This month on 17th April 2010, a friend of my youngest son was having his passing out parade at the prestigious Pakistan Military Academy (PMA), Kakul (Abbottabad) and he requested me to make arrangements to witness the parade. So I asked an old staff officer of mine, Major Jamal, to arrange passes for us. And we were there on the morning of the 17th April and joined a long snail paced convoy of cars on from Abbottabad to Kakul. The weather was cloudy and the sun was playing hide and seek with the dark black clouds. But when we reached the venue, the sun had succeeded in warding off the clouds and had taken its usual position to lit up each and every corner of the PMA’s drill square, which was decorated with buntings and colourful chairs corresponding to the colour of the enclosure.
Then the parade started marching in and it took me back to some three decades when I was also part of the marching columns and was part of the senior division getting commission. Seeing the parade from outside was very fascinating, but being a part of it was altogether different, specially for the ones getting commission in the Pakistan Army. The rituals and the sequence was the same and I could see myself among the Tariq Company contingent. When the sword of honour was presented, I recalled how Tariq Khan from our course marched smartly forward to receive it. The march off of the senior division from the drill square and slowing disappearing from the steps of the battalion mess was very touchy and I wished to trace back my steps, and that I did.
After the parade was over, we were asked to “cross” the drill square, and “climb up” the stairs to have refreshments inside the battalion mess. And that is when I stepped on the cemented drill square of PMA, exactly 33 years and one day over and it made me shiver both with awe, happiness and remembrance of some of the course mates, who were with us on that fateful day but are no more today.
We had marched on the drill square hundreds of times together, had some sweet and bitter memories of the place. And then reached the steps rising up to the battalion mess. I tried to slow march a few steps as I did on my passing out date, and felt happy that whatever I desired and promised to my country, I had fulfilled with pride, honour and dignity.
A 'veteran' poses in front of Khalid Company - some 33 years after leaving this building
The battalion mess was over crowded with guests and cadets but for me it was the same place where we dined day and night during our two years stay at the academy. It was the same place where I earned my medal during my convocation and made my parents feel proud and happy. Outside the mess on the other side stood Khalid and Tariq Companies’ blocs where I spent a year each and finally passing out as part of the Tariq Seniors.
Someday in one’s life, one must revisit places where he has been brought up, lived and grown or places which form part of nostalgia. PMA was no doubt one of the days that brings back that nostalgia and I really felt happy to have come back here and followed the steps that I took so proudly decades ago.
(Left to Right – Top Line) Empty Drill Square (after the parade), The Battalion Mess
(Left to Right – Bottom Line) Khalid Company Bloc (my first term company), my son Wahaab with his friend Omar