প্রথম এগার দিন

আমাদের সবার প্রিয় আব্দুল হামিদ ভাই ( ১/১) রাজশাহী ক্যাডেট কলেজের প্রথম এগার দিনের অভিজ্ঞতা নিয়ে একটি মহাকাব্য লিখেছিলেন। ইআরসিসির গ্রুপ মেইলে পড়ে মুগ্ধ হয়েছি। এই মুগ্ধতা সবার মাঝে ছড়িয়ে দিতে হামিদ ভাইয়ের অনুমতি নিয়ে ডাউনলোড করা মহাকাব্যটি সিসিবিতে প্রকাশ করলাম।

THE FIRST ELEVEN DAYS—IN NEVER NEVER LAND
–Dedicated to first three batches

Far removed from here
Far removed in time
Far removed in space—
Seventeen thousand
Two hundred
Eighty-four days
To be exact—
To date—
On that lazy afternoon
Of February One
Nineteen sixty-six
A French Citroen car
Carried me
Through the winding roads
From northern city Rajshahi
To an unknown destination
I was soon to discover
And initially
Dislike highly.

As the light-weight car speeds
I wonder
What a cadet college
And life in it
Would be like—
I have no idea
Except that
It will be dorm life
And be grilled
No idea
What that grilling will be
But soon I will find
And wish life
Was otherwise.

As the road narrows
From Baneswar to Sardah
Traveling due west
The hamlets and huts
On both sides
Whizz by—
Over generations
The density has grown
But it seems
Life and living
Basically
Has been the same
As they were
A thousand years back
Steeped in poverty
A far cry from the city
Where I came from
The Capital City.

As we take turn to the right
From Sardah ‘Mor’
We are
On a new concrete road
Soon we cross
A big banyan tree
Wizened from age
Witness to a century;
The road bends
And runs straight
Towards the west
On the right
Lie hamlets
On the left
A stretch of land
And beyond
That majestic
Timeless river
Winding down
Along the border
A million ripples
Thousands of waves—
Ten thousand waves
I saw at a glance
Dancing and tossing
Swirling and twirling
Spinning and turning
Curling and coiling
All the while
Charging ahead
In full fury
To its destination—
The Ocean
Not a welcome sight.

The motor car
Slices through
The cool winter breeze
And soon we reach
A huge enclosure
Of barbed wire
And beyond
Lo and behold—
A sprawling campus
On a vast flat barren land
Stretching out to the north

On the far right – a bungalow
Two dorms stretch in front
Running east to west
Joined by a building
In between;
In front–
A huge domed imposing edifice
Also running east to west
The big dome glistening
The radiant sun reflecting
And on the far left
I glance to see
A thousand waves
Of that matchless river
Reflect rays
Of the beaming sun—
All out of nowhere
As if I am transported
To a magical
Never never land.

We approach the gate
Many already reported
I am checked in
And told to report
To West House—
The car drops me
The driver bids good-bye
Leaving me
To an unknown future;
A handsome, dashing teacher
Turns out the House Master
Beams and welcomes
(Seems not a bad place)
Asks my name
Checks the list
Sends me to
Room number 14.

Room number 14
I am one of 10
All three classes here
Seven, eight, and nine
As I place in the closet
Few dresses and items
We were asked to bring
I look around and find
Most look homesick
And unsettled
Some look thrilled
And excited
Some show their flair
And smartness
Some appear uncut
And unpolished
I guess this is the place
They came
To get the polish.

The place is new
But all set
As if ready
To receive
Its guests
The cadets
New beds and cots
Pillow and bed-sheets
Mosquito stands
And nets
And closets
Dresses ready
On the first day
Khaki, belt, and boots
White dinner dresses
Shorts, kades, and socks
Sleeping dresses and vests
All in pairs
We stock them
In the closet;
Afternoon tea
And dinner
Are good
Not a bad place after all
Soon it will be time
To pay back
For all these gifts.

Early morning next day
Well before day break
The piercing sound of bugle
Bring us back from sleep
The House Master
And House Tutor
Bang our doors
Order us—
“Get ready in shorts
And put on kades”
Time for P.T.

Heck, it is dark
And morning
Is an hour away;
Why on earth
We have to get out
Of the warm blanket
In this cold winter—
But nothing doing
Get going.

We change
And force ourselves
Into the darkness
The biting cold breeze
Graze by our neck
Embrace our thighs and feet
And penetrate our bones
We shiver to the bone
And form in three lines
To the whistling
And sharp command
Of a tall, lanky instructor
(Later we learn
He is Mr. Tamizuddin Ahmed
A retired Sargent of PAF)

Most are unsure
As to what to do
In the dark dawn
He handles deftly
We are ordered
To shout out numbers
To get a count
One two three four
Five six seven eight
Somebody said ‘s-e-b-e-n’
A booming voice
Roared out in the dark
“Say ‘Seven’”
Creating echo
As sound traveled
Between the houses
And the Academic Block;
Must be the Principal
Wing CdrM. Syed
In the dark dawn;
Soon we will find
He will be around
Like a shadow
From dawn
To lights out.

