CHENNAI: Relief, more than joy, was evident on the faces of the 185 cadets who were commissioned as officers at the Passing out Parade (PoP) held at the Officers Training Academy (OTA) in St Thomas Mount here on Saturday.
For 11 months, they had undergone a ritual designed to drain them physically and mentally and, as the reviewing officer Lt General Sanjeev Madhok put it, imbibe leadership skills in them. “Conduct, competence, commitment and character,” Madhok said in his speech were the aspects of model leadership.
Leadership criteria aside, what each of these cadets - 140 men, 39 women and six foreign cadets including seven from Tamil Nadu, did have in common was a unique story of their own to tell.
For 34-year-old Ruchi Verma, it is a rather a gripping tale of entering the services to fill the void left behind by her husband, Vineeth Verma, martyred in the counter insurgency operations in Assam. It has been two years since and Ruchi could not hide her emotions when asked about her husband.
“When my husband passed away, the responsibility fell on me to fulfil several of his roles, including taking care of our child and serving and safeguarding the nation in his place,” said the mother to a five-year-old boy.
However, she had not always been hooked by the armed services. “I was happy being the wife of an army officer. But today I am very proud of my achievement. It shows that nothing is impossible,” she added while pointing out that nothing would make her happier were her son too followed them in joining the armed forces.
M Anjana was a 25-year-old Bharatanatyam dancer and already had a lucrative career as a lawyer, according to her parents Laila and Mohan Karkera. Yet, she chose to join the OTA utilising the JAG entry scheme for law graduates and said it was her training as a classical dancer which gave her the added impetus to join the course.
“But the training here is on a whole different level because it will break you in three weeks flat. I never thought I would be able to put in the shift like I did today when I started,” said a beaming Anjana, who commanded the PoP and also won the coveted ‘Sword of Honour’ for best all round cadet.
Anjana, who also won the gold medal for standing first in overall order of merit, said there isn’t a bigger attraction than the uniform to take the plunge. “The Army welcomes us (women) with open arms. Anyone, be it male or female, who has it in them must join the service,” said the cadet, who has been posted to Srinagar in her first assignment.
Teary-eyed parents, who had willingly endured the separation from their children for the duration of the course, were elated and over the moon. Relatives streamlined to have selfies clicked with the new officers.
But for the cadets, it is the start of a whole new level of challenge. The announcer at the PoP put it aptly, “You will now be posted to the frontiers in the ice caps where survival itself will be a challenge.”