Freelance Nomad

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Pablo entrusted with responsibility

On Sunday I joined 29 children from Deep Griha Society’s Aadhar Kendra Sponsorship Programme for a day trip to the National Defence Academy (NDA). Going one these kinds of trips is one of the (many) perks one often gets as a DGS volunteer. This particular visit was well worth it for all concerned.

We'd initially been approached a couple of weeks ago by Shailaja from Perfect Relations, a PR company, whose corporate client wanted to arrange something around Children's Day on 14th November.

I went along to the head office of Synygy (an IT consulting firm) with fellow volunteer Jenny and DGS Team Leader Rajendra to meet the Managing Director and discuss how the firm could get involved with Deep Griha. Eventually we might be able to arrange a formal volunteer programme, but in the short term they wanted to arrange a field trip for approximately 30 children in the 10-14 age group.

To this end, they lined up a trip for the kids to NDA, a few miles outside Pune city up at Khadakwasla.

At 8.15am on the day itself, I joined Rajendra, two teachers and the kids outside the DGS office on Tadiwala Road. Then the Synygy-organised bus arrived and we were away.

The Synygy staff welcomed everyone with snacks and drinks as the bus weaved its way through the heavy city traffic. I hadn't been on a school outing like this for a good few years now and I have to say these kids were a lot better behaved than we ever were. In fact, they were on their best behaviour all day, always listening attentively and waiting patiently when required. Synygy pulled of a masterstroke by giving out corporate baseball caps, which enabled us to keep a close eye on our flock all day.

On our arrival we were met by two young cadets who looked after us throughout the visit, answering our questions and explaining everything for us. Although Sunday is their official day off, the cadets had generously volunteered to show us around - cheers lads! Interestingly, as a foreigner - woooo - I had to get prior security clearance to visit NDA, although they didn't seem too concerned once we actually arrived.

NDA itself is very impressive. Spread over 8,000 acres, the site is the premier training facility for cadets in the country and houses thousands of cadets and officers. Unlike most centres, the Academy trains cadets for all three of the combined services of the Army, Navy and Air Force. There's a parade ground, assault course, gymkhana, stadium, many sports pitches, an Olympic swimming pool, a firing range, fully equipped classrooms, a large auditorium and all the other facilities you’d expect from a top-quality Academy. For a country that spends eight times as much on defence than on education at least this is a place that combines the two.

We got to watch a short promotional film about the Academy before taking a walk around the grounds. On the way we visited centre museum and posed for photographs by various tanks, jet fighters and other military hardware.

There are portraits and statues around of the NDA graduates who gave their lives for the country and were posthumously awarded medals of honour for their bravery. Nearly all of them were in their twenties.

One of the highlights was visiting Peacock Bay on the shore of Khadakwasla reservoir. The children got to look around the TS Ronnie Pereira, a land-locked concrete training ship for the junior Navy cadets to familiarise themselves with the layout of a real vessel.

There was a slight hitch when our bus driver went temporarily AWOL and left us all stranded on the wrong side of the campus. Fortunately, Sunil from Perfect Relations demonstrated that he had the right stuff and managed to rustle up a spare bus from a nearby village. I’d hoped that we’d be able to blag a lift in a passing tank but you can’t have everything I suppose.

By the time we'd had a good explore it was time for some lunch. Synygy sponsored lunch at the NDA cadet canteen which serves up some pretty good food. The children certainly took advantage of a hearty meal, although perhaps a few had a little too much since we had a few bouts of car-sickness on the journey home... Still, the swag-bags distributed the children went down well. I wouldn’t have minded one myself. Sometimes I forget I’m not a 12 year-old.

For the children of Tadiwala Road slum, a trip like this is a rare opportunity. Aside from the educational value, it’s a chance just to get away from the city pollution and get a little fresh air. Hopefully, we’ll be able to run more trips like this in future.


  • At 10:44 am, Anonymous madz said…

    hey...looks like u had a gr8 time! am glad am gonna be part of disha! i jus met every1 @ the show @ jazz y'day~!tc n keep posting!


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