NDA Memoirs

By -
The sixth and the final term for the 35th course NDA  had begun on 12 July 1968. In the sixth term , being the seniors , the  cadets, indulge themselves  in minor privileges of bypassing some inconsequential unique to NDA regulations. Trivial liberties give them the pleasure  of notional liberation from the strict mentally and physically gruelling syllabus . I  had this gain within six months of reporting to  the Academy having joined in penultimate fifth term as a special entry cadet ( ND)

My alloted cabin was on the first floor in the tea room flank . Flank cabins were largely occupied by senior cadets . My adjacent neighbours were Anil Thapar and Raman Prem Suthan . Anil Thapar was one among the three Division Cadet Captain of Lima squadron and one among the thirty six in the Academy. Prem ! (Prem Suthan naam hai mera ) was however destined for achieving greater heights . He was the BCA of number 3 battalion , one among the three Battalion Cadet Adjutant  . A position of responsibility which is given to three outstanding and deserving cadets . The Battalion Cadet Adjutant is crucial cog in the wheel of all those responsible for the cadet's discipline of his battalion . It meant that he had to be robustly commanding , know of things and feared by the cadets . 

Contrary to it 19 years old Prem ( Love) , like his name suggested ;had a preputial wide warm smile on his handsome fresh smooth dusky face and a sunny expression of lascivious boyhood. No way he was a stiff looker and natural bullshitter .  He nevertheless worked hard to be one . Feared and in control BCA , he did become . No doubts there. 

On a pleasant clear and sunny  Sunday morning Anil Thapar whilst chitchatting with his course mates with a large porcelain mug of tea held firmly in his large palm , on an impulse , decided casually to take to Academy boxing tournament scheduled to start on 06th September and end on 12th October . There was a green rationale for him to be in it . Though unofficially crowned as Mr NDA , as there was never such a sport at NDA ; each one of his rippling muscle was proof that he was indeed made for the macho sport . He overlooked that the last boxing bout he had, was during novices boxing  in the first term . Every cadet joining the Academy has to engage in it . From the period between first and sixth term much water had flown under the bridge . There were many cadets who had excelled in this courageous demanding sport and had been awarded with Boxing Blazer and Blue . He saw himself as a late bloomer albeit confident like a lion from Lion (Lima) squadron. 

Eleven cadets from Ghana , a small country in West Africa known for best Cocoa and her first prime minister Kwame Nkrumah had joined the 36th course as special entry cadets in June 1968 ( NDs) . Like me they too were taken in into the fifth term . 

Ghana is  known  for extremely friendly, helpful, peaceful and polite people. Indeed the Ghanaian cadets were polite and nice . What however was strange for them to fathom that many of the Indian cadets had never seen before in blood and flesh a  West African . They had an awesome natural god given six pack physical built , woolly hair, large black eyes , thick lips and ruggedly handsome appearance . So playing tough and physically exhausting sports came naturally to them . Boxing and football justifiably for them then was a chosen sport in which they excelled . It is little surprise that the star Afro-American  boxers of US and footballers of South America have an African lineage, predominantly West African . 

All of them without any exception won their novices boxing bout . The unfortunate few who had to face them , be it the famed ex RIMC , Sainik School , King George school.......types had  to lick their wounded pride . 

Among the eleven star Ghanaian boxers , the two who excelled the most were cadet ARS Nunu from Kilo squadron and JAN Dennis from Foxtrot. Nunu when in his sixth and final term had the distinction of becoming Divisional Cadet Captain . A achievement which had never been made by a special entry cadet ( ND ) . He was tall , dark , handsome and a confident young man. Whereas Dennis the brightest among them was short muscular and stocky . Not a centimetre taller than 165 , he trundled at a measured purposeful pace . He could not remain unnoticed , such was his presence . His large big ox like black eyes judged and registering the ciphered and strange  amusing fancy definitions of smartness of the Indian cadets. 

Academy boxing tournament was some days away. Meanwhile the boxing skills and prowess of Dennis and Nunu were the talk among cadets . Anil Thapar too got to know about it . He would have to box with Dennis, being in the same weight . There wasn't iota of doubt in his mind that it wouldn't be smooth sailing . Indeed he had the strength of a lion but he was equally aware that boxing was not just brute force and muscle game but more of a skilled sport . He ,never a looser ,  wanted to prove nonetheless , his impulsive decision to go into boxing tournament proper. Prem
Suthan encouraged and backed him . 

Anil was aware that boxing was not merely a strong man game . His course mate from Delta squadron , Kieth Jonas , though built like a mosquito , purely because of his scientifically honed skills , had his opponents yielding to his punches , jabs and hooks . He rained them on his rivals in an art form . The boxer who was equally capable and was in Anil's  Lima squadron was cadet DV Philip. Naturally he asked him for guidance and learning. For Philip boxing was worship  . For him it was eat , sleep and dream boxing. 

To start , the first lesson in boxing Philip said to Anil

 " There is no such thing as unbeatable. Find the opponent's weak point ,understand and exploit it , press on it and sure you will win. " 

Wise saw indeed . 

