the phone call was over. Cpl Mohit turned towards me and said, Khalsa, you are a Killer from now on. Welcome to the Academy.

Everything else got filtered out of my head except that one word – Killer.

Killer, Sir? I asked.

Pat came the reply, Yes, Killer. You have been assigned the Kilo Sqn (Short for Squadron). You are a Killer from now on.

I continued looking at him, aghast. Why was I being told that I am a Killer? What was Kilo Sqn? Was it some elite force that specialized in killing bad guys? How could they be sure I could be up to the job when I have spent barely 10 minutes in the Academy? At the same moment I remembered there were psychological tests too as part of the selection process in the SSB interview. Maybe the psychiatrist had determined that I would be fit as a killer in the army?

It was the turn of Cpl Amit to bring me back to reality this time.

You clown, do you understand what Cpl Sharma just told you?

Did he just address me as a clown?

I gave him a blank look.

Joker, there are 15 sqns in the Academy, named from ‘A’ to ‘O’, or Alfa to Oscar, where cadets stay. You have been assigned the ‘K’ Sqn, or the Kilo Sqn. Cadets of Kilo Sqn are called Killers. THAT is what you are. Don’t start getting funny ideas of becoming a John Rambo just yet.

Ah, that explains it,
I thought, even as I pictured myself as a turbaned and bespectacled John Rambo!

Another phone call had been made as I dreamed on.

Ya, Kilo? This is Cpl Mohit Sharma from the Reception. Get me your Duty Cpl.

Hello, kaun, Pathania? Oye, naya Killer aaya hai ek. Aake le ja usko yahan se
(Who, Pathania? A new Killer has come. Come and get him from here)

Khalsa hai. Manmohan

Ok, come quick. We also have to pack up after this.

Message passed, they both started packing up the stuff in the reception. This took them all of two minutes. Now started another question and answer session as they waited for Cpl Pathania to arrive. It was mostly the usual questions about me, my family and such likes till the time Cpl Amit asked, What is the English translation of Josh?

Josh? The answer was simple.

Excitement, I answered.

Cpl Amit glared back in return.

Excitement, Sir, I quickly corrected myself.

But that would be Utsah, no?, came the reply.

He was correct. Josh couldn’t be translated as excitement.

Determination, Sir?, this time my reply was a bit tentative.

No, that would be Drihrta (द्रृढ़ता).

Thus commenced a game of I looking for a translation and he proving me wrong. At the end of it, I simply gave up.

It was then that Cpl Amit gave me one of my first lessons in the Academy.

Josh cannot be translated to English. It is something that can only be felt within you, but not explained. You will hear a lot of English in the Academy and subsequently the Army, but the one Hindi word that will figure in all such conversations / orders / instructions, unchanged, is Josh. And you will hear and say it a lot. Always remember that.

Here was a 19 year old, giving a profound life lesson to an 18 year old. But that is how you grew in the Academy.

Soon we saw someone in a trouser, shirt and tie running along the Trishul Marg towards us.

Aa Gaya Pathania, (Pathania is here) Cpl Mohit remarked.

Cpl Pathania was yet another famished guy. He quickly offered his hand for a firm handshake and welcomed me to Kilo Sqn. And then his first words threw me off balance.

Welcome Khalsa. Hurry up now and pick up your box, suitcase and bag so that we can get you to the sqn.

Pick up the box? And the suitcase and the bag too? That mental image of me as a turbaned and bespectacled John Rambo came back to my mind for a fleeting moment. But I saw Mr Rambo look at me, then my luggage, shake his head side to side and walk away.

No Sir, you are in this alone, Rambo said!

Well, if John Rambo couldn’t do it, neither could I. Unsure, I squeaked, But Sir ..

And they all burst into laughter once again. This time I joined them, though not as raucously. Soon a couple of orderlies materialized and picked up my box. With my bag over my shoulders and the suitcase happily wheeling behind, Cpl Pathania and I started walking towards Kilo Sqn.

