A week with the Indian Air Force

I’ve never been more than 50 Km away from my parents alone for more than 2 days and when I was, I was mostly under my blood relative’s protection. Not that I despised being with them, I voluntarily stayed with them. The point I want to prove is that I’ve never been on my own for once in 21 years. I never had the chance to live in hostel, or maybe went out for an outing that lasted more that one night. When I cleared AFCAT’s cutoff and received a call letter for the Service Selection Board(SSB) process I was excited. I’d heard before about the life that one experiences in SSB and how one remembers it throughout his life. I didn’t want to let this slot get filled with another week of boring life that I live here.

I scheduled my SSB date on 23 June, 3 months after I received the call. I chose this date specifically making critical analysis of a lot of things. I knew that my end term exams would be finished somewhere around mid June and then my Job would begin on 1 July. I also had a lot to do on my body which was expanding in every direction possible. Hence I joined a Gym the next week. The next three months passed with me working my ass out to burn as many kilos as I could. Precisely, a call for AFSB(Air Force Selection Board)  was the impulse I needed.

The judgement day came and I left for the unfamiliar destination, with a lot of doubts and a little fret. Nonetheless, I arrived there and the next few hours were hard to recall. Everything happened fast or maybe it didn’t. Maybe it was because I was drowsy as I could hardly close my eyes in the 7 hour-long journey via train. First day was a screening round. One had to clear all the tests on day one to proceed to phase two that would be 5 days long. I cleared it. Yes with my eyes almost closed half the time I managed to get through. We all were allotted a chest number, kind-of like an identification for the next 5 days. We all would henceforth be officially referred by our chest number. I was chest number 19. Whenever i heard this, I made my chest swell about 2 inches and I would feel ,for no reason, like an AirForce officer, though it was still a distant dream.

Next few days were a bunch of test that would test our psychology,physical fitness, group management and behavior, pilot aptitude test and what not. Group task were something I enjoyed the most.  Group Discussions, Group Obstacle Tasks, Group Planning etc were the most fun part of the stay. All these task made me feel different form the civilian life that I live back in Delhi.

Back at our rooms we were 10 different people from different cities speaking in different accent but were here for one common purpose. This was the first time I was in the same room with a Khalsa Sardar and people from Indore, Chandigarh etc. Since we knew our night would pass very dull we bought a pack of cards. It did us well for all the 4 days. We 11 people(100 from our room and one from a different room) would play cards for 2-3 hours and making endless fun of any newbie’s mistakes in the game. These 10 people made me laugh enough for my throat to act up. After the second day I could hardly say a sentence without muting  a few words. It took a week for my voice to return to normal. Sometimes we all had a very heated discussion on some irrelevant topic that we would need some distraction and we found that in those swimming calmly in sweet dreams. I can’t describe the pleasure it gave us to wake our asleep friends with ice chilled water. Some of them reacted exactly the way we wanted to. 😀 Yes some of us had the most evil mind in the whole lot.

Food was good as per my expectations of mess food. What else could a hungry and tired student want other than Chicken Curry or Egg Curry at night. Last night was a feast for us. But in this 5 day journey what I remember the most is not the food or the different life i lived there. I remember the people I met, I remember surviving 5 days without my cellphone and no internet, no connectivity to outside world except for a few minutes when we get to call our homes. These 5 days made me realize that had we been allowed to keep our cellphones, these days would have passed pathetically boring and I would have detested my decision of coming here. Whatever be their purpose of taking away our phones, it worked well for me. Although, I regret that I could not make it to the final list of selects I still did not feel bad as my purpose for being there was more or less fulfilled. I was going home with some wonderful memories and just one picture of the whole group together. 🙂AFSB

(Contd.) 7 days off from life

I left Mumbai, before the city was asleep, and I was thinking why couldn’t the roads be at 12 noon in Mumbai as well as in Delhi as they were at 4 AM. Nevertheless, I was off from Mumbai and reached Goa in about 3 hours. 1 hour flight and 2 hours in checking in at airport. Yes it took 2 hours to check in and get through security.

 

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Meanwhile, I was about to experience the most captivating sunrise of my whole life from 7000 feet. Probably the most enchanting 10 minutes of my life.

Goa was relatively clean, green and a lot less dense.Yes population of Goa is 1.458 million and Mumbai is 20.7 million. (This is not me but wiki speaking). I remember, while landing at Mumbai, I could see a forest of ghetto(slums) and  we flew just a few hundred meters over them. But Goa was poles apart from that.

While driving down from Airport to the city, it felt a lot better and HOT .( I mean that in literally 😐 ). It felt like 35 degrees outside at 8 in the morning. We were driving down the hills (yes, i was surprised too that there were hills in Goa) and I was sweating. It was quite the opposite weather I expected. We reached our hotel and I crashed in my room for a power nap.

We left for some sight seeing at 1 PM and It was this moment that I realized we need to keep in at this time of the day when it was blazing like a furnace. Yes, in Goa.

We first stopped at Dona Paula. The sun was still flaming  and hence we kept our visit here very brief, enough to capture the relevance of this place and the story behind it. It is  remembrance to two lovers(Dona Paula, Portuguese Viceroy’s daughter  and a Goa Fisher)  who chose to die rather being separated.

statue of dona paula

Effigy of Dona Paula and her lover.

Though i was getting roasted , to what i generally call TANDORI CHICKEN , the place was so aesthetic that I managed to survive a few more minutes.

Next, we stopped by one of the beaches en route – Miramar Beach. It was a nice place, but as “The lord of light” was getting more clement upon us I suggested we spend the next hour sitting under a coconut tree , where it felt like a sudden 10 degree temperature drop, and then maybe cross the ocean of live coal because there was no way I was getting my feet sand baked. Hence, we spent the next hour with the wind in our hair and sand at our feet.

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I accept that is very weird. 😀

Sitting idle is a very tiring. It wasn’t long when were famished.  So I , again being a life saver, suggested we utilize this reserve time. It was my second meal of the day ,after breakfast at hotel, and this probably was the best meal in the past 4 days. After the encounter with curries at Mumbai, this was a  scrumptious meal.

 

Kingfish Curry.
Kingfish curry

After this tremendously fulfilling bite, sun finally came down and it was time for some fun in water.

Next day was similar, with a visit to another local beach – Calangute beach. Learning from the past day, we decided to hit the roads at 4 in the afternoon this time so that we reach when it’s sunset. It was a lot pleasant and easy to survive the day this time.

Since the day we arrived at Goa, we were constantly reminded of visiting this amazing beach – Palolem beach with water so blue that one would be mesmerized. So we reserved the coming day  for this exotic visit, because it was 60 Km away from where we lodged ourselves and it would consume a whole day. Moreover, we did not had much to do here so this seemed like a good investment.

When we arrived at the said beach, my first reaction was ❓ where is the blue water? People said, it is high tide and to get into water that clear you either need to wait or go 2 KM inside ocean. 😐 World is full of deception.

Palolem_sunset

 

Nonetheless, the place was way better than I explained. Well the sunset made it so. After having a snack and some water play, we left exhausted and drowsy. Once again, I crashed on the bed as we reached back, though my mind was not thnking about rest at the moment. It was occupied with the truth that it would be my last night in Goa and tomorrow I was to leave for home. It was the first time in 7 days that I did not want to go back to my more than abnormal life.