, 2022-12-11 18:45:00,
Why are girl cadets at the NDA sporting boys’ crew cuts? Why don’t we simply accept that gender differences will remain despite haircuts? These mildly provocative yet valid questions asked by a military veteran on the conclusion of the ‘Ethos of Soldiering’ discussion needed answering. The venue was the 2022 Chandigarh Military Literature Festival and the moderator quizzically scanned the veteran and serving officer panellists. I volunteered.
I recalled an incident recently when I was invited as a guest speaker to my alma mater, the Officers’ Training Academy, Chennai. With time at hand, I walked along our 1968 Gentleman Cadet barracks, when I came across a cadet striding out of the barracks in shorts, with football boots slung across the shoulders, mouthing a crisp ‘Good morning, sir’. Startled, I realised it was a Lady Cadet (LC) with a crew cut. She was a football ‘blue’ let off the standard cadet training regimen to hone her skills for an oncoming tournament. She smiled, ‘That’s okay, sir. My haircut must’ve fooled you. We’re kept busy and have no time to manage hair-days, so we’ve boy-cuts!’
In seconds, I’d became buddies with the chatty LC; military ethos and its implicit underlying trust helping bridge the gender gap, besides compressing age while exchanging opinions about grainy yesterdays, challenging todays and hopeful tomorrows, till she peeled off for practice. Her energy symbolised the boundless spirit that uniformed youth across gender carry.
The veteran smiled with understanding, but the issue didn’t end there. A senior veteran remarked, as I sat down, ‘Ever wondered how Sikh soldiers manage? They have hair too and most of them keep it.’ Informally asked, this question deserved an answer too. Did that lie in religion, faith, belief, established military practice and soldiering ethos that evolved slowly? In service regulations governing soldierly propriety and practice? I wondered.
Recently, I visited the Ezhimala Naval Academy, Kannur, thanks to its Deputy Commandant — my ex-cadet at the NDA. A young Lady Officer pointed out a lone LC running stadium laps. ‘She’s reported early to meet physical standards or face relegation.’ I spoke to her when she was limbering down. ‘Practising thrice daily. I’ll pass, sir!’ she responded fiercely.
Socrates said: ‘Once made equal to man, woman becomes…
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