More banter followed in the short walk towards the sqn. But one question that stood out was ‘Have you got anything to eat?’

This was new. No one had ever asked me this. Not even the beggars on the streets of New Delhi. They preferred hard cash instead!

Yes Sir

Good, what is it?

Sir, Panjeeri

Wow! Achha listen, in case anyone asks if you are carrying anything to eat, just tell them that you are not. Got that?


This puzzled me. But I decided not to push it and simply replied in affirmative.

Woh Dekh, Kilo Sqn aa gaya (Look there, it is the Kilo Sqn)

I was now a Killer.

dnivas
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Posts: 229
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Re: The Autobiography Of A Killer

Postby dnivas » 10 Jun 2019 01:20

keep it going sir. this is great

Manmohan
BRFite -Trainee
Posts: 18
Joined: 11 Mar 2019 20:29

Re: The Autobiography Of A Killer

Postby Manmohan » 15 Jun 2019 17:50

dnivas wrote:keep it going sir. this is great


Thanks.

Manmohan
BRFite -Trainee
Posts: 18
Joined: 11 Mar 2019 20:29

Re: The Autobiography Of A Killer

Postby Manmohan » 15 Jun 2019 17:58

CHAPTER II

Kill ‘em Kut ‘em But Kneel Knot


Welcome to Kilo, Khalsa, said Cpl Pathania as we climbed up the three stairs into the sqn building.

The first sight of the interiors was as stunning as it can get. The main gate led into the Ground Floor Central Lobby (GFCL, in short). It was approximately 20 feet by 20 feet in dimensions. On the walls to one’s left and right were notice boards. Across the GFCL was a corridor going left to right and a flight of stairs right in the middle, going to the upper two floors. And there was a bronze skull of a tiger on the edge of the guard-rail that went up with the stairs.

To the right of the staircase were another two small steps, another 8 feet by 8 feet lobby and a small door leading outwards. It was locked for the time being. As I walked to the far end of the GFCL, I realized that on both sides of the corridor were cabins occupied by fellow Killers, senior and junior.

But the one thing that totally overpowered my visual senses was the cleanliness. If the Academy looked excessively clean from within the bus, the scenes inside the sqn were simply incomprehensible to someone like me (with roots in Old Delhi, remember?). THE TILES ON THE FLOOR WERE LITERALLY SHINING!

Not a speck of dust could be seen anywhere and not one thing seemed out of place. Heck, even the black wooden stairs seemed to have been polished just a few minutes ago, as if in anticipation of my arrival.

The maids out here must be exceptionally gifted, I thought.

The sqn was all lit up. Any and every lighting fixture I saw, was switched on. And then there was the absolute pin drop silence. Not a single sound. It was difficult to believe there were nearly 150 souls inside the building.

As if he could read my mind, Cpl Pathania whispered, Study period is on. Stay quiet.

Ah .. Study Period .. So that explained the silence.

Wait a minute.

STUDY PERIOD?

They make you study too in the Army?

The poor civilian mind of mine couldn’t comprehend the concept that to become an armyman you needed to study. I had never seen John Rambo with a book in his hand. Ever!

Neither did Sunny Deol spend his free time reading books in the movie Border. Heck, he didn’t even get a letter in the song ‘Sandese Aate Hain’!

And here these folks were studying?

So many questions came rushing into my head. Here I was, having literally sold my books to the scrap dealer before leaving home and using the money to fund that coffee date with ‘her’. And I was expected to start studying again?

Mr Rambo again came back into my head, laughing hysterically. This time he was also joined by Sunny Deol!

Cpl Pathania took me straight to the CSM (Cadet Sergeant Major) whose cabin was right next to the staircase. ‘This is the new guy, Sir’

CSM Nishant Ohri was suddenly jolted from his chair upon hearing Cpl Pathania’s voice.

Patty, how many times have I told you not to wake me up during study period?

Cpl Pathania just grinned in reply.


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