It became apparent as the bouts progressed that Jaidev and I weren’t the only geniuses who had come up with the idea of ‘fixing’ our bouts. After the first few rounds of fighters desultorily jabbing at each other without landing a single honest punch, the PT Officer stopped the proceedings. A short, muscular officer who was always dressed in pristine whites, he stepped into the ring and gave a stern warning to the boxers. “Better stop shamming or I’ll sort you both out.” When the rounds resumed, there didn’t seem to be any effect of the warning, with the boxers continuing to do what they were doing earlier.
The PTO stopped the bout once again and conferred with the PT ustaads. The subject of his consultation became clear to us when he called for Cadet Vishwas. Vishwas was a boxing champion from RIMC, his exploits in the ring back in school already known to all of us as well as the PT ustaads. The PTO told Vishwas to kit up and then warned the two competitors again – “Now if I don’t see you two actually boxing, you’ll each have to fight Vishwas.”
The warning seemed to work for the next few fights, but then came a pair that reverted to air jabbing. There were a few warnings by the referee to engage, but they didn’t heed. The PTO had seen enough. He stopped the bout and calling one of the boxers out, told Vishwas to step in. Vishwas was initially a little hesitant to be the instrument of punishment to his course mate, which was also something the PTO had anticipated. His called Vishwas and gave him a piece of his mind, reading out the riot act to him. Whatever the PTO had said seemed to have the desired effect on Vishwas. Within two minutes of the fight resuming, Vishwas’s reluctant opponent was knocked out flat. The other fighter from the interrupted round was sent in, and met with the same fate. Both had to be carried out on stretchers.
Clothes make a man – this was taken very seriously at the academy. There were specified dresses prescribed for every occasion, and our wardrobe was an impressive array of uniforms and ‘rigs’. Most of our basic uniforms had been issued to us in the wing, and we had already been wearing them for six months. But there were quite a few that we still lacked, which we received on the very second day of joining. The clothing store was located in a interesting building called the Quartermaster (QM) Fort, which also housed the armoury from where rifles were issued for drill. We were shepherd to the fort at the appointed time by a corporal on a bicycle and a couple of third termers filling in for sheepdogs. We were issued with new items of kit like riding breeches, puttees and boots, and were measured for mess dresses (Blue and White Patrols) which would be stitched to our size.
But more interesting – in a painful sort of way, actually – were the unofficial variations, which were worn as punishment. There was the ‘Bajri Order’ – it was Chindit Order with all contents of all the packs replaced with ‘Bajri’ (gravel), making it several times heavier. If the senior wasn’t satisfied with this, he could make it a ‘double pack’, which meant the wearer had to borrow another haversack to add to his own and fill that with gravel too. Two further variations were the ‘Riding Rig Chindit Order’ (RRCO) and ‘Riding Rig Bajri Order’ (RRBO). In these, the packs were worn on the riding rig instead of dungarees. Tying the cumbersome puttees added to the time taken to get ready, adding to the pressure.
Some of these were actually comical – like the ‘Taant Police Order’ – Taant being the generic term used for all Maharashtrians in the academy (a derivative of Tantya Tope, a hero of the 1857 revolt). This consisted of the white patrol tunic worn with KD shorts, riding puttees and slippers or PT shoes, topped with the side-cap. This was supposed to resemble the outfit worn by the Maharashtra Police constables of the yore.
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