Out here life is tough. Plenty tough.

You are here for just 42 days -- but man, those 42 days are sheer torture. Pure agony. First they will take you apart. it by bit. !hey will kill your spirit. "rush it to death. !hey will stret#h your enduran#e. On the ra#k. $ake you realise you aren%t half the soldier you thought you were. !hat you are weak. &nd #an%t take 4' kilometres with an ().* kg ba#kpa#k in your stride. !hat you are s#ared. &nd would think thri#e before freefalling (+.* metres. !hat you are almost as bad as a #i,ilian, dammit! !hen they will start pie#ing you together. -i,e you enduran#e. $ake you earn it. !he hard way. .nje#t #onfiden#e into you. !ea#h you to kill effi#iently. /ith a fli#k of your wrist. !ea#h you to master your fear. !o push it away and fun#tion as if it didn%t e0ist. $ake you realise the power of the mind o,er body. !hat you are as bra,e as you belie,e you are. !hat you #an take punishment without flin#hing. "an work under pressure without #rumbling. 1ere at the .ndian &rmy%s 2unior 3eaders% "ommando !raining "amp in arguably one of the finest in the world, they turn Boys into Men. elgaum,

4ighteen kilos of sand weigh a ton when you ha,e to do push-ups with it to some sadisti# instru#tor%s tune. .t #rushes you. .t rapes your ba#k into an ungainly #ur,e. .t makes your shoulder mus#les #reak. ut hell, what does it all matter to him, that guy there in the front with the #aptain%s ribbons5 6"ome on, you bloody idiots,6 he was s#reaming again, 6/hen . say %7P% you better get your bottoms up fast...UP!" 8hit, the guy was inhuman. 1e wanted more. &nd all be#ause you were a few minutes late for fall-in. 9idn%t he know you ha,e been up sin#e *:;' in the morning -- that was (4 bloody hours ago -- going through all kinds of training whi#h this buggery #ourse <what else was it but that5= in,ol,ed5 1e did for sure. &fter all, he had gone through it himself, hadn%t he5 61ey, You there, little fellow,6 that shout again, 6-et up...#ome here.6 !he little fellow got to his feet and mo,ed towards the instru#tor. 1e was going to be #hewed up raw while his #olleagues held their painful position. !hat was how the game went. 6"an%t do56 the instru#tor, this thin man of a #aptain with his thin mousta#he, this baby-fa#e who was reputed to be the biggest bugger among them all - he wanted to know. 6"an%t do it56 he repeated as the #ommando stood at attention and stared straight into infinity, 6You like your bed5 You like your food5 >o5 /ell, neither do .. /ant to go ba#k5 /ant to go ba#k home5 >o5 !hen get down here and do it. "ommandos, you will do more push-ups in this bloody idiot's honour...DOWN.6

8adist. 1e must ha,e got it bad when he did the #ourse. $ust be getting his own ba#k now. 61ey, you bloody loiterers,6 the instru#tor%s rage had turned to another bun#h of late#omers, 6/hat%s the time5 /hat%s the time5 9on%t know5 "an%t tell5 -et down with these idiots. Now!6 !he man is a sadist. >o doubt. 3ook at the way he is standing there with his head thrown ba#k and all...you would think he owned the whole world. 6Up 6 that bugging order again, 6Down!6 -od, was he e,er going to stop5 !his was just too mu#h after a full day of -- what all did they do today5 -- ro#k #limbing, unarmed #ombat, slithering...or was that all yesterday5 !hat was another thing about the pla#e. Your days all got jumbled together, hardly pun#tuated by those three hours of sleep you were allowed... ...Up. Down. Up... ...you didn%t e,en know what day today was. Or what you did yesterday unless you thought real hard. ut who had the time to think5 1ere all you did was do. !hinking was a lu0ury whi#h the training didn%t offer... Up. Down. Up... !he paplu -- yeah, that%s what they #alled the ba#kpa#k -- was growing hea,ier by the moment. /ill he e,er stop5 &nd to think you had nearly two hours of night battle obsta#le training after this... 6-et up all of You!6 Finally. .f only the stupid gear would stop weighing so mu#h. &nd the damned battle dress not #ling on so wet. 69on%t bloody walk like idiots. You are not dead,6 that #ursed shout again, 6Fall in. Pair up in threes. !ast!6 !hat ga,e you a breather. Of about three or four minutes. You had to pi#k up your rifle, find your buddies and stand at attention waiting for the ne0t round of torture. 6Posted *2, on parade *', one ?!7, one $1, ready for parade, "ir 6 the group leader was reporting the parade strength: of the *2 posted with him, one had been returned to unit <?!7-ed, they #alled it= while another was in the $ilitary 1ospital <$1=. 61ow many #an%t run56 the instru#tor asked. 8e,en hands went up. !he #aptain would want to know why. &nd he was going to take some #on,in#ing.

