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My Seychelles Connection

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There are tales of extraordinary solidarity among the military. I had enjoyed every bit of my combat years and adapted to the hard life. Donning the military uniform commands respect and fear. The ab-initio trainee’s insignia on my collar is a strong cotton fabric of a dull brownish yellow, used especially in training. They are worn for heavy duty, for tough guys. We would dress in khaki from dawn to dusk. The khaki uniform has clout and often we see civilians apprehensive of us while we rowed and explored the Majestic Terminal. We sang along “Khaki is also a color and we’re no different either.”

The colors people see aren’t only determined by wavelengths of lights. They can be affected by memories and perceptions. We saw only Khakis at Parade to PT on those days. The other day I realized what we saw so far they’re different. The entire squadron had an eye on distinctive outfit of sky and dark blue. A cadet of foreign counterpart had joined us who belongs to the archipelago Seychelles. Soon KD Joseph became famed with 200+ entry mates for his great sense of humor. He was always the center of attraction as the only foreign trainee.

“E” Flight had the pleasure of accompanying KD in the class. The instructors had a soft corner for him. It was the last class prior to lunch of another day and we’re inattentive. Can one think of a music that’s sweeter than that of the last bell of the school? But the Science teacher had another idea and asked KD what he meant by Newton’s First Law. The class thought, it was an awkward question. The answer was funny. “Yeah…Newton’s First Law…Yes… Newton’s First Law is…” He paused, at a loss for words. “I don’t know, sir”.  The entire class roared with laughter. The last bell rang. The class felt relieved. The teacher found no clues for KD’s silly reply and ordered the class to pack up. “It is lunch time and we’ll discuss tomorrow”. KD had a tough time as French based Creoles was his first language. The islands were French colonies along with Black slaves.

The last phase was a hectic military schedule practicing Passing Out Parade (POP) to prepare for the Final Term. We’re thrilled to move for first assignment. Festivities had gripped inside billets with forthcoming 42nd anniversary of Independence Day with POP fell on the same time. So we had tight roster since morning till compulsory light off at ten. There is a saying that a soldier is never off duty. Yet we chit chat half an hour with East Africans at evening tea with a full camping mug. Today on the occasion of 74th anniversary of Independence Day, I’m recalling those good old days at Jalahalli. It was sheer laziness on his part that brought so much talk. He was his own uniform and supposed to move without squadron but he liked to go along with us on easy pace as their exotic islands made them breathtaking walks and trails under the sun, sea and sand.

Warrant Officer was taking POP at the saluting dais for Station Parade. On the command “Parade, Bishram”, we grasped the barrel with right hand and thrust the muzzle forward keeping right arm straight. Commander Wagh executed stand at ease in the same manner as parade rest with the rifle, except head and eyes. All but one refused to follow. KD didn’t seem interested. “I’m not supposed to follow as my country sends me India to study”.  Nobody dares to talk against that ferocious Ground Trainee Instructor.  While we’re doing heel and toe marching he just placed his left foot gently 12 inches away from his right on command “Rest”. He got finally qualified with two steps “Attention” and “Relax”. KD, a would-be pilot who stood up as the member of Royal Seychelles Peoples’ Defence Force. We’re honored to have him complete in ab-initio.

We’d a funny feeling when Creole would be around. He was the most talked trainees at RT 152. “KD, are you married?” “No man, but I’m three child”. Many couples never marry because of the exorbitant expense of the large and lavish wedding receptions of Seychellois tradition. Instead, they chose to live en ménage, a de facto union by cohabitating. We knew him loitering near the glittering areas of MG Road. He lingered in the bars that are loud enough to be heard from the streets and pubs that never run out of beer, enjoying nightlife as dance plays an important role in Seychellois society. We felt a twinge of envy for his romantic move in weekend.

We’re shopping at Brigade but barred for those areas. Many had a sharp pang of jealousy. That was okay. KD was from the capital Victoria; he’d his own style of living. He lived the high life and wore high heels too. He was made to complete the training. After all, the Consulate of Seychelles in Bangalore took care of him.  Despite all, he had the last laugh when he was promoted by Seychelles Air Force (SAF) in August 1989. Perhaps Lieutenant KD Joesph was right as his intuition for aiming high with further training at Columbus Air Force Base in Mississippi as Flying Pilot. He said to us so many times.









Kamal Baruah

The writer is a Soldier, Banker and Columnist to North East Newspapers and Magazines

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