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HindustanTimes Sat,26 Jul 2014

Those cadet days!

Col RD Singh (retd), Hindustan Times   March 11, 2013
First Published: 11:13 IST(11/3/2013) | Last Updated: 11:19 IST(11/3/2013)

The 60-plus Capt BK Aiyar (SS-14) got on the stage and roared in the mike, "If at this age I can come on the dance floor, why are you all young ladies and gentlemen sitting in your chairs. Move on the dance floor and let's celebrate." That was the spirit of the Golden Jubilee celebrations of the Officers' Training Academy (OTA) on March 7 and 8, 2013, at Chennai.

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Soon thereafter, the atmosphere got charged and streams of young and old OTA alumni, who had come from all parts of the country, ranging from course EC-1 (1962-63 vintage) to the present course (SS-95), rocked the dance floor with Capt Aiyar singing the peppy Lambamba number.

Rubbing shoulders, young and old, everyone was transported into their cadet days. Now there were no ranks, no status symbols, no millionaires - only OTA alumni with their first names. The commandant of the OTA, Lt Gen SS Jog, along with his wife, went around and personally met each and every alumni and ladies. The gentlemen cadets (GCs) and lady cadets (LCs) were proudly playing a perfect host to their elders. Over 600 alumni present made the evening memorable.

Earlier during the day, we had the Golden Jubilee Parade, which was a treat to see the smartly turned out GCs and LCs, marching in total synchronisation and rhythm. The Adjutant, riding on a white horse (Charger) stood out as a symbol of discipline and smartness. It reminded us of our days when we sweated out on the same ground and got our soldierly bearing. To commemorate the occasion, a stamp on the OTA was also released by the post master general of Tamil Nadu, after the parade.

The second day (March 8) saw a number of events, including the Golden Jubilee golf tournament, the OTA Alumni Association Annual Meet (OTAAA Meet), and the OTA Ball and dinner. The OTAAA Meet was presided over by honourable Shekhar Dutt, SM, governor of Chhattisgarh, who himself is an OTA alumnus.

Various agenda points aimed at further enhancement of the prestige of the OTA and better career prospects of the SS officers were discussed in a free and frank manner. The common strain was - the OTA alumni is one strong family and second to none. With nearly 600 gallantry awards, OTA officers have done us proud in all the wars, and the young officers like LT Navdeep Singh, AC, have led from the front and laid down their lives for the nation.
For me, personally, there was one more special reason to rejoice - my son had passed out from the same coy and the same platoon, as me, (Meiktila, Pl 3) in September 2011, while I had passed out in 1974. Rather than choosing to stay in a hotel, I stayed in the cadets' accommodation where my son had stayed. There were many other officers, including even a Maj Gen (retd) with his wife, who were putting up in a GCs' cabins. What a great feeling it was to live the way a cadet lives. It made us all feel young, and as if the generation gap had just melted away.

Established in 1962 in the wake of the Chinese aggression, the institution completes 50 years of its glorious existence. From the rough and old barracks of Officers' Training School (OTS) of our times, it is the modern Officers' Training Academy (OTA), Chennai, of today with the state-of-the-art training facilities, new accommodation, comprehensive sports complex and matching logistics support. The institution has so far produced over 23,000 officers and 1,900 lady officers. It has also trained 5,000 emergency commissioned officers, as also cadets from the friendly foreign countries are part of every course. 

With such a record of service to the nation and young officers leading from the front, who will not feel proud of his alma mater? Standing along the young cadets, we proudly sing the academy song 'Roshni', which motivates us to stand strong and tall like a mountain and spread the light of patriotism.

It was time now to depart with a promise to return next year for the next annual alumni meet. We carry a number of souvenirs of the occasion thoughtfully given by the OTA. As we leave, we salute our alma mater for making our life meaningful. Jai Hind.

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