The next day at 1:30 am
The alarms installed in the Asser army camp rang at a high pitch at 1:30 am, creating a pandemonium. Major Arya’s voice rang through the intercoms stationed at every nook and cranny of the campus.
” Sergeants, you have twenty minutes for freshening up and reaching to the ‘ Balidaan ground’. You’ll be allowed to savour only a glass of milk and a handful of almonds. Mind you, the intensive training starts from today.”
There was horror on everyone of their faces. After a quick shower, the sergeants donned their army fatigues, before trudging towards the canteen.
” My dear sergeants. Hell will break loose now.I have been ordered to give you only milk and almonds.” Maqdood chacha muttered, scowling.
” Chacha, hurry up. Give us our almonds.” Rabia pleaded while adjusting her collar cuffs.
” Chacha, who is this Danisha?” Girish was inquisitive to know.
” I want to know too. Who is she? She was demeaning all of us yesterday night.” Bakhtiar roared.
” Come on. These are military ways. They have every right to disparage us. We have chosen this.” Suleman added taking his fill of almonds.
” I know. She looks like a demented middle aged harridan. ” Somya puckered her lips while chewing her almonds.
” Did you see the scar on her face. Looks like encountered them in bed. WILD CAT.” Rabia burst into laughter.
” WILD MIDDLE AGED CAT.I guess she was in bed with a certain sergeant who drew a gash on her cheek for not being able to satisfy him. Have you seen her paunch.No wonder she’s hiding some kangaroo in it.” Somya laughed hysterically.
” Kids. Have some respect. Danisha ma’am is a respectable Major sergeant. She has been fighting terrorists since many years now. And Vikram sir..He was..” Maqdood chacha was attempting to complete his sentence when the final alarm chimed.
” Go kids. Brace yourself well. You are taking this lightly. See what is in store for you.” Maqsood chacha nodded his skull.
Dully and Lalli bounded up to the canteen after getting up late.
” We have been late. We have had only three hours of sleep.Holy shit! Chacha give us the almonds.” Lalli schreeched. Both of them grabbed a handful of the dry fruit and gulped them while fastening their belts.
All the segeants sprinted to the ‘Balidan ground’ where Danisha, Major sergeant Arya and a couple of senior sergeants stood majestically. Their silhouettes against the backdrop of the colossal mountains looked magnificent.
” Sergeants. As you all know, the gruelling 40 days’ training, to earn the red band, for which every sergeant would die for, will commence now. These 40 days will decide if you are worth the mettle or not.” Danisha gave an impassioned talk.
Lining all of them up, they were asked to wear backpacks bearing 30 kgs of weight while brandishing their Colt Automatic Rifle-15.
” The person next to you will be your buddy, during the training for whom you will be responsible. The first feat that you need to accomplish is the forty km endurance run which will start from Asser, go up to Bhumta , to Chandooli and back to Asser. All the sergeants will be dispatched for the run in a group of seven.” Danisha ordered.
All the sergeants were divided into groups containing six sergeants. Bhaktihar, Suleman, Dully, Lalli, Girish, Somya and Rabia, Daniel were in a group.
” I am ready to be your buddy, you motherfucker.” Bakhtihar said in a hushed tone to Suleman who shrugged his shoulders, giving him a wink.
Lalli and Daniel–a local sergeant from Boshir–agreed to be buddies for the training so did Dully and Somya. Rabia wanted to be Girish’s buddy as right from the time they all stepped their foot on Asser camp, she had been smitten by him.
Placing her foot on the stirrups, Danisha grabbed the saddle horn and mounted her horse.
” Move forward, sergeants. Buck up. You need to showcase exemplary grit, courage and precision to earn the red bands which is a dream for many.” Danisha coaxed them to start the run.
The sergeants started the run in groups. They trudged along the route with Danisha, Major sergeant Arya and the medical team in tow. The sergeants managed to run efficiently for a few kilometers, wearing the thirty kg bags, however, after ten kms, their ordeal started.
” My ankles are sore.” Suleman moaned as he clomped on the road which was laden with potholes.
” Shucks..Keep on braving the onslaughts. My leg is aching, though, the pain is bearable than smelling your soiled socks, back in the camp.” Bakhtiyar quipped, lifting Suleman’s arm and helping him curl it around his muscular shoulders.
” Am I running or am I dead? Is my soul accomplishing this feat? Impossible.” Lalli gasped sticking out his tongue out.
” It’s your soul, Lalli.You died when we started. The soul escaped from your burly body.” Daniel spurt out the words as perspiration flowed from his entire being.
Dully was huffing and puffing when Somya lifted and balanced him on her back for some distance.
” Saviour, as you are, you will be blessed by Shitla mata. You will get a great groom for the service that you extended to me, Somya.” Dully was beaming as he almost slept on Somya’s back.
But, with a thud, she plonked him on the road.” Pray to Shitla mata for a wife to lug you around. I need no groom.” Somya told him teasingly.
” Did you have a girlfriend?” Rabia asked Girish as they were plodding away.
” No.Never had the time to have one. And now, my focus is on becoming the best sergeant and earn the red badge.” Girish said lumbering on adjusting his heavy backpack.
“Glance around. You will find many other things to focus upon.” Rabia said smirkingly.
Smiling, Girish nodded his head. He was well aware that Rabia had gone nuts over him.
The sergeants clomped their way on their designated route, stumbling, plopping down, then getting up. At every ten kilometers there were kiosks, where they were provided with half a glass of water to satiate their thirst.
When they reached the camp, they were sleep deprived, famished and exhausted. They plonked on the ‘Balidan ground’ for a shut eye, only to be awakened after a few minutes.
They were to now balance a fifty kg log of wood on their back, with one end of it serving as an axis on the ground. They were to make hundred circular rounds lugging the other end. This was something that needed immense strength which the soldiers were bereft of. Some of them passed out, only to be revived by the medical team. After a halt, they had to start the activity all over again. Danisha and Major sergeant Arya were egging on the sergeants to give their best.
At midnight, the soldiers were relieved and sent to their tents to rest and brace for the next day that would start at 3 am again. Danisha also headed for her cottage to get a two hour nap.
The events of the day proved to be delibitating for the sergeants who were by now enervated and exhausted. The twenty-two hours training was a lot for them. They hauled themselves to their beds and plopped. No sooner had they hit their beds than they slept, oblivious of the fact that the next seven days would be hell days.