When I started writing this blog, I wanted to regularly update how the training proceeds. As you would remember, my last post was about the IA&AS OT’s proceeding to the Inter Services Meet- Sangam.
We reached LBSNAA at around 8 PM in the night. Our stay was arranged in the Mahanadi Hostel, which was absolutely fantastic. My friends in LBSNAA told me that the Mahanadi hostel is usually reserved for senior bureaucrats when they come to stay in LBSNAA. They added that there are better room than the ones in Mahanadi in the hostel called Kalindi ( I hope I am getting the names right). I have to add that the rooms in Mahanadi were good, but not as good as the room that NAAA has for the senior staff.
LBSNAA is indeed a beauty. For anyone interested in seeing the LBSNAA campus, I had recorded a live video of the entire campus in Facebook. You can head straight to my Facebook wall. The colonial style buildings and the infrastructure that they have managed to build in a hill station is indeed amazing. There is no way our academy could match up to the infrastructure of LBSNAA (Given that we are the other service that has a cool hill station as the location of its Alma Mater) But, before you jump to any conclusion, let me remind you that IAS has 180 OT’s while, NAAA has only 26. If you calculate a per capita infrastructure requirement, I would say that NAAA would come out in front. There is also no argument that Shimla is more beautiful than Mussourie.
Coming back to Sangam, the inaugural function was scheduled for the next day. The Governor of Uttarakhand, Dr. Krishna Kant Paul was the chief Guest. Dr. K K Paul must be familiar to veteran UPSC candidates through his stint as a member of UPSC. He was an IPS officer of the AGMUT Cadre prior to that, and has also served as governor of Meghalaya.
Another charismatic person whom I was impressed with was the Director of LBSNAA, Ms. Upma Chaudhary, a 1983 batch IAS officer of the Himachal Pradesh cadre. What particularly impressed me was her perfect diction and delivery of speech (in English). My later interactions with my friends also reinforced my opinion about her. A particular incident was mentioned by them. During Holi this year, the faculty of LBSNAA stayed away from participating in the celebrations initially. While the OT’s were celebrating amongst themselves, the director came fully prepared to take part in the celebrations and the faculty who were several years junior to her had no option than to participate.
After the inauguration ceremony the events started immediately in full flow. We had a scheduled football match against NADT. Now this is one of those moments when you realise the advantages of coming from a big academy. NAAA had come with just 20 OT’s ( of our total 26) and many of us were participating in almost all the events, not because we were the best, but we were the only option available. For example the core of our football, basketball and volleyball team was exactly the same. NADT had come with 40 people and that too they had a pool of 180 to choose from.
Our only hope in football was our Bhutanese OT’s. This was also be the first time we were playing football as a team. My last memory of playing football was in college almost seven years back. I was assigned the defender. Within the first minute of the game, NADT had scored the first goal. It was more of a lack of coordination from our side than their skill. Even though we did make some advances, lack of practice and team co-ordination made sure we lost the game. (4–0). Our goal keeper was keeping the post for the first time in his life. Despite losing the game, I believe that our team played fantastic for a bunch of first timers.
The basketball match was a walk over ( our opponents ,FSI, did not come for the match) and therefore we advanced to the next stage. The next event for me was debate for which I ran after the football and basketball appearances. The debate was happening in Sampoornanda auditorium. Its format would be that of Parliamentary debate. I was amused to find out that of the seven teams, three (IPoS, IAAS, IIS) had malayalees.
One of the judges was Mr. Bharat Bhushan, who again must be familiar to all UPSC aspirants through Rajya Sabha TV. However, the other two judges were guest faculty who come to LBSNAA and also judges of several previous events conducted in LBSNAA. I felt that this was unfair ( as they would be familiar with the LBSNAA OT’s and hence biased). Our opposition was FSI and we argued against the motion “This house believes that Post Truth trumps Truth”. The final winners of the debate was Indian Corporate Law Service comprising of Noor Shergill and Anuja Pethia ( both were brilliant). The runners up was LBSNAA. I personally felt that they were not good, which is why I brought up the point that the judges shouldn’t be familiar with the participants.
