Foreign cadets find a home away from home


The National Cadet Corps' Republic Day Contingent Camp in the Capital which may boast of a large Indian presence but enjoys  a very global appeal. It is virtually a melting pot of cadets  from across the world.

From eight foreign countries, 82 of its students in uniform, like their Indian counterparts, went through a rigorous selection process, to make it to the camp, which is an annual international youth gathering in the freezing month of January.

But “it's like summer” for Kazakhstan’s Nursultan, and for Olga Saveleva from Russia, “it's like the months of April-May in Russia” but the cold gets too much, for Ravindu, from Sri Lanka and Jannati Jerin from Bangladesh, the like of which they haven't experienced before.

But if it is the ‘cold’ weather for some, for others it is the ‘hot’ Indian cuisine that has added spice to their time at the camp. On his very first day in the camp, when Nursultan first meal, was six to eight glasses of water, after his first few morsels! The spiciness of the Indian cuisine had him consume more water than food. The spicy experience was universal among the international visitors. But a fortnight on, Nursultan has somehow got used to it.

But had it not been for the spicy ingredients, Nghia Duongtuiin from Vietnam wouldn't have got the savoury experience he had when he ate Chicken Tikka  and neither would have Thinley known how much ‘aloo ka paratha’ was waiting to enslave her taste buds!

But for Ravindu it was ‘business as usual’ as he didn't get any ‘new experience’ while dining and watching dances. “It's all similar in Sri Lanka,” he said.

While matching steps with cadets from other countries, the youngsters were quite awestruck and enchanted by the folk dances presented by Indian cadets during their
cultural competitions.

Jannati Jerin from Bangladesh, Nepal's Aishwarya Tamang and Thinley Zam from Bhutan, enjoy the colour which the country, its culture and dances spill, and Olga of Russia wants to go a step ahead in wanting to learn Indian dances with Zam following her footsteps in wanting to learn Bharatanatyam.

All the foreign cadets, including Makoto Miyahara of Singapore, found their Indian counterparts friendly, social, helpful. Makoto found Indian cadets more open to mixing with others than the cadets in Singapore. The foreigners Thinley and Aishwarya Tamang from Nepal flaunted their ‘Indian-ness’ with their proficiency in speaking Hindi and they are making the most of their stay in India and catching up on the ‘saas-bahu’ serials. Makoto says she thoroughly enjoyed the movie, Chennai Express.

But the youngsters see differences in how they and the Indians march, by the left.
"While marching, in Kazakhstan, we fold our hands by 45 degrees and Indians take their hands straight," said Nursultan. "Indians march by making the body stiff, ours is more relaxed," says Makoto.

They have been in India for a while now and already the change has set in. "The camp hasn't changed me. It's the people in the camp who have changed my thinking. I began to realise that countries' boundaries are fiction. The fact is that there isn't anything as such among the people. Boundaries should be destroyed. We want to be one."

"Before coming to India I thought India was a country only of Hindus. I now realise that it also has Muslims and Buddhists," says Nursultan.

Most of these visitors didn't want to be put up in separate quarters, but wanted to share their living space with cadets from different countries as they are all ‘cadets in the same camp”. It is their fervent wish to see more cadets, and not just those from the select eight countries, to be part of this unique camp.

They also wanted sports and shooting competitions for them in the camp, which they would like to attend again and also that their future children make it to Garrison Grounds in the year's first month.

The best thing Olga and Aishwarya liked about the camp is the NCC museum. The cadets from other countries also said that the camp made them realise the importance of India's Republic Day.

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