It all started on a rain soaked day on the 7th August 1981. Full of trepidations, expectation, excitement & enthusiasm to say the least. As the day progressed the sun started to shine to brighten the day out of damp to enhance the mood of a few of us. To be bundled in to march to the charge like a light brigade of Robert Bruce.
The journey from Sylhet to Chittagong by my favourite railway and then the whole day of waiting in the waiting room of the Chittagong railways station with gathering numbers of all aspiring youths joining the epitome of institution famously known as The BMA ( Bangladesh Military Academy) in drones. Full of excitements, adventure, thirst of achieving the coveted pinnacle of commissioning to start a new life.
A long haul to say the least and what an epic journey it had been. The future skippers of the military to safe guard the nation and the country from all magnitude of calamities in peace and in war. Those youths eyes were full of dreams, determination,exhilaration & aspirations.
The faces all looked new and very unknown - everyone was too busy in the mist of the fear,the reception and were busy bidding farewell to the student life. The real journey of life was about to commence for us all.
Amongst those faces managed become friendly with a few of them little did we all know that, in the next 24 hours our looks will nose dive to a scuba swim where the main features of face and the hairs and pride and joy of nice well manicured looks , lush long locks of the hippy era will all die a miserable death to make way for a new us where it just became incomprehensible to recognise the faces we befriended during excruciating wait at the railway station.
Railway stations from the western movies to the European ; everywhere it kind of plays a pivotal role in the myth of military personnels life’s intricate departure to arrival from joining to awol... From the Movies of John Wayne to sunflower every where the long, dark,empty, derelict or affluent railway station with its saloon bar to waiting room seems to play a role of protagonists accompaniment to enrich the climax of the arrival or the departure. It was no exception that day in the Chittagong Railway Station reminding the grandeur of a typical colonial railway station with the plush first class waiting room one 1st floor climbing a grand stair case’s oak panelled railing delicately hand carved with lavish long easy chairs seen in the early 20th century colonial era movies and tiled bath rooms and rest rooms to match the ambience of it’s affluence; an adjacent restaurant serving the best of Eastern Railways famous Buffet car style Mutton and rice or english lunch followed by with a nice bowl of mouth watering egg pudding. Nevertheless, the wait was too long for me since 08:30 hours till we were picked up by the NCO’s at about 19:30 hours.
Still remember a few names form that days till date - sadat ( who I happened to know before that day), Mahbub Raihan, Sarwar, Tariq, Zahir, Nafiz , Saker and of course my great old friend Nazim from Sylhet.
The process of entrance exam was too long and too far fetched - I have weathered the whole series of exams all on my own never went for any consultation or any briefing from any one who has appeared the exam and qualified or non qualified. Nor I ever engaged in any group reading or group discussion hence, I have had no one whose faces were familiar to me on the day of arrival.
All of sudden the sun just disappeared and the dark cloud blackened the whole area and a tremendous gust of wind started to blow from the Bay of Bengal and with it came the heavy rainfall within minutes the forecourt of the station was inundated with rain water, Time by my watch was 18:45 hours 3 Green Goddesses looking Progati made bedford buses started to wade through the knee deep water of the station’s forecourt. My pulses started to rise with excitement and I have not taken any briefing from any one as to what I will be facing once I am in there in BMA; Which I wanted intentionally ; I wanted to fetch the reality of the unknown and unchartered territory without any pre knowledge of it. Life has always been a challenge for me and I have been used to face the moment when it arrives. A line I have learned a book I read in college, where it said in the book i think it was a kind of proverb ,
‘’ I’ll cross the bridge once I get to it’’... but heard others were all talking as if they have been back and forth if not once , may be a few times.
I avoided to get in to the muck of the impending scenario......
A duty NCO with a sash crossed across the torso; a mammoth giant of a man was I think a Corporal ( erstwhile Nayek) came and introduced us in the concierge and politely asked us to get on board the bus with our luggages - I have had a massive suitcase ( this is what happens when one comes for this kind of joining without a pre course knowledge) - I had to carry that heavy full leather suitcase from the waiting room down the stairs to the hall way and then another set of stairs and lift it up so that does not get soaked in the monsoon waterlogged parking lot - exhausted already and after loading it I went in like a good boy and sat down on the twin seats right at the back on top of the real wheel bump on the bus floor. Funnily that became my trade mark seat later on in the army coaches all the time.
Slowly and gradually the bus starts to fill up and bus started rolling and I was memorising the road side neon lit shop sign boards - this was my hobby of reading shop signboards and started to do the same.. The bus was criss crossing through the station road to tiger pass via pahartoli and then dewan hat end near halishohor junction and towards the fauzdarhat - all very known area for me since 1976 - 1979.