The count over
The instructor
Orders “Double march”
We run haphazardly
And disorderly
Around the Academic Block
And gather on the ground
In front of East House
The now visible instructor
All in white
Made us jump
Stretch our arms forward
Sideways and up—
I am sure
All the while
Many of us wondered
Why in the world
Our loving parents
Left us to be hauled
Out of our warm bed
And regimented
In the biting cold
Little did we know
It was just the beginning
Of tougher days coming.

We rush to dorm
To freshen up and change
This time khaki, belt and boots
And air force cap
Almighty knows what awaits
But breakfast before that—
What a treat!
English bread,
Not one boiled egg, but two
Not just butter, but also jam
Crisply dressed waiters
Running to and fro
Very soon
All the foods vanish
Into one hundred forty
Hungry bellies.

We fall in for drill
In front of us
The same Mr. T. Ahmed
What a mess it was
Most are lost
But he manages
To demo and guide
Only one person
For the whole lot
No NCO yet
And no Adjutant—
He continues
With this disarray
Until milk break
What an ordeal
For us all
But nothing doing.

After milk break
About ten of us
End up in East House
Common room
Wondering
Where the rest
Got lost
Suddenly we see
In the distance
All gathered
In front
Of Academic Block
We rush
To the parade ground
But are halted
By an awesome man
His big eyes
Become bigger
As he sees us come late
“Where have you been?”
He booms

First meeting with the Principal
Turns out menacing
I, of all
Gather the courage
To respond
“We did not know
We have to be here, Sir”
“Nooo…” – he roars
“Double march,
Touch the barbed wire
And run back”.
All ten of us
Run due east
And be part
Of the first
Punishment.

The enormous task
Of imparting the skills
Of left turn
And right turn
And about turn
And quick march
And slow march
And double march
And parading
And saluting
And halting
Fell on Mr. T. Ahmed
Who drilled us
From eight to one
From February two to ten
No classes
Only preparation
For Inauguration Day Parade
On February eleven.

February three
We are up by four
I am ready to go
For morning P.T.
As I walk by Room 12
Faroque Amin 1/5
Is yet to be ready;
Cleverly he stops me
And starts discoursing
As he is dressing—
As we rush out
To the House front
The formation
Double marches
We are late and caught
By Mr. Abu Khaled;
The House Master directs
Mr. T. Ahmed
To punish us;
Isn’t Faroque smart?
By stopping me
He is not caught alone.

We are ordered
“Hands down”
We both wonder
What is hands down
Mr. T. Ahmed
Does the demo
We comply—
But for how long
In that position?
After an eternity
Mr. T. Ahmed
Commands us
“Stand up – and join”;
Two punishments
In two days – not bad;
How many more
To come
I wonder—
Thank Almighty
That was
The last punishment
I underwent
In cadet college life.

On second day of drills
A competition starts
Tasleem Shakur, SadekAfzal
Bazlur Rashid and I
Cadet One and Seven
Seventeen and Twenty-seven
Are called out
To give commands
By turn;
The one
With the loudest command
Becomes College Captain
The two finalists are
Me and Rashid
West House inmates
Whilemarching close to me
Whisper out:
“Louder Hamid, louder”
I know I am not near
Next time I try louder—
With all my might;
A lanky boy
How much louder
Can he shout?
Rashid is stout;
With his booming command
Outsmarts me—
The first College Captain.

Out boomed by Rashid
I am disappointed;
But Maghrib time that day
Brings good news—
At sunset we gather
At the Auditorium
Sombody asks around,
“Who is Hamid?”

“I” – say I
“You are Cadet No. 1
Got the highest
In admission test
Habib is Cadet No. 2
And I – Cadet No. 3”
That was Shaheen Chowdhury
Now Dr. Chowdhury;
Didn’t realize
Our cadet numbers
Stick with us
Unto death.

A week into the grueling days
A dedicated Englishman
Mr. Hugh Kenneth Lambert
From British Voluntary Overseas Service
On assignment for a year of service
Approaches me and says
“Tonight we hold
Our first weekly ADLA
After Dinner Literary Activity
Cadets will show their creativity
By cadet number
Everybody will preside
You will be the first President
And make a speech at the end
Wing Cdr Syed will be there”

That was indeed a shocker
What will I say?
He said couple of points
Which I put in my head
We had recitations,
Skits, and songs;
After all these years
I do not remember
The names of the pioneers;
I said among other things
“This was like a stepping stone”;
The Principal spoke after that
And appreciated all

It was held in
The Dining Hall
It was the precursor of
The weekly Presentation Night
The goal was to make us
Well-groomed and all-rounded one
Adept at all, master of none.