6You 6 he asked mo,ing down the line, 6/hat%s wrong5 9on%t pretend. You #an run...You5 /hat5 8how me. You think you are being #le,er5 9on%t e,en try it. >e0t...what%s your trouble5 @nee5 /hy are you holding your elbow then5 You know what5 You ha,e your knee in your elbow and your elbow in your head. Bloody idiot...Okay, two are #asualties. !he rest of you, are you ready to run5 /hat5 . #an%t hear anything.6 6Y#" "$%!6 6You all know you will be left behind as battle #asualties if you don%t return by 22'' hours56 he asked, 6Okay, #hotta kadam, daudke #hal <run in small steps=.6 &nother session of agony had begun. Per#hed on a high stool in the offi#ers bar, $ajor 8 sur,eyed his #ompanions o,er a pit#her of beer. .t was around one in the afternoon and the major always preferred a #ool drink to reju,enate him before lun#h. You know,6 he says, 6!hough it looks as if this #ourse is all physi#al, it isn%t -- it%s more of a training of the mind. /hat we tea#h them here is to understand their hidden #apabilities. /e build their #onfiden#e, their self esteem and their enduran#e.6 $ajor 8 is a senior instru#tor at the 2unior 3eaders% "ommando !raining #amp. !u#ked away in elgaum, )' kilometres from -oa on the outskirts of $aharashtra, this is the .ndian &rmy%s only #entre for training its personnel in un#on,entional warfare -- or rather, spe#ial missions as they #all it. !he aim of the #entre, a senior offi#ial had e0plained, was to produ#e indi,iduals #apable of #arrying out sub,ersi,e a#ti,ities behind enemy lines. .t does not produ#e #ra#k teams, but indi,iduals who #an form #ra#k teams in times of war. 6/e are not in the business of training #ommandos who hang out of A.P%s ,ehi#les and point muBBles at the general publi#,6 he said, 6/e train men for war, not for pea#e-time operations. /e tea#h them how to sneak into enemy land, #arry out sub,ersi,e a#ti,ities and #ome out.6 !he #on#ept of su#h spe#ialised training was #on#ei,ed in (C+2, as an immediate aftermath of the "hinese aggression. !he .ndian &rmy%s .nfantry 8#hool in $how was entrusted with the task. & nu#leus of offi#ers was sent for #ommando #ourses to foreign establishments and, on their re#ommendations, a #urri#ulum formulated. !hus, on (( 2anuary (C+4, the #ommando wing started fun#tioning in $how. !ill (CD', the #ourse was open to offi#ers of all ser,i#es. ut on#e it was made mandatory for .nfantry Offi#ers, admission for the rest of the ser,i#es be#ame ,a#an#y-based. !he ne0t year, the wing was shifted to elgaum to es#ape the #ongestion in $how. !he #entre now runs two types of #ourses: -hatak <O= and -hatak <>=. !he former is for offi#ers, and will ha,e (*' students per #ourse <three #ourses e,ery year=. !he -hatak <>= is meant for non-#ommissioned offi#ers. &gain, the #entre runs three #ourses e,ery year, but with 2') students.

