Text: Archana Masih
Photographs: Reuben NV
Twenty years from now, men will be ready to die for me, but not for you.'This is what a cadet at the National Defence Academy in Khadakvasla, Pune, tells his friends pursuing engineering when they discuss how much money they will make in their careers compared to him.
It is an explosive response for someone who is just 21 but that is not what makes it so staggeringly impressive. It is the belief with which it is said that gives it gravitas.
In a country bankrupt of many new heroes and an army of youngsters focused on campus placements and pay packages, the conviction
of these young men is truly heartening. To hear them speak convincingly about country and duty when nationalism is often restricted to tokenism.
The Indian Army confronts a worrying shortage of 11,200 officers. At the NDA -- the premier training institute for future officers of the army, navy and air force -- the first term cadets number 197, its lowest intake in many years; the NDA's average capacity is 300 per course.
About Rs 8,200 is what a newly commissioned officer gets paid after four-and-a-half years of rigorous training -- paltry compared to what Class 12 students at swanky call centres earn every month. Most observers believe a revision in wages will bring in more aspirants into the armed forces, if and when it were to happen.
In spite of that, there are young men who think of the armed forces as their true calling. Some have spurned other lucrative jobs, others have defied their parents to undergo three years of training at the NDA to become fine officers and gentlemen.
Rediff.com met some NDA cadets this week. Men who will become leaders of men and of whom great things will be expected of one day. A Republic Day Special.
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