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0647 hours. As printed on the day's schedule, the National Defence Academy's 108th Passing Out Parade began dot on time.

For latecomers, the stern notice at the Academy’s grand entrance -- which had been put up at least a day in advance -- warned that the gates would be closed should stragglers show up late.

So at 6.30 am when most of the country was yet to stir for a morning cup of tea, the NDA at Khadakvasla in Pune was thronging with people.

Officers, parents, relatives, guests... all making their way to the Khetarpal parade ground to see the 277 graduating cadets make that last ceremonial journey out of the portals of this historic institution.

The parade -- commanded by Academy Cadet Captain Vishal Prakash -- included 685 junior and senior cadets in 14 contingents and dressed in white patrol uniform.

ACC Vishal Prakash commanded the cadets with such power that his voice -- sans a microphone -- resonated through the ground and was clear enough for civilians in the audience.

Every year, the passing out parade is held at the Khetarpal ground, named after young Second Lieutenant Arun Khetarpal and NDA alumnus who died fighting Pakistani troops in the 1971 war, a mere six months after he was commissioned into the Indian Army. He was awarded the Param Vir Chakra, the nation's highest honour for gallantry.

Also read: Kargil's First Hero

Reportage: Archana Masih | Photograph: Jewella C Miranda
Design: Uday Kuckian

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