March 10, 2018, will mark a significant change in the lives of 257 cadets at the prestigious Officer’s Training Academy (OTA) in Chennai, as they pass out and take their first step towards serving the nation in the Army.
Om Paithane, a resident of the Tondal village, which is located near the Pune-Bengaluru highway, is among these 257 cadets. If you are a resident of Pune, there is a chance that you would have met Om at some point when you booked an Ola Cab.
Yes, before joining OTA, Chennai, Om Paithane worked as a cabbie, driving through the lanes of the city to support his family.
But one pickup changed his life.
“My father was a driver. He had lost both his legs in a road accident and was working as a watchman. I had to support the family while studying for my final year undergraduate degree (Om was a student of computer science). So, I started to drive for Ola. One day, a retired colonel hired my cab. We started to talk, and he told me about the combined defence services examination and the endless opportunities it brings,” he told the Times of India.
The conversation with the retired colonel sparked an interest in Om to explore a career in the Army. It wasn’t long until the young boy completed his graduation and decided to appear for the CDS exam.
He cracked it in the first attempt!
Overjoyed by his results the first call he made to share his joy was to the same retired colonel.
“He guided me throughout the process. I remember my carefree days, and although I enjoyed them, this life is better. The training has taught me discipline and manners, which I am proud of,” said Om.
In less than ten days, this young man is set to pass out of the OTA and assume charge as a commissioned officer.
Om isn’t the only inspiring individual in this mixed bag of cadets. This year, alongside Om, various cadets are all set to leave their old lives behind to serve the nation. These include a national-level woman boxer, another who represented India in rugby and two Army widows.
Neeta Deshwal’s husband Major Amit Deswhal, who belonged to Haryana’s Jhajjar district, was killed in April 2016, in a counter-attack with militants when he was posted in Manipur as part of Operation Hifazat-II. Neeta was living with Amit in Jorhat, Assam at the time. (Read more about her story here.)
She lost him days before their wedding anniversary in 2016. “He endured all this, so I wanted to be back in the olive green family,” Deshwal told TOI.
Sushmita Pandey who lost her husband Neeraj in a battle with insurgents in Arunachal Pradesh, joined the Army to honour his sacrifice.
“The first challenge was the death of my husband. The next was the training and being away from my five-year-old son,” she told the publication.
“The cadets are physically and mentally trained so that they can grow into military leaders. They pass out as leaders capable of adapting to any situation, in war technology or life,” said OTA deputy commandant Major General VD Chowgule.
After 49 weeks of rigorous training, these young men and women are finally ready to take up their duties as the guardians of their nation. We wish them all the very best!
Feature In-set Image Credit: Times of India.