NCC cadets all colour and culture
The zeal of the National Cadet Corps members who are in Delhi to participate in the Republic Day celebrations on January 26 is just unbeatable.
So what if they have to brave the chill and go through strenuously packed schedules every single day? The zeal of the National Cadet Corps (NCC) members who are in Delhi to participate in the Republic Day celebrations on January 26 is just unbeatable.
Nearly 2,000 NCC cadets from 17 directorates or regions from across India have come together here - the maiden visits for many - and camped in the Delhi Cantonment area.
A trip to the parade ground, where the cadets have been putting up since January 1, unveiled a cauldron of high energy and colour. Be it the constant chatter in different languages seeping in from all corners, the dances, the crooning or the smart march across the campus, the place buzzed with life.
In the area outside the NCC auditorium, several groups dressed in colourful attire, dazzling jewellery and makeup, stood waiting for their turn to perform in a group dance competition.
Adorned in glittering jewellery, a pretty nose ring and a bright yellow salwar-kurta, with a long scarf covering her head, Sadaf Khan from Jammu and Kashmir looked thrilled.
"This is the first time I have come to Delhi thanks to the NCC camp for the Republic Day celebrations and I am loving every bit of it," she smiled.
"We will be performing a folk dance of Jammu and Kashmir called Radey. I hope we do well!" she said.
Exhausted after her energy filled performance on stage, Manisha Jain of Uttar Pradesh, along with the rest of the group sat at the cafeteria, gorged on noodles and sipped some coffee.
Within just a few days, Jain has become great friends with cadets of other directorates.
"We were given a slam book each to write down our friends' addresses yesterday, and mine is already half-filled! I have made some great friends from Bihar, West Bengal and the southern directorates," she said.
Just a few steps away were three music bands rehearsing their songs.
Watching his band members closely as they marched was 15-year-old Puia from Mizoram in the northeast who has visited the capital once before.
"I like everything about Delhi, be it the food or the weather," he said as he helped one of the girls in his 44-member Mizo music band balance her bagpipe.
In another area, cadets smartly turned out in their crisp brown shirts and trousers, green sweater and cap to march in front of three instructors who sat judging their performance and awarding them points.
"Our schedule is very packed. We wake up at 3.45 am, clean our barracks and start our rehearsals at 5 am. After a two-hour break at noon, we are back at 2 pm and don't go back until 5 pm," said Anshu Pandya of Gujarat, standing in front of his bed in the barrack.
Sounding not a wee bit tired, even after the rigorous rehearsals at the Rajpath, the stately road that winds down the imposing presidential palace to the India Gate monument, Pandya said the beds must be made, the blankets folded and the shoes neatly lined up before leaving their barracks for the day.
"There will be three surprise checks and two announced ones in which seniors will come to check our barracks. Thereafter, we will be awarded points which will be later totalled and the best directorate's barrack declared the winner," Pandya said.
Since marks are also awarded on the basis of how each directorate decorates the front porch of its barrack and overall cleanliness, a few cadets, both at the boys' and the girls' barracks, are always be busy sweeping and scrubbing the place.
"This camp instills in us a sense of responsibility. To take care of our belongings, to keep our surroundings clean," said Sharmila Nair of Kerala.
There is also a recreation room where one can unwind and watch some TV. But for those who would rather do something more constructive, literally, there is the aero and naval modelling room.
Monalisa Mohanty of Orissa sat amongst a room full of boy cadets, carefully polishing a ship she had carved.
"It's INS Krishna," she smiled as she looked up but soon went back to her replica of the Indian Navy vessel. In the adjoining room were rows of aircrafts, Mirage 2000, Jaguar, AN-32 and possibly every other aircraft model carved by the cadets.
Said spokesperson of the NCC, Col Someshwar Singh Sinsinwar: "Last year there were around 1,800 cadets while this time there are nearly 2,000. They truly represent the vibrant nation that India is."
There was some foreign participation too.
"Kazakhstan, the Maldives, Nepal and Australia are joining in the youth exchange programme besides Singapore, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Bhutan and Russia. The foreign cadets will arrive on January 15 and will be here until January 30 when all the cadets leave for home," he added.