The eagerly awaited visit to the National Defence Academy (NDA) happened on 17th of December. It is situated at Khadakwasla and spread across a huge 7,015 acres and also comprises of the Sinhagad fort.
We gathered at PIMSE at 7:30 am. Two very inspirational personalities from ‘Paramhit Sanstha’, Col. Nafad (Founder) and Brig. Deepak Bhat, both retired army officers, had organized this visit. At 7:45 am, two buses set off to what I would call an ‘Amazing Journey to the Legendary Land’. Within 1 hour 15 minutes, we were at the main entrance of Academy through two security check posts after Chandni Chowk. The two Ex-servicemen then carried out the final security procedures and briefed us on what was to be expected ahead.
As we entered the land of ‘Seva paramo dharmah’ which means ‘Service before Self’, our excitement knew no bounds. Even after being so close to the city, the campus felt like a distant place, a distant dream for any ordinary citizen. Why a distant dream? Not only for its dense forests, rich architecture or well built structures, but for the kind of human spirit that is actually built and tested inside it. The National Defence Academy is the First tri-service academy (Navy, AirForce, Army) in the world and amongst the top rated ones. Here, the cadets of the 3 armed forces are trained before they resume their pre-commissioning training in their respective service academies. The NDA was established on 7th December 1954 and was Inaugurated on 16th January, 1955. Each year about 3,20,000 applicants are scrutinized based on various parameters such as general aptitude, social and physical skills, interviews and medical tests, out of which only 1500 candidates are absorbed and are divided in two batches. A cadet must undergo 6 terms considered as 3 years before earning a BA or BSC or the recently added Computer Science.
At first, we went by the Cadet Squadrons which are like a home-away-from-home for a cadet for the next 3 years after getting admitted to the academy. A cadet is allotted one of the 18 squadrons named as Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, etc. The squadrons are a part of 5 Battalions. Various Indian states have donated approximately Rs. 5,00,000 each, for the construction of various squadrons and hence they are named after them. Each squadron comprises 200-odd junior and senior cadets and such is the training programme that by the time the cadet graduates, he knows each and every other cadet in his squadron. Secondly we saw the only market place in NDA which was a semi circular – ground level construction having various shops.
Then we proceeded to the AFTT (Air Force Training Team) area which aims to train basics of military aviation through ground and flying training. We had to get down from our buses to go inside a hangar where we saw many aircrafts of the ‘HK 36 TC SUPER DIMONA’ make. One of the aircrafts had a ground training instructor standing next to it, which was proudly and relentlessly explaining to the visitors, the specifications and use of the particular aircraft. It was a twin seater, single engine powered aircraft to give pre-basic stage flying experience to cadets aiming to become Air Force Pilots. It can fly upto 5 hrs 55 minutes/ 948 KMS non-stop.
After that, we hopped into our buses again, to visit the Habibullah Hall and ‘Sudan Block’. In the Habibullah Hall, we watched a documentary about NDA, profoundly explaining its importance and its ideals. For the 20-odd minutes we were awestruck. What we watched, not only enabled us to take a glance at life of a cadet through the graduation but also towards humans, stretching their own as well as fellow’s physical and psychological limits. We witnessed a system which is 70% dedicated to academics and rest for physical, extra-curricular activities, a training which imbibes the legendary fighting spirit of Indian Armed Forces. We saw the glimpse of how a young Indian aspirant aged 17-20 yrs is moulded into a tough fighter who would sacrifice everything to protect our nation from all kinds of threats. Cadets who graduate from NDA are then sent to their respective training academies – army cadets are sent to IMA Dehradun, Air Force cadets to AFA at Dundigal, Hyderabad and Naval Cadets to INA Ezhimala, Kerala. The NDA trains not only Indian cadets but also extend these facilities to friendly countries with whom we have signed Resource Sharing Deeds. Each year two passing out parades take place which are no less than a festival for these cadets. One is in the winter and one is in the summer. The training has everything which builds a character bearing mental and physical robustness, leadership skills and sense of keen observation.
The next thing we saw was called the ‘Motivational Centre’, an enlightening room which displays all the memorabilia, souvenirs and portraits of great personalities who have shown distinct bravery and responsibility which has shaped the NDA into a supreme academy. It also consists a record of all the brave memories which has put NDA into the history books of warfare. Just a visit to the motivational centre would make any cadet forget his own sorrows and pains during the intense training and lift his spirits beyond formidable skies.
At last we arrived at ‘Sudan Block’, the main administrative building of NDA where all academic classes take place. It is a brilliant piece of architecture inspired from the Rajputana style, and is situated right at the heart of the NDA campus. The distinct 60-ft dome epitomises the structural brilliance. At the entrance of the ‘Sudan Block’, stones are engraved with the names of all those brave fighters who have been honoured with the Highest Gallantry Awards. On one of the main walls, famous lines of India’s first Prime Minister Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru have been engraved;
“OUR GREAT NATION CAN ADVANCE ONLY IF WE ARE UNITED. OUR ARMY, OUR NAVY AND OUR AIR FORCE DRAW THEIR MEN FROM ALL PARTS OF THE COUNTRY AND ARE A SYMBOL OF OUR UNITY AND HOMOGENEITY. I WISH ALL OF US COULD IMBIBE THAT SPIRIT”.
It was already afternoon, and our tour inside the NDA was almost over. One of the cadets accompanied us to show weapon-land and a Memorial where all the cadets pay their respect to the martyrs of the land. Within no time we travelled back to the city with lingering thoughts of how challenging it would be for a cadet to transform himself from a mere aspirant into a fighter, dedicated to devote his life for the nation’s cause. We believe that we are fortunate enough to experience the place which teaches that sacrifice for your motherland is your prime objective. We consider ourselves lucky because when we are carrying out our day to day business, progressing in our own path and sleeping peacefully at night, there is someone who is guarding our borders, watching our skies and waters, and sacrificing his life. Hats off to the fighters and a Proud Salute!
This Visit was organized by the committee members Mr. Lionel John D’mello and Mr. Shoaib Inamdar.