6!here isn%t mu#h differen#e between the two,6 says the #hief instru#tor at the #entre, 6!he Offi#ers% #ourse stresses more on de,eloping leadership Eualities and battle ta#ti#s. &nd the medium of instru#tion is 4nglish while it is 1indi for the jawans -- but the basi#s are same.6 !he 42-day #apsule has +'' periods #run#hed into it -- (* periods a day -- to de,elop the three basi# elements needed for a spe#ial mission #ommando: #onfiden#e, enduran#e and ta#ti#s. &nd it is the duty of instru#tors like $ajor 8, and his #ompanions "aptain >, "aptain ? and $ajor 9, all of them now enjoying their beer, that these are in#ul#ated in the trainees, that the 6Boys turn into Men.6 6. am sure half of the trainees must ha,e dug my gra,e by now,6 says "aptain ?, 6!hat always happens. !hey always ha,e a hate-hate-lo,e relation with the instru#tors. /hen the #ourse is at its peak and we are pushing them hard they would really like to kill us. ut towards the end their anger will e,aporate and we end up friends.6 "aptain ? remembers how he longed to bu&&er ba#k one of his instru#tors. 6"aptain --- was a guy . would ha,e gi,en half my salary to get shot,6 he says, 6!he fa#t is you are being rogered day in F day out by your instru#tors throughout the #ourse. !he whole point is to put you under ma0imum strain. &nd it is the instru#tors who do it. >aturally, your hatred is all dire#ted against them.6 /hen the re#ruits arri,e they are pi#ked up and transported straight to the #amp where they would stay for the entire length of the #ourse <e0#ept for two three-hour breaks in the third and fourth weeks=. !he minute they are inside, their ribbons are remo,ed -- for the ne0t 42 days se#ond lieutenants, lieutenants and #aptains will all answer to %#ommando% -- and heads sha,ed. !he idea is to gi,e them a feeling of uniformity, that whate,er their age <the upper limit is ;'= or rank they are all trainees. !he #ommandos are gi,en a toggle rope, a safety rope, four te0t books <pre#is, rather=, a demolition #ard <a table for #al#ulating the amount of e0plosi,es for different stru#tures= and three paplus of different weights. !he re#ruits <they are all fighting fit when they arri,e but still lose up to eight kilos before they are through= are then put through two weeks of intense physi#al training. 3e#tures and demonstrations are intertwined. !he third and fourth week would see the instru#tors pushing -- buggering -- them harder and harder. !here is the 2'-kilometre speed mar#h in full battle gear, there is the ro#k #limbing <+' feet in ( minute flat=, there is the unarmed #ombat, there is the battle obsta#le #ourse <you ha,e to #o,er (D hurdles spread o,er nearly a kilometre in (4 minutes=, and then there is the ;'-kilometre speed mar#h with an ().* paplu and a 4-kilo rifle <you ha,e to #o,er a kilometre in ) minutes=. 4ngineering #lasses, night na,igation, #onfiden#e-building e0er#ises like the 3edo jump <you are made to freefall (+.* metres into a pool=, slithering and rappelling #omes with it.

You are also taught sur,i,al te#hniEues -- how to li,e off the land -- whi#h in#ludes eating snakes. On#e a #ommando has killed F eaten a snake, the reasoning goes, he will not shy away from anything. $ore physi#al #onditioning F ta#ti#al training will follow in the fifth and si0th weeks. !here will be written tests and, finally, the 4'-kilometre speed mar#h. 6.n the initial weeks their physi#al #ondition will start deteriorating. y the se#ond week it is at its nadir,6 $ajor 8 says, 6!hen we start the pat#h-up work...6 .t is pat'h(up time now. !his is the third week of training and tomorrow is &dam day. &dam is spelt &dm, as in administration, and implies just that. ut for the #ommandos it spells a three-hour break. /hen they #an go out, wat#h a mo,ie, eat, see people. Or, maybe, just stay ba#k and sleep. ut before that there is a ;' km speed mar#h to be done away with. &nd this s#ary thing they #all 3edo jump. .t implies di,ing into a water tank in #ombat dress, swimming a#ross to a ladder, as#ending (+.* metres with your #lothes and waterlogged boots dragging you down, and then walking a#ross a none-too-wide platform. !hat%s the #ool part. &t the other end, you will ha,e to #limb on to a rope, monkey #rawl till you rea#h the red ribbon that hangs halfway through and then hang by your hands, waiting for the instru#tor%s signal. &nd then you let go, just like that, into the pool. .f you ha,e real guts you will be to able keep your body straight and streamlined, with your hands #losed and head steady -- if so, you will go in like a dream with hardly a ripple. ut if you are jittery and your body is not absolutely straight, if your legs are e,en a little spread, you will hit the water with the most terrible splash. &nd it hurts like hell when you splash into it at 4' to *' kmGh. &s many found out today. 7p on the platform, "ommando & was finding it diffi#ult. .t was pretty windy and the platform was swinging a bit. &nd though he #laimed otherwise, & had a ,ery poor head for heights. 1e had somehow managed to #ome halfway and #limb onto the small platform there. !hen he had made the #ardinal mistake of looking down...-od, the tank looked so small. .f he fell off, would he really land in water or would he break his ne#k on the sides5 & stood shi,ering. 6)ommando loo* strai&ht 6 the instru#tor shouted from down, 6!ake a deep breath...6 & went on shi,ering. !here was more wind now and the platform was mo,ing noti#eably. 6)ommando!6 the instru#tor #alled from down. 6Y-yes 8irH6 6!ake a deep breath... >ow take a left turn.6 6/hi#h way, 8ir56