The factories with their massive smoke chimneys releasing it’s curly toxic fumes in the atmosphere and their manicured lush green lawns and a bit of glimpse of the sea suddenly drove us in the gates of BMA after a little wait at the level crossing to make way for food grain silo rolling stocks pulled by a tired diesel engine with a big oozing noise coming out of those exhaust shafts. I guess the load were beyond the capacity of the engines pulling power.
There we go inside the Bangladesh Military Academy ; a 5 years old newly established pivotal training institution of the Army’s elite fraternity of commissioned officer cadets to be trained for their future role to serve the army with grace and honour and dignity.
The clash and dignity and the honour of it all immediately turned into a chaotic mess of shouting, pulling,bullying,making face and a frenzy of panic and intimidation gripped us all like as if a bee hives all bees gone berserk with stone thrown into the hive to unsettle the whole inhibition of the army of the bees.
drizzling, lack of light, heavy luggage, disorientation, tight fit and plush attires - the top hat and tail all were dripping wet and the eyes were blinded and the ear drums were all overwhelmed with decibels of noises made by human mouth all around just intensified the panic; a dry throat and the overall sense of pride and joy and honour all rolling in the thin air and some of it has fallen out of grace was the first taste of army life ; a reception......... and that was some reception ; that was !!
The pride, joy and the panache of the attire all mud ridden with all those frog jumps and running in the infamous soggy grass fields of the bhatiary valley and then called for the naming and allocation and attestation parade inside the office blocks where all giants of the makers of the leaders were awaiting to have the first glimpses of those who they will turn into leaders; trembling with fear, shivering with cold, disoriented with the sudden physical exertion and perplexed with the ferocity of the quantum of reception ; a bolt from the blue...brought all pride, personality, perspectives down to the hilt.
Mumbling with words and harsh broken voice with all those sudden shouting at the top of the voice breaking all the measures of sound pollutions decibels, the tiredness prompted a stammer and sentences all getting jumbled up ; felt like an unknown who am I ?
Only heaven knows what were we asked by those giants of human being and what we have answered; All I remember I spelt my name wrong and could not remember my date of birth and my words were inaudible to myself let alone them hearing. I was deep inside very exhausted and wanted to go back home ; I just could not bribe myself to like it. It was hard for me ; hard in the sense of shouting and hurling of words alien to me and did not make any sense and made me look foolish ; I could feel, the confidant image is broken into pieces like a shattered window pan......
Life just transformed into a different mould overnight. The immediate past memorable things of the civvies street days are all kind of temporarily wiped off from the memory bank. The pace of life has been excruciatingly painful and beyond any contemplation. A different life style; a unique culture, a world all by itself — no one shall ever be able to fathom or put a finger on the climax or the thrill and the romanticism of the life of a military academy.
The language was english - urdu ( roman urdu oral) and a typical of Bengali laced with colloquial accents and words alien to the most of us. Of course the caricature of the language that goes with it was another theatrical clownish acting to say the least.
The day to day life to pen is next to impossible to recapitulate and conceive it in totality is beyond the augment ability of this poor - disoriented - overwhelmed gentleman cadet.
Morning starts at night and night starts in dawn - dusk brings the avalanche of hurling, shouting, running and a stark reminder of starvation. The limits are pushed to the extremest of its scale. It was perilous and exhaustive to bear the brunt of the load suddenly laden on me.
The dream - the aspirations, the ego and above all the ambition took the biggest nose dive and turned into a callous zombie. Who barely remembers his own name and the constant tries of bullying( was I guess needed to shun the arrogance of civilian ) and shoving and the running errands have just confused me to the most. The eyes were open wide yet shut or senses were alert yet damp, the IQ was on the torque yet slow responsive.
Food and eating became history; the fast paces of the lifestyle and teaching of etiquette & mannerisms sliced the loaf into microscopic pieces to eat and swallow. The constant interface and the deplorable means of deprivation of solid food turned the body into a swing of dehydration and malfunctioning for those precarious few days. The body and mind and the soul were traversing from different direction. A gentleman called sergeant Nazrul though was full of beans and shouting and abusive yet was an oasis in the mist of it all. Though the association was temporary yet could feel the inner tenderness from the facade of the role of a hard nosed ruler to mentor the new comers to acclimatise with this transformation of life from the laid back student to a future protagonists of the military. What a gigantic of task and what transformation that has been !
The teachers looked like giants and gigantic of saviour and their calmness & the panache’ extinguished the fire a bit down and they looked like the greek warrior Achilles of the Trojan war... falling back to the base with grace, valour, vigour - pomp and accolades of winning like homer’s Ulysses. Looked like a breath of fresh air; an array of injecting life saving spirit to withstand the catastrophe.
Only heaven knows how did we all cope it and survived the apocalypse of mayhem of the joining the towering of all institutions ;