Inspired by their glorious past, a group of former officers of the Indian armed forces are coming together for a first of its kind reunion of all serving and retired officers of the Army, Navy and Air Force with their families. What makes it special is that the reunion, Chalo Leh, is a 14-day voyage from the plains of New Delhi to mountainous Leh and back to “rekindle the wonderful memories of training days, to unwind the routine and monotony and to cherish the ultimate feeling of camaraderie in uniform,” says Captain (retd.) Lekshmy Natarajan, one of the soldiers behind the “mission”.
Only serving or retired officers from the three services can participate in Chalo Leh, which is aimed at celebrating the spirit of soldiering, along with family and friends.
The trip will be flagged off on June 12. A convoy of about 25 participants is expected. For those who don’t bring their vehicles, transport will be taken care of by the organisers. The trip will cost Rs 42,000 per person, plus taxes. It will cover transport, food, accommodation, permit/toll tax in addition to basic medical facilities and vehicle support.
“The idea of a grand all-encompassing get-together crossed our minds during a course reunion in Mumbai in May 2015. A reunion which is not course-specific, where officers who have passed out from various courses can have a chance to catch up with each other,” says Major Rizwan Khan, CEO of AdventureX, a non-profit group of defence officers and adventure enthusiasts.
Major Khan got in touch with a few coursemates, including Captain Lekshmy. And that’s where it all began. What made her go for such a mission? “Some goals are so worthy, its glorious even to fail,” quips Captain Lekshmy. “Our training days are the best days of our lives. We go through so much physical, mental and emotional stress and challenges, and what sees us through is the spirit of togetherness, the team work. And that emotion, that bonding and connect in the uniform stays till the end. People in uniform never ever miss a chance to get together. And we never leave a place without meeting an old buddy, coursemate or colleague once we know they are posted there. That is the bonding, the camaraderie, which we call esprit de corps.”
The team will have officers from different age groups, with Air Commodore Pankaj Vishnoi being the senior-most participant among them.
A similar trip will be organised in September this year, for which AdventureX plans to tie up with SUV and motorcycle companies such as Mahindra and Royal Enfield.
“This time we have a limited number of participants due to logistic issues. The September trip will be more elaborate. In three years, we plan to have 700 officers taking part. We plan to inform the Limca Book of World Records about Chalo Leh,” says Major Khan.
Why Leh? “Where else?” asks Major Khan. “Soldiering is also about adventure. Leh is the perfect destination for adventure. When was the last time we could breathe fresh air, drink water in its pristine form, feel the natural soil beneath our feet or see a clear sky? When was the last time we saw mountains, rivers and lakes with unbounded views.”