6+ ,ull le,t )ommando!6 & started on a shaky right turn while his #olleagues shouted. 1e #he#ked the motion in between and stood there shaking. 69on%t make a fool of yourself, "ommando,6 the instru#tor shouted, 6!ake a deep breath and do a left turn. & full left turn.6 & #ouple of minutes of deep breathing saw & in a stabler frame of mind. 1e started on the left turn, tried to make do with half of it, was shouted at <6a full turn, "ommandoH6= and, finally, managed it. 6>ow "ommando, take a deep breath...6 the instru#tor said, 6Okay, now walk o,er.6 "ommando & obeyed and, though he was as shaky as before, managed to #omplete the e0er#ise without #alamity. 1is progress along the rope was unremarkable, but his jump was something else. 1e produ#ed a strange whistling sound, something out of a s#ien#e-fi#tion mo,ie, and, in the two to three se#onds it took to hit the water, #ommitted his se#ond #ardinal mistake. 1e looked down, with the result that he splashed into the tank on his fa#e. 6!hat must ha,e been ,ery painful,6 remarked the instru#tor as & #ame up gasping, 68ee, he has hurt himself. >ot only did he look down, he spread his legs -- he will ha,e bruised his genitals. /hen you jump your head is your radar. .f you look down you will land on your fa#e. &nd if you tilt it ba#kwards, you will fall on your ba#k. oth are e0tremely painful.6 !he jump, he went on, was the most important among the #onfiden#e-building e0er#ises. 4,eryone was s#ared the first time they attempted it and it took a tremendous amount of will power to let go off the rope. 64,en now when . go up there . am apprehensi,e. !he (+.* metres looks more like +' metres... the height is a##entuated as the rope is there in the middle of su#h a huge open spa#e,6 he said, 6 ut it tea#hes you to o,er#ome fear. You are letting yourself go into a ,oid. On#e you do it then you know you are #apable of o,er#oming anything.6 "ommando &, it would appear, was one of the moderate #ases. !here are Euite a few who walk the plank smartly, monkey-#rawl to the ribbon and then stay stu#k there. !hey would just not be able to let go. & #ouple of years ago, for instan#e, a #ommando had hung there for half an hour before finally #rawling ba#k and down the ladder. 61e kept on saying %"ommando so-and-so ready, 8ir,% but just #ouldn%t get himself to let go,6 the instru#tor said, 61e had to #ome ba#k the ne0t year and finish the #ourse - without doing the jump you #an%t pass, you know.6 !he #ommandos, meanwhile, had all finished their jumps. >ow all that stood between them and the &dam day was a #ouple of le#tures, and - hell - that ;' km run. .nto the $eets #lub walked the -eneral and onto the stage. 1e paused there for a brief moment before starting to address the rela0ed but none-too-eager fa#es in front. 8eated before him were the (*'-odd #ommandos of this #ourse.

