It was 16 April 1977 when the 55th PMA Long Course passed out of the prestigious Pakistan Military Academy, Kakul. But it was even two years earlier in May 1975 when some 241 cadets joined this entry of the PMA as 55th Long Course. Thus for all those who are part of the course, it is a 36 years long association that nurtures every day and strengthens the bondage of comradeship.
To commemorate this almost four decades old association, there is a reunion every year where a majority of the serving and retired officers of the course along with their families get together to reminisce the memories of every day that follows since May 1975.
The venue for this year’s mega event was the Army Water Sports Club, Mangla. This club is one of its own kind in Pakistan where commandoes undergo strenuous waterman ship courses, and other troops learn para gliding, water skiing and other related skills both as adventure training besides service and professional requirements. The facility is also open to the public for taking boat rides into the vast reservoir of the Mangla reservoir. On weekends it is difficult to find a space as the venue is jam-packed with families and picnickers.
The meeting place was a big motor driven raft parked on the lakeshore for the couples, while another was exclusively for the children, and a third as the mess raft for the lunch. Since the water level is considerably low due to unprecedented cold weather which is not allowing the snow to melt and fill the reservoir, the lake was not only at its dead level, the water too was muddy. Otherwise at this time of the year, there is cleaner water and one can see the deep blue lake stretched miles away. Due to the dead level, we had to go down some 150-200 feet below the club building to get aboard the rafts.
And once aboard, there were big roars, hugs and hearty handshakes by the already present veterans. One just cannot narrate the joy of meeting a buddy and feeling the pleasure of that rare 36 years long association. The weather was partly cloudy with a fast wind blowing, making the environment more conducive for such a reunion. Soon the raft was let lose into the water and by and by we drifted into the lake while enjoying cold drinks and cold wind passing through happily whistling when seeing us all smiles and laughs.
Soon the mess raft started to close in and finally tugged with ours and tied up. The tiny door was opened and all were shifted on to the other side for the steamy hefty lunch. But every one of us was more inclined to talking and chatting than having food as such reunions come once a year. After the lunch, the mess raft got detached and now all of us sat down for a cup of tea before going back on the land.
Once back on land, there were a formal sit in to pay homage to comrades who have left this world for their heavenly abode. We prayed for Major general Javed Sultan who fell prey to the war on terror a couple of years ago. We prayed for Arshad Aziz who died during training in PMA when the bus carrying cadets to Murree fell in a ravine. We remembered Sadar Jahanzeb, a very good friend and human being besides being an ace aviator and a test pilot who succumbed to a bad local weather. We paid homage to Salim, who jumped into the river to save his young daughter and both perished in the fast foamy current of the river. We remembered Captain Bari who met a serious road accident in Saudi Arabia while on official duty and later succumbed to his injuries. We also remembered Mumtaz, the jolliest good fellow of the course who succumbed to cancer. We also remembered Agha, Ishraque, Ijaz, Khursheed and Mustafa Maan. We prayed for all these good men and near and dear ones. We also remembered Jamshed who is suffering for the follies of others and hoped one day he would see the sunlight once again.
Although our friend F S Toni tried to warm us up with his usual giggles and songs at the end, the void created by those who are no more today made us miss their absence more than ever before. We started leaving with handshakes and hugs, thanking Tariq Khan the Mangla Corps Commander for his hospitality and hoping to meet again next year, God willing. I hope and pray for the longevity of everyone and their families.
Adios Mangla, for you have brought smiles on our faces and let us remember friends and comrades that are no more, and pray we meet again with smiles and love for each other.