Lesson number two for Anil was to work on his stamina . Skipping rope , long distance running- to Peacock bay and back , boat pulling  was his  workout routines for building endurance . It  became his mantra . In the three rounds bout , staying power mattered . Indeed . 

The third lesson ; Dan Philip said to Anil 

" Look and concentrate into opponent eyes like a hawk . They are window to his mind . Read them and understand his intention before you act . Never ever let your eyes wander  .  " 

It was another of his wise homilies on boxing from a boxer of distinction who slept dreaming boxing bouts .   

Anil would routinely practice his punches be it jab, cross, hook, uppercut, punch ...... using a hand wrap . The cylindrical punching bag was slung on a cross bar , the ends supported at the wooden beam of the doors of opposing cabins in the tea room flank . He needed someone to hold on to the bag . Oh dear! for that he tasked me for it . Indeed I was for all practical purposes a rookie sixth term cadet and had to oblige as if ordered to a junior cadet .

The final gyan preached to Anil was 

" Your boxing begins from the first stroke of the gong , not just when you are hurt or angry. You need to have steel in your heart iron in your fist and an unshakable belief to win . " 

The boxing tournament began on a slow note . To the shock and awe of boxing fans , each of the bout with Dennis folded in the first round with Dennis knocking out the opponent . It mattered not whether the opposition came from boxing Blazer or Blue holder . He made it to the finals with absolutely no sweat . He was like Sugar Ray Robinson . Wins through knockout. Period. 

 Dennis brutal sledgehammer punch had the force of millions of Newtons. Sure if delivered bare fist , it could fracture the ribs of a bull . His excessive reliance on the power of his punch was his weakness too . He liked to knock down his opponents in the first round itself. He didn't work on his stamina . This crucial omission in his work up did not go unnoticed by sharp , agile and superbly fit Anil Thapar . 

Thapar on the other hand made to the finals labouring through each of his bouts . He was boxing in the tournament first time and it wouldn't be an overstatement to admit that he was a rookie as compared to his seasoned opponents . But win he did , and made it to the boxing finals . Such was his determination. Josh ! 

So the stage was set for the mother of all  the boxing bouts which the cadets and staff of the National Defence Academy were about to witness . The stadium was filled to capacity. There was not an inch of room between the anxious spectators. Such an amazing excitement was never seen before. 

In the red corner wearing a long coat stood mocking at Anil , cadet Jonathan Ahin Nanabanyim Dennis (ND220) . He looked in control , composed and confident. Three C's . In the blue corner stood ramrod erect Mr NDA , Division Cadet Captain -Anil Thapar ( 6887) . His jaws clenched and his expressive eyes filled with determined resolution. 

Anil had tonsured his head and shaved off all his body hair . The new look handsome Anil looked overwhelmingly threatening . Both the boxers had light lunch and  were poised for the the battle with confident expression and sparkle in their eyes . Lt Cdr RD Lewin the affable chain smoking tall giant with a thinning hairline and a beer belly was the referee . 

Standing tall in the centre of the boxing ring , Lewin outstretched both his arms , his palms bent inwards . He looked casually at the boxers and then moved his arms bending them inward towards himself. It was the signal for the boxers to close him for inspection. The cornermen for Dennis - Nunu and Dan Philip for Anil eased out and got out of the ring , whispering their last bit of advise and tapped their backs as an expression of encouragement. 

RD Lewin held the boxer's gloves and in turns inspected them . Then he asked the boxers to open their mouth for inspection of the jaw and teeth . His inspection was relaxed , deceptive and perfunctorily serious. He then  in a friendly tone said : 

"Let's have a clean fight, touch hands, back to your corners . " 

The boxing gong for the first round to begin was rung . The noise  of cadets continues chatter and it's harmonics pervading the the arena came to instant stop . Pin drop. The  boxers, both of them , busy trotting on the spot until then , moved from their corners . Lewin moved away to give the boxers the room . Dennis like a Rhino and Thapar like a Lion sprang on their feet . Both of them focused and alert . 

Dennis as was his wont looked for an opening to deliver a sledgehammer  lightening knockout punch . Thapar calm and cool took a defensive posture. His strategy was to tire out Dennis . Whilst Dennis proactively came towards him , ready with any of the practiced eight boxing punches , Thapar backed off at each successfully , either reducing the impact or getting clear of his hissing vicious Jab , Cross, Uppercut ,  Hook ............ . Lewin noticed it and commanded Anil to engage . Thapar bowed and seriously went in towards Dennis , his eyes zoomed , senses alert and ready to hit Dennis. But it was not easy . Dennis saw him coming towards him and unleashed a lead uppercut . It landed on Thapar's tonsured handsome face with full force . The impact was so forceful that Anil instantly saw all together stars and the heavenly bodies in the afternoon . He would have dropped but luck was on his side . At that very moment the bell rang , bringing to an end the first round . 

The cornermen rushed to attend to their boxing heroes . They pulled inside the ring a small wooden stool for the boxers to drop down and sit on it . Without wasting a second , the cornermen got busy . Chop chop they gave short tugs at the boxers shorts and the boxers tucked their stomachs . Then with a hand towel they wiped the sweat and fanned the boxers . The boxers like a goat brought for slaughter left themselves to the cornermen's care  . 

