March 28, 2015 2:55:00 am
From being a lawyer to a classical Bharatanatyam dancer and now a Lieutenant with the Indian Army, 25-year-old Lt Anjana Mohan has worn many hats.
On Friday, as she adjusts her cap for a photo op with the media, sitting at a distance observing her closely, her 62-year-old father Mohan Karkera’s eyes glitter with pride. “She is all grown up now, my little girl, all grown up,” he says as he watches his daughter besieged by the press.
Lt Mohan is the first lady cadet to secure both the rare distinction of bagging a gold medal and the coveted sword of honour in the combined courses of Short Service Commission 99 and Short Service Commission (Women) 13 courses from the Indian Army’s Officer Training Academy (OTA), Chennai. The combined courses comprised 140 male and 39 female cadets.
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Karkera tells The Indian Express that the academy will host a small function in the first week of April where the parents are required to give a token which states ‘Meri santaan desh ko samarpit’ (I give away my daughter to the country) . “It is a ‘kanyadan’ but of a different nature,” he says.
“I am giving my daughter to the Army. It will be an overwhelming moment to see my girl going away, staying alone , but I am so proud of her,” he says.
“You never want your daughters to join the forces na?” he asks. “Sons are okay but we are concerned about daughters. Now, in hindsight, I feel my apprehensions were unfounded. We are happy that she has found her second home in the Army,” he adds.
It was the fascination of the uniform that led Mohan to give up her career in law and take up the exams. Despite not making it in 2013 , an undeterred Mohan decided to give the course another chance. This time, she stood first.
“My father wanted me to be a doctor. I wanted to be a lawyer. I took up law and studied at the Government Law College in Mumbai. One day, I saw an advertisement in the newspaper about the course and I asked my parents if I could apply. Initially, they were skeptical but later they agreed and supported me throughout,” she told The Indian Express. “It was my mother who spotted the advertisement the second time and I appeared for it. This time I managed to top it and secure the sword of honor.”
Life for the 25-year-old young Lieutenant has undergone a sea change after joining the academy. The lady officer has no regrets of giving up her tresses and is now comfortable sporting a bob cut. She says it’s worth it for the uniform.
“There is a certain discipline that the academy teaches you. It gets ingrained in you and becomes a part of the subconscious mind,” she says. “There are certain mannerisms that I follow even during my civilian encounters. Like the way I eat , walk, talk or even waking up at 4.30 am on Sundays,” she says with a grin.
“For instance, in the academy, you always walk in a forward march, I end up walking even on the streets like that. Then suddenly I have to remind myself that this isn’t the academy, “ she adds. .
The biggest takeback for Lt Mohan from her 11 rigorous courses is the spirit of togetherness. “We have to perform the task called the ‘Josh run’. Its a 25-30 kilometer run through the night. The cadets are required to carry their rifles and battle load. Its a difficult task. Many give up mid-day, male and female, both.When one of the member isn’t able to carry her load , you carry it for her. After one or two kilometers , the cadet will get back his energy and the group moves on,” she adds.
As the father and daughter duo pose for the cameras, her father adds, “ Once when I had visited her at the academy I saw she had sustained many blisters and minor cuts owing to the training. I felt concerned but she said not to worry, your daughter is a lady officer now.”
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