Dealing deftly with the cadets : The Tribune India

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Dealing deftly with the cadets

Dealing deftly  with the cadets


Col Jaspal Singh Chandoak (retd)

In December 1977, I arrived at my alma mater — the National Defence Academy (NDA), Khadakwasla (Pune) — as an instructor. I was posted as Squadron Commander of the ‘Juliet’ Squadron. Many civilian instructors of my time as a cadet (1959-62) were still going strong. I was privileged to serve under Deputy Commandant (then Commodore) VS Shekhawat and Battalion Commander (then Wing Commander), No. 3 Battalion, AY Tipnis. They rose to be Chiefs of the Navy and the Air Force, respectively.

Boys will not be boys if they are not up to some mischief, even though they are disciplined cadets. They sometimes forget that their commanders have gone through similar situations. ‘Fibbing’ is common, but cognisance is taken only in extreme cases. Cadets ‘A’ and ‘B’ went on a weekend leave to Mumbai. They overstayed (probably for what they felt were good reasons, to spend more time with their girlfriends) and sent a telegram, a common mode of communication in those days: ‘Cadet ‘A’ met with an accident — jaw fractured and lungs punctured — admitted Breach Candy Hosp’. On return, Cadet ‘B’ was asked to put the same in writing. I felt that this was an apt case for an investigation. The NDA headquarters wrote to Breach Candy Hospital and, as expected, the reply was negative. Both of them got the tohfa they deserved.

Cadet ‘C’, in his fifth term, suddenly became highly undisciplined. As normal counselling did not have the desired effect and he was very near ‘withdrawal’ (NDA term for dismissal), I decided to deal with him in a personalised and unconventional manner. I invited him to my residence. Over a cup of tea, he gave vent to his feelings of helplessness and dismay at pressing domestic problems. I told him that all problems are transitory and he must look ahead. As to punishment, much beyond his belief, I said there would be none. Lo and behold! The counselling had a magical effect, and he became a disciplined cadet from the very next day. Eventually, Cadet ‘C’ passed out in December 1979. It was a worthwhile case study of ‘change of attitude’ due to personalised and ‘out-of-the-box’ counselling.

It was a pleasant surprise to run into Cadet ‘C’ (then a Major) a decade later. He said to me: ‘Sir, I owe my commission to you for forgiving all my misdeeds.’ It was a humbling experience, and at the same time, I was overwhelmed with pride.

#Indian Air Force #Indian Army #Indian Navy #National Defence Academy NDA


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