Ezhimala (Kerala), Dec 4: The spic-and-span verandahs of eye-catching buildings at the Indian Naval Academy (INA) in Ezhimala were filled with the gentle flow of cool breeze from the nearby Ettikulum beach. At a distance, one could see the Laser-class sail-boats of INA on their practice missions ahead of the Admiral's Cup.
The INA was abuzz with activities in the run up to the Navy Day (December 4) celebrations. The cadets who earned their stripes during the just-concluded Passing out Parade were seen taking their proud parents on a tour to various facilities.
Seated inside one of the hi-tech briefing rooms were four women in their whites. It was evident from their faces that they were ‘briefed' by officials in advance on the ‘possible' mode of the interview with OneIndia. Hence, the first task was to break the ice. The interview started on a casual conversation mode.
The ‘fearless foursome' joined the INA through the graduate entry route after clearing the Services Selection Board (SSB) requirements. At the INA, they all underwent a six-month intense course, before setting out on their dream postings.
She promised an official cap to her father
It was the turn of Sub-Lieutenant Anuradha Khassa to share her thoughts first. She did her schooling from Kendriya Vidyalaya in Pitampura. Hailing from New Delhi, Anuradha completed her B.Com and MBA before coming to the INA.
"I was always inspired by my father in uniform (IAF) and wanted to emulate him. As a child, I used to like my father's cap. I promised my mother that one day I will give him my official cap," Anuradha said, with no take-off issues.
"You never know your limits unless you are pushed to extremes. Here I discovered myself. The training helped me to keep on extending my limits. The runs were fun and remember you learn to run and run and run," says Anuradha, posted to INS Hamla in Mumbai.
She says the six-months training at the INA made her extremely fit. "I am more determined now. Mentally very strong and ready to take on any challenges," says Anuradha. Her favourite pastime is to undertake social work.
She fell in love the hovercraft at Class-3
For Assistant Commandant Shipla Malik, it was her father, a retired Indian Coast Guard official, who acted as a role model. She gained entry to the INA after attaining a B.Tech degree in Information Technology.
A resident of Panipet in Haryana, Shilpa passed her 12th from Kendriya Vidyalaya in Visakhapatnam. "I grew up watching the defence environment. I love traveling to different places. While my father was posted in Tamil Nadu, he once took me to a hovercraft. I was in third standard and really fell in love with the hovercraft. From then on, sea and its images got stuck on to me," says Shilpa.
According to her, the best of part of the INA was her transformation into a tech-savvy person. "Physical fitness gets on to a different mode here, but dating technology is fun. New fundas of team spirit are taught at the INA. I am sure to miss the cross-country runs," adds Shilpa.
She is being posted to INS Valsura in Gujarat.
It was in me right from my birth
For Assistant Commandant Ipshita Gupta from New Delhi, every moment right from her birth had a touch of blue associated with it. She did her schooling from Kendriya Vidyalaya, AF Station Hindon.
"It was in me. I was born in a military hospital and from then on every bit of my life had an Indian Air Force (IAF) touch. My father is still serving in the IAF. Every time I was put to a new school, I enjoyed making new friends," says Ipshita, who enjoys playing badminton.
She gives complete credit to her seniors who helped discover a new person within her. "It's important that you get good seniors and I was very fortunate. The training is tough, but I loved it. I always take one step at a time," says Ipshita, who came to the INA after taking her post-graduation in M.Sc Physics.
She loves challenges in life, always
The story of Assistant Commandant Devyani Saraf is different. She had no connections with the armed forces. Hailing from Nagpur, Devyani passed out of the government school in Somalwar. Her father is a geologist and she fell in love with the Navy and Coast Guard during her visits to Mumbai.
A B.Arch graduate, Devyani said that there's no gender bias at the INA. "There's nothing to separate from boys and girls. Same training to all and that's truly inspiring. I love challenges in life always," says Devyani, whose hobby is cycling.
It was a proud moment for Vice Admiral Ajit Kumar P, Commandant, INA, watching his wards passing out with flying colours. "The training modules and benchmarks we have kept are of very high standards. At the INA, a cadet is never left wanting for anything to polish the skills. I am proud of these girls who will now be flag-bearers of INA wherever they get posted," Vice Admiral Ajit told OneIndia.
As the interview got over, the sail-boats at Ettikulum beach was getting a fresh coat of paint sprayed by the setting sun. The ‘Fearless Foursome' walked away with their heads held high. After all, they knew that tomorrow is theirs.
(The writer is a seasoned aerospace and defence journalist in India. He is the Consultant Editor (Defence) with OneIndia. He tweets @writetake.)