AFTC is chill! Jhilmil jhilmil jhilmil – NOT REALLY!
A TRIBUTE TO 81 & 82
With power comes responsibility. With responsibility comes criticism and only god bless you if this power is in AFTC!
After a long (read : short) break of 2 weeks we all came back to AFTC to spend our last 24 weeks of training. The plans were fresh, the faces were new, the roles had changed, but somewhere we all knew that the stories will always remain the same. Time and tide wait for none, they didn’t! In lighter vein, I must say that the most significant and probably the only actual work as a senior trainee in AFTC was to simply ruin the happiness of the freshers.
But the task was bigger. We as a bunch of 120 trained men and women were given the task of grooming (read : grilling) the new 130 entrants. I know I share this agenda with many who were with me then that our primary task was to boost the confidence and knowledge of our immediate juniors and inculcate theoretical leadership qualities of team spirit and selfless, impeccable behavior. This wasn’t an easy task, especially with the continuing pressure on academics and other miscellaneous activities. (do nothing and catch up with sleep)
I was fortunate to be chosen to continue as the commander of my same bunch of friends considering my not so clean record. I had dropped my merit drastically and could barely make it to the selection panel. Nevertheless, I was one of the 6 to make the cut.
I set my rules of engagement as imbibing unity and generating confidence in those 130 who would probably look up to us for everything for the next 6 months.
And the rut began. Yes we made many look to mother earth as we did once upon a time, we made them sweat and bleed, knocked few brats unconscious and slowly the time tested process of generating men and women out of boys and girls began.
Our personal life took a boost as we finally got some time to read the papers, keep in touch with old friends, engage in non sense conversations at non sense hours of the day. But again, I wouldn’t be writing this piece if life was nothing but very normal and average.
Challenges were galore. The biggest challenge and leadership lesson I and many of us learnt here was to maintain a balance between 120 different opinions working around you. I hit a realization very soon. As a leader (military leader at least), your victory is not in being loved or hated. In fact, you have already won worthy haters if they put their minds on work to dislike you for what you’ve always stood for and pressed them hard with your sheer spirit. Some just take time to wake up and follow you. A mere difference of opinion should not change your beliefs, no matter how much of a minority you are. I still wonder if I’m right. May be something I’ll learn in the years to come.
“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” MK Gandhi
As this was our final term of training, we had more competitions in store. It was a conscious effort to participate in everything in capability. I earned two rare distinctions during these 6 months. One was an active participation in every competition. The other and rather more interesting distinction was that I grabbed a bronze in each! And thus the period of grooming, athletics, games and cultural activities again came to an end.
There were much stronger bonds built, many broken, many relationships strengthened, many losing their grip but more or less an emotional extravaganza prevailed in the cradle of AFTC which I’m sure many will relate to who have been here. I shall not take the liberty to reveal many secrets on my blog as I have many of mine too.
One of my biggest character tests during these six months was when I was held responsible along with 5 others for improper alcohol consumption of a junior trainee in an out of bound area and not reporting back in a healthy state. YES! ALL THAT IS TRUE! This was a big blow to us, as although at fault, many would term it as an unfortunate turn of events from a simple celebration gathering. Well, 5 days of suspension passed, and somehow we were let go clean. The boy came back safe and was sorted for life. As ugly as the incident sounds, somewhere at the back of my mind I felt one of the greatest and slightly lost in time ethos of military surviving in this episode. Facing the music for your subordinate’s carelessness is no more a regular trend when each and everyone is accounted for and blamed for their own mistake. I wonder if I speak with maturity or sheer good luck! But we won something out of this and learnt one of our biggest lessons of military training during those 5 days. Let alone the bonds which strengthened to unimaginable levels in trying times.
As all good things…this too shall have to pass…
It is said that one cannot demand respect, but only command it. Its brilliant how this system teaches each one from all walks of life to command respect. The best of everyone is displayed at some or the other platform during these 52 weeks. And yet, it is the team which makes the difference and not any individual. Its an enigma how things just work out, an enigma may be for generations ahead to learn from.
“Sir, you will always be a champion for us, and we look up to you” – an SMS from 82 to 81
And that’s how the era concludes. With many stories left behind and more faces attached to them, may be AFTC's history cannot be compiled in words and may be that is for the best too. The best memories remain blurred and so will mine.
We are now divided into 15 odd different systems to work on in our future and different locations and still look forward to meeting each other as we move on.