The cycle of P.T. during dusk
Drill and parade five hours
And games in late afternoon
Continue until February Ten
For nine harrowing days;
Inauguration Day arrives
With great fanfare
The smart turnout of 140
With no skill some days back
Put up a valiant parade
With nine days of practice
Mr. Abdul Monem Khan
Governor of then East Pakistan
Formerly inaugurates
Ayub Cadet College
The youngest of seven
In all Pakistan;
Of the 140 on parade
On that sunny day
Eighteen have departed
To the unknown land.

Those nine days
Of practice for hours
On sandy grounds
With no grass
Was tough and tiresome
Rough and wearisome
But finally it is over
And finally we can tune in
To normal routine
That you have all seen;
But have you seen
A grass less treeless
Barren campus
Dusty sand
Blown to the rooms
And have you heard
The river roaring
Even in winter
That same river
That is dried
And drained
And diverted
And withered—
A far cry
From what we witnessed.

In a year’s time
A new Chairman
Maj Gen Muzaffaruddin
After visiting
The other three colleges
Inspect us
On the same parade ground
And accept
The salute
Of the march past
And declare:
“This is the best cadet college”
Thrice did he utter that
In his four hours at ACC;
And after another year
The President of ISSB
Wing CdrNiaz
Watch us for 24 hours
And after Presentation Night
Say about us
“The finest institution
I have seen in all Pakistan.”

Those rigorous days
On the plains of Mukhterpur
That I detested so much
I long to go back—
Those regimented days
Appear magical
Splashed over my mind
Like a rainbow
Alas!

Those arduous days
Are so far removed
Far removed in time
Far removed in space
Far removed from here
Forty seven years
And four months—
But they seem
As if yesterday
Alas!

They will never come back
Gone for ever
Gone with the wind
Gone with time
Gone with the waters
Of the once mighty river
We carry
The memory
Of the best days
Of our lives
And gratefulness
To a poor nation
That deprived others
To lavish on us.

Notes (these points will not be archived):

  1. Brief story of first 11 days of ACC from my perspective.
  2. In first 11 days I wrote at least 7 letters to my father to withdraw me from ACC; he did not respond to even one of them.
  3. We did not have Army NCO for about 3 months – Mr. T. Ahmed did it all; when Army NCOs came after 2-3 months we had to unlearn few of the things – airforce salute, for example.
  4. We did not have Adjutant during two years of Wing Cdr Syed’s tenure; no Vice Principal for about a year. Hats off to his hard work and dedication in starting a cadet college from scratch and making it the best in East Pakistan in one year, and the finest in all of Pakistan in two years.
  5. 15 or 20 out of 140 paid full tuition of Tk 150. All else received some form of scholarship. Even those who made full payment of Tk. 150 got a subsidy of Tk. 300 because for each cadet the monthly expense was Tk. 450.
  6. An entry level Class I officer received Tk. 375 in those days.
  7. Even today GOB spends about 30 times more on a cadet compared to what it spends on a non-cadet student.
  8. Mr. M. Syed would hammer on us the facts on expenses. He made us believe we will be future leaders. He would also say time and again: “You are the cream of the nation.”
  9. Debt to country and parents can never be paid back. We have to pay back as much as we can.We cannot afford to be ungrateful.

 

২,৬৬৭ বার দেখা হয়েছে

২১ টি মন্তব্য : “প্রথম এগার দিন”

  1. খায়রুল আহসান (৬৭-৭৩)

    First and foremost, my :hatsoff: to Hamid Bhai for this epic narration of eleven unforgettable days and the nine thoughtful notes adjoined at the end. Bravo! Very well done, Hamid Bhai!
    "All the foods vanish
    Into one hundred forty
    Hungry bellies." - This reminds me of our first few days of breakfast lunch and dinner at MCC. The scenario was the same!
    Perhaps a small mistake is there, to which I draw Hamid Bhai's attention:
    "Formerly inaugurates" should probably be "Formally inaugurates". (I would be extremely sorry if this is not what he had wanted to mean.)
    "Of the 140 on parade
    On that sunny day
    Eighteen have departed
    To the unknown land." - May their souls be Blessed, and may they rest in peace!
    May I share here, the link of a poem of mine, which, coincidentally, I too wrote rewinding 47 years!
    Link: https://www.facebook.com/notes/khairul-ahsan/at-mcc-our-first-day/10152899471197623
    Off topic: Is Abdul Hamid Bhai brother of Lt General Abdul Hafiz (retired) who was also from RCC? The two faces resemble quite a lot to raise this question. (সম্পাদিত)

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