One instantly associates the best memories of their childhood days being spent with <g data-gr-id="47">school mates</g>, especially if it is at a boarding school. Recalling such pristine moments, the cadets of the erstwhile Prince of Wales Royal Indian Military College now renamed as Rashtriya Indian Military College (RIMC), have gathered their fondest and dearest memories while at the institution, in a collection of nine short stories – Soaring Pines. Each of these tales has a unique storyline which is reminiscent of the time they spent here.
The book gets rolling from the cover itself, which has a beautiful painting of four pine trees in full glory overlooking the school’s most famous landmark – The Martyr’s Memorial. Soaring Pines is third in the series of 10 books planned to commemorate the centenary of the prestigious school scheduled for 2022. The covers of all the three volumes have been lovingly drawn by Dipti Mishra.
There is a fresh perspective penned down by each of the cadet-turned-author in this collection, with each of them offering a different yet interesting and lovable account of the time they have spent at the school.
Ranging from tales of camaraderie and activities varying from attending classes, playing sports and sometimes even managing both of them, the book offers an eclectic mix presented in a unified manner.
The intrinsically imbibed spirit of the royal institution is imbibed in each of the cadets, and each of them narrates the manner in which RIMC has exponentially influenced not only their <g data-gr-id="54">childhood,</g> but also their entire life.
The reader seamlessly follows the tales, as revisiting school memories of their own, as each of the pieces rolls out an honest and very relatable read. Towards the end of each chapter, the cadets have mentioned the details of their stay at RIMC, indicating the batch, name of the House, number of years spent there and which course they have been a part of. <g data-gr-id="50">For <g data-gr-id="51">example</g></g> Sidharth Mishra’s details read as (1089/ Ranjit; 1979-83-115th Course).
In the preface, Colonel Prem Prakash gives his myriad perspective of RIMC from the viewpoint of a cadet, administrative officer and commandant at RIMC. Noted Journalist Sidharth Mishra’s story – namesake of the book’s title – captures the very essence of this entire exercise and the spirit of every Rimcollian – “Always look up and never look down upon something which may not measure to the benchmark you have set.” Mishra, who has also donned the hat of the editor for this book, takes this motto from the noteworthy and historically significant conversation between our former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri and Pakistan’s President, Field Marshal Mohammed Ayub Khan in Tashkent. Brigadier Jasbir Singh’s Squash by Night, accentuated by his witty writing style encompasses the mischievous innocence we all have possessed as kids. Penned in a <g data-gr-id="61">humourously</g> enlightening manner, Singh narrates the tale of young cadets desire to win the Squash Championship and the vigorous practice they indulge in to make it happen. Weaving intricate details from the past, he is able to recreate the atmosphere each of us can connect to as kids. Brigadier C S Thapa’s starkly honest account in Mission Impossible is a very relatable story for everyone, as we all face the tussle of academics versus sports while growing up. Thapa is able to ignite the emotional <g data-gr-id="68">chord,</g> while recalling his days during this struggle and finally being able to emerge as a winner and an achiever.
Next in line, Commodore N Anil Jose Joseph’s Of the Many Intangibles at RIMC chronicles “Values, character and leadership skills are clearly the foundations…” of a true Rimcollian. Joseph stressed on the amalgamation of various cultures and backgrounds intermixed at the school, despite which all the cadets effortlessly “bonded” with each other. Colonel Ali Ahmed in How I got to Pristina beautifully summarises the contribution of RIMC in his as well as every cadet who has passed from here: “Whether life is about nature or nurture, in both cases I end up owing RIMC much.” Colonel <g data-gr-id="62">Kashik</g> Sircar’s The Old Lang Syne describes how RIMC “changed my life and shaped my future”, he elucidates while tracing his journey from West Bengal to Dehradun when he landed at the school. Colonel Shailender Arya’s interestingly worded account Growing up in the Hills to Conquer the Mountains reminisces their association with the hills and various mountain hike trips undertaken.
Colonel Sanjay <g data-gr-id="56">Kannoth’s</g> tale School Blessed by the Divine <g data-gr-id="60">analyses</g> the very interesting subject of how young minds deal with and perceive the idea of religion while growing up. “The school had a Mandir, a <g data-gr-id="59">Gurudwara</g> and a Mosque. I don’t think I saw God in any of these buildings…” writes <g data-gr-id="57">Kannoth</g> and towards the end he aptly <g data-gr-id="58">summarises</g> the “secular” ethos that RIMC exudes. Lastly, Squadron Leader Mayank Kanungo’s beautifully woven tale The Making of Us explains, how RIMC “is an anthropologist’s delight” as it boasts of the largest diversified gene pool in the country.
The “One cadet per state” policy ensures that each class at RIMC looks like a “mini India”. Kanungo also notes, “for what <g data-gr-id="46">its</g> worth, the Rimcollian bond is simply legendary.”
For someone like me, who studied at Loreto Convent in Lucknow there was an instant affability to these stories developed while reading the book as it immediately takes one down the memory lane. Time flies, our mind rapidly <g data-gr-id="55">grows</g> but the days spent while at school, as significantly described by each Rimcollian, are engraved and embedded in the most deep-seated and pleasant corners of our mind.