The evening was spent in a DJ party and catching up with friends from other services. I had a pretty loaded day next day. But that did not stop us from celebrating a meet up after a long time.
The next round of basket ball was scheduled at morning 8. We would be playing against NACEN. Now, in basketball, I felt we had a great chance. It was the best team of all the teams we put up. I had played in school and college, our other OT’s ( Nima (Captain) and Sonam (Bhutan), Akshay (Delhi), Karan (Punjab) all had experience playing. In fact, during our NIPFP attachment we had played against the kids from IIT Delhi and held our own.
NACEN too had a pretty good team. However, we won the game as I expected. We lead through all quarters. I played in the Centre position. If you know basketball, you would know that the Centre is the position near the baseline, usually occupied by the team’s tallest player. The center position has been traditionally considered one of the most important positions, if not the most important. (). However, the credit for our win should go to our Point Guard (Akshay) and Shooting Guard (Nima). Needless to say, I enjoyed the game and we won it.
The semi finals of the basketball match was scheduled agains NADT, which was also a strong team. However, we were confident of putting up a good show. In fact the morning game had upped our morale. Through the first three quarters we led the game. I was sure that 8 more minutes ( one quarter was 8 minutes), and we would be sure of one medal. It would be a first for NAAA to win a medal in sports. Within minutes of starting the final quarter, the NADT players advanced to the circle. I blocked one player who passed the ball to his teammate. While I turned to tackle him, I heard a sudden pop in my foot and I fell forward. I could suddenly feel seething pain in my ankle and foot and I was howling in pain. I looked at my ankle and found that it was dislocated.
I was immediately carried off in the ambulance parked in the LBSNAA campus. There are no good hospitals in Mussourie and hence I was referred to Max, Dehradun. I had to lie down in the ambulance for a good 60 minutes all the while howling. Even though it was a painful experience, thinking back, that was the first time I experience dashing through the roads in an ambulance with its blaring sirens. I think that is one of the worst things about being in a hill station. You basically have no good facilities at your disposal. For anything and everything you have to rush to the plains.
My ankle was completely dislocated. It was a major injury. On the lighter side of it, ankle dislocation is a considerably difficult feat to achieve and I had done it. I fractured two bones, calcanium and navicular, and also had some ligament tear. The doctors from max, flushed my system with painkillers and it was still not helping. The duty doctor told me that they can’t sedate me because it might cause difficulty in breathing. Hence he asked me to suffer a little pain while he tries to put my ankle back in position ( called reduction procedure). He tried his hand while I shouted at the top of my voice in pain. I don’t remember what exactly happened after that (whether they gave me anasthesia or I passed out) but when I woke my ankle was back in position and they were wrapping it in plaster.
The Sense of Belonging
Within minutes of my accident, the bureaucratic machinery had swung into action. The director from LBSNAA had immediately called MAX hospital and informed of my arrival and hence I was admitted even before payment. Our Course Director from NAAA, Ms. Sudha Rajan made sure that I was comfortable and was constantly keeping in touch to make sure that I got the best care. My fellow OT’s were with me making sure that I had help. Sudha Mam contacted the AG office in Dehradun and an officer kept calling frequently to enquire what help we needed. The next day, after receiving my diagnosis, I decided that I should go to Kerala where my family can take care of me. The doctor did ask me to rest for two days and then leave. However, I decided that it would make things more difficult for people around me.
I wanted to get an ambulance to travel from Dehradun to Delhi and take a flight from Delhi. Our office arranged for one at an economical rate. Our office also made sure that there was someone at the airport with the wheelchair when I reached there, to receive me.
All these incidents, amidst this tragedy, helped instill in me a sense of belonging and pride in the service. The camaraderie and love that my seniors and peers bestowed on me even when it was not necessary kept reminding me that I made an excellent career choice by choosing the civil service. I was also reminded of what an ICAS officer who came for one of our sessions told us :- “Consider yourself lucky that you are in IAAS. No other service treats its officers the way yours does.” His words were proven right to me in that weekend in Mussuorie.
So now I am holed up at my home, with a cast in my leg and recuperating from my condition. Expect delays in my further posts, but be sure that I will share more things as and when time permits.