Tents big enough to accommodate 15 grown-ups were pitched in a huge square with a quadrangle in the center. Every tent had a snake pit around them. The first day, we were read out the camp rules and allowed to settle in our respective tents. We explored the park out of curiosity. Found a couple of bore wells and water taps, our source for water to drink and wash. We discovered there were no bathrooms or toilets, Indian Army wanted us to be real close to nature.
This was the first time I slept in a tent, with just a mat on the earth. Wind was blowing like crazy through the night and our tent had a nice tear in a corner, right next to me. I hardly slept through the night. The next morning, we were woken up early. It was cold and we had to wash with cold water… ooohaaahah! What an experience!
We all assembled in the quadrangle, dressed in our uniforms. We went for a cross country jog and then exercised, after which we had a short break during which we had breakfast and relaxed. Then came the drill session… attention! Baye mood! Dhaine mood! Piche mood! By the left quick march!! left-left-left-right-left... look straight, swing your arms high, left-left-left-right-left... keep your knees straight, dig your heels into the ground… Oh man! The Gurkha officers made us spend double the energy of what their food gave us. The sessions never seemed to end. Most of us were just waiting to hear 'squad-halt!', 'stand-at-ease' and 'disperse'. We were served three meals a day and we could choose between veg and non-veg. Food was no way near to home food but not bad too.
Most of the officers were friendly but strict. I remember there were three ‘Chatri’s. And in our college group, there were three Prasads. Babu Prasad, Skanda Prasad and me. The Gurkhas asked us if we were cousins and we asked them if they were brothers. My other tent mates were Gurudutt M P, Ramesh P, Bharath, Sridhar...
One morning, our officer made us jog down to the Doddaballapura Railway Station, it was a deserted little place with hardly any activity. We exercised on the tarmac road with a few local people watching us with amused expressions. On the way back to the camp, again jogging, we stopped every half kilomater and made to push ups or sit-ups or any activity to sap our energies out. Most of us were hungry and just waiting to reach the camp food area. What a morning that was! The camp was not just drills or exercising, we were given tasks to make us get used to hard work like watering plants, levelling the dirt path within the camp area for which we had to dig with spades and move dirt from a near by spot. We fetched water from a bore well and sprayed the dirt path we had repaired. The officers never ran out of ways to kep us busy... One of the nights, four of us were asked to watch the food material store room. I remember how we struggled to stay wake in the cold weather till morning.
After a week or so, one after-noon, I got a surprise. Dad, Mom and Dipi had come to see me. They stayed for few minutes, 15-20 minutes and left. Dad gave me a bundle of snacks which got over in no time.
One of the days, a day trip to the near-by Nandi Hills was organized. We were dropped off on the main road at the base of the hill, given breakfast and asked us to take the road up. A 8km trek. It was fun! We made it to the summit in about 2 hours. We explored the hill and it’s fort and ruins and assembled back at a pre-designated time and spot expecting the trucks to be there to take us down. No! We were asked to climb down the steps!! Most boys started complaining pain and few experienced cramps by the time we reached the base. That was not the end, we had to trek 4kms of rough terrain to reach the trucks. With the sun blazing down, mouths dry and stomachs growling… You are in the army now!
Our camp had a small open air theater in natural settings with granite slab benches for seating an audience of about 300. The stage area was sheltered with Bougainvilla creeper and other small trees. On the tenth evening, couple of senior army officers were present for the closing… not a ceremony, whatever you call it …who gave away prizes and gave short speeches. I revisited the place sometime 1996 with Gulli.
No beds. No electricity. No hot water. No bath for eleven days!! When I got back home, my hot water bath lasted one hour.