&ll to the man, e0#ept the unfortunates in the $1 <military hospital= and ?!7-ed <returned to unit=. &ll tired, all sleepy, but nonetheless here be#ause he was to le#ture them on %Future /arfare%. !he -eneral started on an informal note. 6-ood morning, "ommandos,6 he says. 6-ood morning, 8ir.6 6>ot loud enough,6 says the -eneral to himself and repeats more heartily, 6-ood mornin& )ommandos.6 6-OOD MO%N$N- "$%!6 61ah, good, that%s more like it,6 the -eneral pronoun#es, 6. hope you ha,e enjoyed your ;' km mar#h. 1ow many of you feel sleepy56 !he "ommandos preferred to keep their #ounsel on that. 6Okay,6 the -eneral #ontinues, 69uring the #ourse of my le#ture if anyone feels sleepy, they are most wel#ome to stand up, go to the side, or e,en go out, to refresh themsel,es. &ll right56 !here was no rea#tion from his audien#e. >ot that he e0pe#ted any. >o selfrespe#ting #ommando would dare to take that little bit of pleasantry at fa#e ,alue -espe#ially, not when their instru#tors were sitting right behind. 6Fine. >ow let%s talk about the le#ture theme...6 the -eneral pauses. 1e sur,eyed the hall again. !here was a sea of #apped heads looking straight up at him. 1e didn%t like that mu#h. !hey were all too stiff. !he -eneral de#ided to put them at ease. 6"ommandos, sit at ease,6 he says, 6%ela.!6 !he #ommandos rela0ed. !hey took their hands off knees, sank lower in their #hairs and prepared to listen. !he old boy was going to talk for some time and he had told them to rela0 -- might as well do that. !he -eneral started from where he had left off. 1e knew the le#ture by heart. !his was his pet subje#t and he had spoken on it plenty of times. >o sweat there. ut the tri#k was to make it interesting so that the trainees stayed awake and got something out of it. 1e knew they were dying to sleep, he knew many would sleep as soon as he began -- hadn%t he seen it all before5 /here loo*! 8ome of them were already settling lower into their #hairs...and in the middle rows heads had started lolling. ut the -eneral #ontinued bra,ely. 6"ommandos,6 he says, 6>ow we will dis#uss the #on#epts of future warfare with regard to spe#ial mission...6 &ll around, #hins were sinking systemati#ally onto #hests. &nd within (* minutes all but the ,ery bra,e and the unfortunates in the first three rows were lost to that lu0ury whi#h the trainees rarely get to enjoy...8leep. 8leep. !hat brief three-hour pun#tuation whi#h stops the days from being an endless su##ession of torture sessions...For + weeks the trainees are made to go about with

the minimum amount of rest and ma0imum a#ti,ity so that they finally emerge as tough spe#imens who #an work effi#iently under the worst #onditions. 64,en if you make a #atwalk here and hold a $iss /orld #ontest,6 an instru#tor had said earlier, 6!hey wouldn%t stay awake. !he minute they sit down anywhere they start falling asleep. !hat%s how tired they are.6 &nd so they slept. !his, after all, was &dam day, their holiday. !his, after all, was the day when they would ha,e the pleasure of #hanging out of battlegear into #i,ilian #lothes and going out for their first brush with so#iety in ;' days. $aybe they would paint elgaum red... &s thing turned out, they didn%t paint the town red. >either did they do anything whi#h their instru#tors wouldn%t ha,e appro,ed. !hey didn%t thrash any auto-wallahs who a#ted smart, they didn%t trash any bars -- and at the mo,ies they were e0emplary. 6$o,e in pairs. 9o not -- repeat do not -- get into any bloody fight with auto-#haps or hotel-#haps,6 the #hief instru#tor had warned them the pre,ious night, 6.f you ha,e the strength, keep it to yourself. You know what happened to those who #reated trouble earlier5 !hey are going to be #ourt-martialed. !here are only (' more days for you to finish the #ourse -- so don%t go and bloody bugger it up. Your #ondu#t tomorrow should be of the way e0pe#ted of you...6 !he instru#tor%s warnin& was in ,iew of the notoriety whi#h &dam day had a#Euired o,er the years with the elgaum publi#. .n#idents were many when the lo#als wanted to #he#k out the effi#ien#y of the #ommandos -- and had found them not at all la#king. $ini-riots had o##urred at mo,ie houses when ti#kets ran out and the #ommandos #ould not be a##ommodated, when auto-wallahs tried to make an e0trabu#k from their taklu-ed <bald= passengers...?ogered to the edge by their instru#tors and just waiting for a release, a s#ornful word, a smirk, a not-so-inno#ent #omment, was all that was needed to swing the #ommandos into a#tion. &nd then -od help the unfortunate. ut su#h in#idents ha,e burned deep into the memory of elgaum%s lo#als. >ow when they see the familiar sha,en head and the jean-#lad <usually= figures, they treat them with respe#t. &nyway, the #hief instru#tor himself had #alled up at the theatres and other sensiti,e pla#es and reEuested for seats this &dam day. 8o when "ommando $ arri,ed to wat#h Ishq with his friend, there was no o##asion for trouble. 4nough bal#ony seats had been set aside and, as usual, the staff were treating them like, if not e0a#tly the royalty, Euite #lose to it. 6/here will you buy the ti#kets,6 the friend asked $, 6/ill you ha,e to show your identifi#ation or something56 $ looked at him -- a #i,ilian -- pityingly and remo,ed his #ap. 6!his is all the identifi#ation they need,6 he said, be#koning to a se#urity, 6&rre bhai, yeh #ommando-wallah wing kaha hai </here is the #ommando wing=56

