Compliments to Captain Anil Gonsalves for an excellent biographical book. The book begins with a well composed poem, which I wasn’t expecting in such a book, that too about our alma-mater, the National Defence Academy (NDA.) Many pages have been written about NDA over and over and the ‘snake killed many times, still being beaten harder.‘ Is the tail still moving??
This was a welcome change; something different. The narration, all humorously radiant with an infectious enthusiasm. It is a collection of hilarious, stimulating, and thoughtful set of events as they unfold.
When I read the anecdotes about life at the NDA, I relived it with a smile at the corner of my mouth though the real life experience was far too terrible. The readers who have been through this type of training will enjoy reading it with a smile, both in their hearts and on their face. The author has captured all the important and landmark events in a Cadet’s life at the NDA.
The habits acquired at the NDA continue with us like the ‘never used, starched handkerchief.’ Measurements of distance and time during the reunion, I thought it was only my mind’s creation during our reunion. Now I realise that I have company. Returning to NDA, I too felt that I must not have grown up so quickly.
The author has effectively brought out nostalgic moments of his Naval life with a tinge of humour, beginning with the last sailing of the beautiful INS Mysore, the cadets’ training ship. Various life lessons the author has hilariously unwrapped are :-
- Taking care of the sailors or soldiers or airmen, acceding to their request for leave even if it was fake, is sure to make any young officer feel like the Captain of the Titanic.
- Life as a young officer was always about setting up a classic rattrap and ringing the bell, but every time the rattrap by itself and the tone of the bell had to be different.
- The weatherman is always right on a wrong day and is the only one to keep his job or not get kicked even if he is wrong 75% of the time.
- It’s the Commanding Officer who is responsible for every action of his ship and he is the ship.
- ‘Triskaidekaphobia‘ the fear of number 13 (from Greek tris (‘three’), kai (‘and’), and deka (‘ten’). Hence look intelligent, talk with technical terms, but always check one’ facts before blurting out.
- English may not be you mother tongue – ‘working hardly’ on your language skills may not be beneficial always.
- Beware of un-mastered Indian languages – they will land you in a soup.
- Bathing nude at the NDA did has its advantages.
- Bull-shit is Indian Army’s prerogative, never knew that it was Buffalo-shit in the Navy.
- Gunners – the Naval and Army versions – are well known for their stiffness and pranks.
- You can’t be thrice lucky – especially with a DRDO scientist – that too with a hammer.
- You must salute the Armed Forces chopper pilots twice.
- The hard service lesson to follow the Chetwode credo will remain etched in all Armed Forces officers’ minds even after retirement :-“The safety, honour and welfare of your country come first, always and every time. The honour, welfare and comfort of the men you command come next. Your own ease, comfort and safety come last, always and every time.”
- Travel the world – you will realise how much you missed of the God’s beautiful creations and how much is left for you to see. The travelogues are excellent – I can vouch for the Canadian part of it – and provide excellent tips and a peek into places of interests.
- The 16 hour flight from India to Toronto is as comfortable as the Taliban therapy.
- Canadian side offers the best view of the Niagara Falls.
- Canadians take courtesies to the extremes. They will say ‘sorry’ even if you stamp on their feet. The magical words like ‘hi,’ ‘please,’ ‘thank you’ – you have to punctuate every phrase you utter with least one of it. Racism or any racial comment or gesture is not liked – especially with young school going children around. (I have had it many a times from our children.)
A Glossary of NDA and Naval terms at the beginning or explanation of the terms would have benefited the reader. If the reader finds difficulty in getting the meaning of those terms, always remember –It means the same as the first that came to your mind – else Google it up.
If you believe that ‘Laughter is the best Medicine,’ then this book is for you.