The crowd of spectators were making their own conclusions in hissed voices . The way Mr NDA was boxing perplexed them . His performance did not please them . He was their hero and they expected a better fight . 

The panel of judges struck the gong with a mallet . The cornermen gave their specialist advise . The boxers moved . Anil liked to win . The strategy of first tiring Dennis and then move in for a kill was not his way of being. He knew nevertheless that it was futile to match Dennis boxing technique and power . Thapar glanced around the stadium at the flushed excited faces surrounding him . But he very patiently did not let emotions takeover . As planned beforehand he continued  wearing out the opponent as per the well thought out game-plan . By the end of second round Thapar watched with delight , frustrated Dennis had a tired expression on his handsome face . His strength was a victim to weak stamina and short endurance . He moved around like a tired bull in a bullfight and Anil in the role of a matador . The gong was sounded and the boxers withdrew to their corners . 

Although the bout between Anil and Dennis was an inter squadron tournament competition, but by any standard it was turning to be an International championship competition. Cadets from F squadron too were hooting for Anil's victory. The few supporters Dennis had , were his remaining ten Ghanaians compatriots , the Squadron officers of Foxtrot and few loyalists. 

The cornermen came rushing . The boxers both had a unmistakable cold sober determined expression. The judges were busy with the score card . It didn't need an Einstein's mind to estimate who had scored more . The cadets all of them , in the role of cheerleaders raised there voices to an ear shattering crescendo and together in unison and  in waves roared  " Up up Lion. " It could be heard in the nearby D3 residential bungalows disturbing the afternoon siesta of ' Young fauji officers lady wives , Madam !  .' There was a weak and faint response from Foxtrot unmatched to that coming for Lima , the Lions . 

Dennis sat on the small uncomfortable stool , his heavy large buttocks protruding , sweating and panting softly , immersed in waves of self disgust for not having made a short work of Anil . The thought of it overwhelmed him . The scent of Dennis sweat and sight of him panting filled Anil's head . He recognised that his strategy of tiring Dennis was beginning to show . The judges struck hard at the gong with a mallet for the final round . Immediately there was total silence . Comically science block siren whistled breaking the morbid silence of the cheering party assembled to watch the mother of all the boxing bouts . 

Thapar moved like Muhammad Ali . Fleet footed and agile . Like his one of the famous quotes " Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee." Dennis on the contrary was slow and impatient. Somewhat like Sony Liston . Robust and broad shouldered, Anil knew his time was now . Balancing himself with the ease of an acrobat he let go a flurry of powerful punches at Dennis . Every eye of among those present ,  like that of  Arjun , the cherished shishya of Guru Dronacharya was on the boxing two . Dennis charged on him . Anil heard the fluting sound of Dennis's gloved fist . He quickly ducked . He saw close up the glistening black face of Dennis and cave of a mouth lined with huge white teeth . 

Anil arched back without taking his eyes off him . He could see the mad light in Dennis eyes . Anil was a good five inches taller than Dennis. He used his advantage of reach and let go aggressive punches giving Dennis no respite . It had its effect . Dennis movement became uncoordinated: he was tired and his responses were dulled . The watchers yelled for Anil , urging on his implacable opponent . 

Sweat greased Dennis cheeks and his expression crumpled . Anil was clearly getting at him . Dennis now was on defence . He was no longer counter - attacking . He was clearly exhausted . Anil seized the moment . He landed a short stiff forceful punch at Dennis . Dennis threw himself back to avoid it but it was late . In quick time , Anil hit him with an uppercut and Dennis buckled and went down on his knees. This was not what Dennis had expected. 

"Stop." A stern authoritative command was given by Lewin . It was loud enough to be heard by the excited crazy spectators. Anil stood still. A strange expression was spread across his face , like that of an awakening of a dreamer . Dennis laboured to stand . Lewin looked at stupefied him . His arms extended , Lewin put the palms of both his hand towards Dennis face . Dennis nodded and motioned as if wanted to hang on and fight . Lewin however decided to discontinue the bout . He called both the boxers to come closer . He held the right hand of Thapar and left hand of Dennis . Then he turned towards the judges , and then with one smart and sharp movement lifted Anil Thapar's hand . 

The cadets as spectators went wild. A tsunami of ear shattering loud noise travelled through the air . It was a magical moment . 

Anil Thapar the gentleman hugged Dennis . In return Dennis sportingly patted his back . It was an end to an amazing bout . Although the cadets mistakenly understood it as a knockout victory, but Lewin stopped the bout as a technical knockout (TKO) . It is when a boxer is deemed by the referee to be unable to defend himself properly . 

But why I am writing all this . 

Because courses to come and join NDA , it may well be, will scarce believe that such a boxing bout as this in flesh and blood took place between two equally determined boxers .  Anil Thapar of 35th course and Jonathan Ahin Nanabanyim of 36th course ever took place . 

Because it is seared into memory as if placed there by white hot branding iron . 

Because I was the one who held the practice cylindrical punching punch bags for Anil  . The bag , though acted as a buffer between his punches and me , nevertheless had me guessing the power of his arms .

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