!he man looked at the #i,ilian%s full head of hair and wanted to ask something. ut he #hanged his mind hurriedly when $ raised his eyebrows. 1e pointed towards a flight of stairs....n elgaum, it was e,ident, a sha,ed head #ould get you pla#es. .nside, the mo,ie had already begun. !he heroes <yeah, there were two of them= were just about to break into a dan#e <Hum ko tum se pyar hai= while rows upon rows of sha,ed heads wat#hed with interest. 61ey, how #ome there are so many taklus ?6 a woman wanted to know as $ and his friend, after a few a##idental attempts at lowering themsel,es into the laps of perfe#t strangers, finally managed to find ,a#ant seats. 68hhh6 hushed the man beside her, 6-entlyH !hey are "ommandosH6 $ turned in his seat and grinned. 8ee, he seemed to say, what did . tell you5 &s the mo,ie progressed, there were the usual #at#alls and #omments <boys will be boysH=, espe#ially when the heroes de#ided to take the girl who was dan#ing with them for a bike-ride. 6Yeh night na,igation #hal raha hai...6 6)ommando 6 #ame another #all, 6mission shuru *ar! 0"tart the mission!16 6Yeh tho #haltayi rahata hai <!his will go on=6 $ says, 6>othing unusual. ut that%s the limit -- unless we are pushed.6 Fortunately, none among the audien#e thought it would interesting to do that. 8o two hours later, $ and his friends were enjoying tea at a restaurant in uptown elgaum. 6. am glad the ;' km run is o,er,6 $%s #olleague said, 6>ow it%s all right. 2ust (' more days to go...and the 4' km run. ut that should be okay, . guess.6 6/e had heard about the #ourse before -- so all these were e0pe#ted,6 $, who had #ome to the #amp straight from a posting in 8ia#hen, said, 6$t is not all that bad.6 On#e you do the #ourse, $%s #olleague took o,er, you #ome to realise that you are not a superman, you realise your limitations. 69oes it,6 he was asked, 6bring in any #hange in your attitude to others. & superiority #omple0 or something..56 6.t makes you mu#h more #onfident, it helps you realise your potentials,6 he answered, 6 ut it doesn%t make you superior or anything. /e are not taught we are superior to the #i,ilians <if that%s what you are referring to=. 2ust that when it #omes to doing #ertain things we #an do it. 6 ut yes, . must admit we ha,e fair-siBed egos, espe#ially regarding you <#i,ilians=. /hen we see one - there are many #oming to see us training - we feel %oh here is another 2o*er. what does he *now3% ut that%s be#ause we know we #an do things whi#h he #an%t. . wouldn%t #all that superiority. .t%s just that we are more #onfident. &nd irritated, too, be#ause the &rmy doesn%t get #redit for half the things it does.6 6"halo bhai,6 $ interrupted, 63et%s go out. /e ha,e to be ba#k soon. 7sse pehle tumko butterfly dekhna hai ki nahi56 $%s #olleague was all for it. !omorrow%s 4 am wake-up and the rest of it was far away. !oday was &dam day. &nd they had half an

hour to take sto#k of elgaum%s %butterflies% <with the #hi,alry of the army, of #ourseH= before it #ame to an end.

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