Saturday, 30 November 2013

AFTC is Chill! Jhilmil Jhilmil Jhilmil - Part 2

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.

AFTC is Chill! Jhilmil Jhilmil Jhilmil - Part 1

A leaflet from my diary - AFTC is Chill! Jhilmil Jhilmil Jhilmil

A TRIBUTE TO 80 & 119 OF my 81

Disclaimer:- For those who know AFTC, this is not one of those “Journey through AFTC” articles and for those who don’t know this place, boy, did you miss it!

Human tendency is to experiment, drift, think, ponder, react, love, hate, ignore, cry, laugh, shout, sulk, cheer, empathize, support, disagree and most of all live.

AFTC’s survival policy is to NOT experiment, drift OR think much,  never ponder at all, DO NOT react AT ALL, love little, hate discreetly, ignore some, NOT cry ever, laugh , shout only when asked to, sulk in your own room only, cheer wherever possible, support, empathy and disagreements to be limited to yourself! AND THEN YOU SHALL BE ALLOWED TO LIVE!

And yes, it stands as a beautiful place, loved by each one of us living here.
I haven’t blogged since the past year and a half. Thanks to AFTC. So, thank you readers for exploring this one.

Straight from ACADEMY, HYDERABAD after a high of topping my course I was raring to enter AFTC. BUT, I entered this campus of negativity about a year back a couple of days before my birthday on 16th December. Yes, negativity. And I was finally born! 18th December 2012 turned out to be a nightmare not just for self, but for 120 others who bled with me. Correct! Bled! There were 120 others who came here 6 months before me and they ensured that my eyes looked straight to mother earth for the next few weeks.

Humility and selflessness is best experienced when you’re down giving up with 5 others struggling to get up. It is then, when a man is his true self and wakes up exploring all options just to survive. The Defence way just makes it easier for you to realize this when it keeps not just you but many others with you ‘down’ to earth till you get up together!

During this escapade of mine, I gained more than I thought. Never ever did I get time to think like a human back then. Thinking back, I found this new species I started calling friends! 52 weeks later today, I still call many of them friends. I refrain from naming any because I’m sure I’ll miss out so many.

I find it worth mentioning here that we lost one of our friends during these physically taxing sessions who broke his leg and did not continue with us. He would later join the next batch 6 months later, fit and fine. Another example of the undying spirit to continue.

Pride and honour is well celebrated by humans all over the civilizations ever known to mankind. It feeds the human ego of recognition and appreciation. I too, like any other, fell for it. After being chosen to lead 30 of my earlier mentioned friends, my year of 2013 began on a high. There is only one way of doing things around here, the way it is TOLD! But unfortunately as a leader, I never gave up my tendency to experiment. I took chances. I supported. I yelled. I laughed. I commanded. I gave my best. But then, why would I be writing this article if every aspect of my tenure would have been a smooth sail. There were many a times my chances fell wrong. I gave all I had for many to lead from the front. On the other hand, I hurt some in the rush to succeed.  I supported the right, but I took the wrong route too.

 I distinctly remember one of my experiments. I facilitated passing of a weekly assessment for some, which was the only way they would be allowed to leave this city of madness and negativity with all of us on the nearing Sunday. I succeeded but as parlance says, died in action! I still don’t know if I was right or wrong, but the music faced was loud and clear! After intense grilling, somehow I was allowed to continue my job. It affected me tangibly and intangibly. I failed to give my best in my own assessments for next few weeks and I was rest assured that this will affect my future assignments during my tenure here.

And so it did. The first six months as a junior trainee were rigorous and extremely adventurous. The structure of the program is such that it simulates all your senses. Athletics, games, culturals, academics, and what not. There is only one thing which holds a man good in the long run – Will to move on. At regular intervals I was made to realize the same. Be it the late night sessions with 15 others to succeed in examinations, be it the long races, be it the midnight oil burnt for extracurricular activities. Nothing pinched although that could be because of the generous instructors’ allowance to sleep during lectures.  The junior tenure concluded on a decent note. I faced failures, some great friends, some loved ones, and most of all a beautiful 6 month coming to an end.

A reasonable EQ is a must for any military leader. With EQ around women, comes the boyish nature to charm everything moving around you! And as any other ‘boy’ here, amidst the chaos of day and night, survival, lack of sleep, I too managed to stay in controversy more often than I thought. This article should also come as a tribute to all those who fed my share of stories beyond work. A ‘fauji’ seems incomplete without one or two or sometimes three or four failures or successes with the women around him.

One of my last and strongest memories of those 6 months is when my immediate senior chose to pass his nickname of ‘the course demo’ to another good friend of mine. A shy confession would speak that I wish my efforts were also recognized in the same way. An honest assessment would speak that there were better plans to push me more to my limits! Nevertheless it was a satisfying evening when 120 of those who bled and sweat with me had my name too on their tongues to vouch for. A recognition in itself.

The 6 months ended and many questions were left unanswered, many relationships half built, many men confused of what was in store next, many controversies unattended to. But there’s time. There’s time to seek answers, to have closures and probably make more out of this place and its traditions.

Check list of first 6 months

1.       Tears of happiness – 
2.       Tears of disappointment – 
3.       Bleed for nothing (or everything)! – 
4.       Lose consciousness due to zero energy – 
5.       Hear your name cheered by each and everyone around – 
6.       A genuine thank you from a friend – 
7.       A sincere apology to the same friend – 
8.       A smoke in a restricted area – 
9.       Standing up for self’s logic – 
10.     Facing the wind & symbolically peeing against myself!(Calling for intense trouble)–
11.     Wearing the first set of original ranks – 
12.     A late night seemingly never ending conversation so that you sleep all day in class.