IMA Through The Rear View Mirror : Col DS Cheema

indian military academy khetarpal

Col DS Cheema (retd) shares his anecdote about Indian Military Academy. Since the past few months, I have been travelling to Mussoorie on the invitation of Lal Bahadur Shastri Academy of National Administration to share my management teaching experience. I undertake the almost six-hour journey for two reasons: I get an opportunity to interact with well-informed officers from all over the length and breadth of the country, and the route from Paonta Sahib to Dehradun passes in front of the Indian Military Academy (IMA). There is a traffic light right in front of the IMA gates, and the cab driver has to invariably wait there for 90 seconds. After the four-plus hours of harrowing drive, this is the most rejuvenating stop to lift my drooping spirits. It takes me through the many good, bad and ugly physical and emotional experiences of the nerve-wracking training. I look at the majestic building with child-like inquisitiveness, as if looking at the magnificent site for the first time, till my stiff neck forces me to look away, but I return to the captivating scene immediately.

I can visualise Major Bhavani Singh, the then Academy Adjutant, standing ramrod straight, grace befitting his blue blood. He was a terror for us GCs (Gentlemen Cadets). The other face etched in my memory is that of the drill instructor, Capt (Hony) Gian Singh, VC (Victoria Cross). He would often taunt us for poor parade skills that could never meet his high standards. The tall, muscular sahib would thunder, ‘GC, bread mila, anda mila, butter mila… toh fir kadam kyon nahin mila’, and pull a couple of us out of the squad, as if removing a fly out of milk.


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I get goose bumps with the thoughts of numerous occasions when I had to circle around the drill square, holding a bayonet rifle above the head. On the passing-out day, ordinary GCs like me who did not get ‘blue’ in any sport, and were nowhere near the coveted ‘Sword of Honour’, or even the lesser, the best ‘Officer-like Qualities’ award, were happy that finally it was all over. I smile imagining the lucky GC tucking the sword into his belt. I also recollect the scene during the final stage of training when Arms/Services were to be allotted. Captain Sapra, an EME officer, was a member of the interviewing team. Though my choice was infantry, he did his best to get EME allotted to me, since I had been a student of IIT-Kanpur.

As the cab races up the winding road, I recall the Sundays, when we could go out in mufti, as the best time I spent at the IMA. Going to Mussoorie, roaming around leisurely was the dream of every GC. Once, four of us planned a trip to Mussoorie to have beer. We were sitting in a restaurant when one of us spotted our Company Commander (Major) with his wife. We heaved a sigh of relief when he suddenly changed his route. But our happiness was short-lived. The next day we were punished with extra drills.

My return journey is always more peaceful and relaxing. I say bye-bye to the great institution, till we come across each other again on my next trip.


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