Monday, March 24, 2008

First Term: The Beginning of an End

First Term is usually the most remembered (and MOST PHOTOGRAPHED) of rest of the three terms as it is the transformation stage from a raw young man to a cadet and a would be officer. The echoes of howling drill staff and the newly promoted inters still resound in our memories. The merciless haircut at the barber's shop was the first occasion when from dandies we became hair-starved cadets and certainly most of us were unrecognizable. The thumb sized photographs are a true testament of this.  

I still recall the good old "Chacha" who took more than half an hour for my haircut and while doing so, he confided that he is doing a mere five minutes' job in thirty minutes as once I left the shop, hell would lose on me. And how right he was - the moment I left the shop, I was cornered by a group of howling Inters and what followed next in the form of front rolls and the frog jumps is another story. The cruel haircuts stayed with us as long as we stayed in PMA and twice a month we were to visit the shop, mostly on Sundays lest a hair dared to peep out of our berets.

Ragging just for nothing and drinking the famous "PMA Cocktail" was yet another feast that juniors had to taste wherever spotted by inters and above - reminding us the story of wolf and the lamb. And standing in front of the sergeant's room throughout the night seemed like a dream.

Then there was the saluting test, without which the much awaited Sunday would be a waste since the un-qualifiers of saluting test were forbidden this privilege. The drill competition was yet another occasion which was more of prestige point for the drill staff rather than the platoon itself.  

Having group photos is exclusive to the first termers. And Nawab Sahib, the official photographer of the academy knew it and never let go any occasion without being shot.

 Shared by Mirza Saleem Beg: Who is the guest - can anyone guess?
Dinner Night (courtesy Zahir Khan)

 Sir 'relegees' with a first termer
Bleeding smiles: IF BSM Jalil was the chief guest, you can make out would have happened after the dinner night!!

Our first encounter with true military life was when the course went for the camouflage and concealment exercise outside PMA. We were made to crawl in a muddy nullah and apply the wet mud on our faces (the same way Arnold Schwarzenegger did in the film "Predator"). We found it more exciting and interesting rather than fatigue - herein under are a few photos showing how we looked.
 Camouflage and Concealment Exercise: Can you make out Who is Who?? 
Photos shared by Mirza Saleem Beg(above) Jalal (below) 
Can you make out which platoon is this?
 Abbas and Solehria: Gearing up for concealing them

Group Photo: Tariq-I
25 fresh cadets joined Tariq-1 in May 1975 and 3 relegated cadets from 54th PMA L/C, making total of 28 - out of which 27 passed out on 17th April 1977. We had two casualties i.e.  Arshad and Janjua, who were relegated. Arshad Aziz later lost his life in road accident while coming back from Murree. Later from this lot, two more brothers were lost: Gen Javed Sultan and Col Zahid Rasool. (Contributed by Colonel Muhammad Asif)

Weapon cleaning: Fun With danger of getting caught with incomplete cleaning kit

Life in barracks: K-4

Elementary Drill Competition and Saluting test was yet another hallmark event of the first term. The eight platoons of the junior term marched into the drill square in uniforms that were made of steel, and not of cloth as extra 'kalf' was applied on these specific to the occasion.

 Dress Inspection: SM Bashir (above) and Major Tanvir (Adjutant First Pak) below

Like all platoons Khalid-4 too marched in with lot of zeal and enthusiasm and with a 'resolve' to win the competition for which we had worked really hard. We did top the list - but while announcing the results, the list was read upside down by the adjutant and instead of topping the the competition, we were declared 8th!!

Was there any recreation for the juniors? Yeah the weekly film shows at the auditorium. We could hardly call it as fun as the juniors were to sit in a manner that their Kojak like shaved heads shouldn't be visible from everyone sitting behind. And who said we weren't seen? Since soon after the show was over, the senior most cadet sergeant major (ASM or the BSM) would graciously tell everyone to leave but the juniors. Who after a blasted speech on our indiscipline, would take us to the adjacent athletic ground and then another event would set in. Those who were smart out of the rest, would take cover of night and sneak away behind the Second Pakistan Battalion lines - leaving the rest play the national anthem on the double.

The other entertainment was visit to Abbottabad and having window shopping besides food at famous Mona Lisa and seeing a movie in a local cinema hall. Unlucky ones would still get caught for some "inappropriate" behaviour by the seniors and asked to report to their sergeant or CSM for appropriate "reward". But all this didn't deter juniors either from seeming movies in PMA or visiting Abbottabad.

Our first Eid came while sometime away from the term break - so the eid was spent in PMA. A get together was held at the officers' mess of the PMA and it was for the first time we broke the barriers of cadet specific areas to the officers' living areas. Here are a few photos of Khalid-4 GCs posing with the academic platoon commander Captain Naqvi

Shirazi holding one of the children of Capt Naqvi - graduate knows the art of !!!!!!
A memorable photo of Khurshid on Eid day with Qizalbash

The First Term ended finally in October 1977 and the best part of the end show was the much awaited end term break with complete one month leave - but just before the passing out parade of the 52nd Long Course came the "Golden Night" when the senior term cadets become the junior most for a few hours. 

This provides a golden opportunity for the juniors to vent out their grievances on the seniors but all is done in a lighter mood - not as a revenge but as a happy farewell to those who had been their seniors in varying shades for three terms.

Thus with this happy ending, the first term was finally over. After the passing out parade of 52nd PMA Long Course, we were promoted to the second term and became Inters - but before that, there was the long awaited one month term break. Putting aside the physical and mental bruises being part of the game, we all went to our waiting parents and siblings (for some it was meeting with their sweet hearts too).