Be an Army Man – An interview with Ishnaz Singh

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A pensive army man

A pensive army man

Born and brought up in Rajouri Garden (Delhi), Ishnaz is a mathematician, National level swimmer and now a cadet at the Indian Military Academy. Read further to see you can look at the Indian Army as a career option.

Q. Tell us a little bit about Ishnaz Singh?

Born and brought up in Delhi, I spent my first few years in Springdales School. In Class 9, I received an offer from Modern School to join their swimming team. I come from a family of sportspersons, my Grandfather was the Director of Sports Department of Delhi University and Chief Administrator of 1982 Asian Games. My Grand-Uncle is a former decorated Olympian of the 1968 Mexico Games where they won a Bronze in Hockey and 1966 Asian Games where the team won a Gold Medal. I graduated from St. Stephen’s College as a Mathematician and was part of the University Swimming Team.

Q. You studied maths at St. Stephen’s College. How did that come about? Tell us about your time there.

My Father is a Stephanian and he wanted me to join St. Stephen’s College. When I went to fill up the admission form, I realised that very few sportspersons were opting for Maths and I applied to hedge my bets. I was very focused in my first year and was part of the team that won the Inter college championships, and at the same time I balanced my academics and gained a first division in Mathematics. In the same year, I attended the University National Championships and won a Silver Medal there. However, at the end of my first year I realised that I was doing something that my father wanted me to do, and not something I wanted to do. This led to me being disillusioned and distracted and it affected my performance at college.

He loves to dance

He loves to dance

Q. You’re a well accomplished national level swimmer. Tell us about how you felt when you won the medal?

I had been attending the national championships since the age of 13, but I finally won my first medal after 5 years of perseverance. It was a great feeling to win my first medal. What made the victory sweeter was that I won in a relay event and I had teammates to celebrate with. I always like to share my joy with others rather than keep it to myself.

Q. Did you always wanted to join the army? Were your parents supportive or did they oppose the idea?

I had always known that my Grand-Uncle was a Colonel in the army. One day I went to his house, where he told me about his Sports achievements. He was part of the Medal winning Hockey team at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, while he was still a Gentlemen’s Cadet in the Indian Military Academy. I was fascinated by his story and started talking to him about his training days. As we talked, I came to the realised that I was more interested in what he went through I his army training than his time in Mexico. This was the first time that I realised that my love for the army was more than my love for sports. A month after this, I went to the battlefront with him, where he was a Captain in 6th Para. I stayed with him for three days, and I got a first hand experience of what life in the Army is all about. I was absolutely fascinated by his Paratrooper training when I saw him jumping out of a plane.

My Father has always been very protective of my sister and myself and he always wanted us to go to St. Stephen’s and apply for the Indian Administrative Services (IAS). After Class 12, I told him that I want to join the army and he dismissed the idea outright. I received very little support from my family members except my grandmother who told me to take the exam and see where I stand.

 

Q. Can you tell us about some of the setbacks that you faced in life? How did you deal with them?

It might sound silly, but I used to stutter when I was in Junior school and everyone used to make fun of me. That was the time my Dad introduced me to books. He told me, “If you can’t make friends in school, then be friends with your books because you’ll never be lonely with them”.

In Class 7 I got asthma, which made it very difficult for me to swim. I didn’t want to lose out on being a part of the swimming team and I used to take a puff of my Inhaler near my starting block and never have to stop. I told myself, “Screw it, if I can’t breathe then I can’t breathe but I have to lead the practice sessions”

Fast forward a few years, after realising that I was living my father’s dream and not my own, I totally gave up in studies and ended up failing my final year, and had to spend a year retaking the exams. This is when I realised that in life there will be times when you have to do things that you don’t like but you still have to put in the effort and succeed in them to be able to succeed in something you love. I started reading books again and the book “This is all I have to say” by Swapan Seth, absolutely changed my life.

…in life there will be times when you have to do things that you don’t like but you still have to put in the effort and succeed in them to be able to succeed in something you love

Always the happy guy

Always the happy guy

Q. Did you ever feel like giving up/ what kept you going?

Just when I was getting ready to pursue my dream of joining the Army, I was diagnosed with Tuberculosis and lost my stamina, lot of weight and was bed ridden for at least 2 months. I was really heartbroken at the time, but with the care and support of my family I was able to get through it. I took the entrance exam when I was supposed to be in bed, and I owe it all to my family.

This made me realise that failing is not necessarily followed by success and there will be times which when one faces multiple hurdles and how one deals with them is a test of our character.

This made me realise that failing is not necessarily followed by success and there will be times which when one faces multiple hurdles and how one deals with them is a test of our character.

Q. Tell us about your time so far at army training? Your daily regime?

My day starts around 0430Hrs. We spend the first half an hour making sure everything is in order, that our beds are made, our dresses are clean and ironed.

Training in the Indian Army is all about running. We focus only on Stamina, and we are made to run about 20km every single day not including our other sports activities.

There is a “punishment run” held every Sunday where we have to run 25km with a backpack and rifle.

Last term, there was a 55km run which started at 8PM at night and went on till 6AM.

We are also expected to study amidst all the running, which usually happens at night.

Q. What do you like most about being at the Army?

The fact that they make you play every game. This helps us in getting to know each other, specially the Jawans.

The fact that they concentrate on your all round development.

The fact that our lives are centered around discipline.

The fact that they have given us the title of a “Scholar Warrior”. Yes we have to be strong and need to have stamina, etc. But we need to be smart, we need to be tactical. At the end of the day the mind is the best weapon. We are responsible not only for our own lives, but the lives of several other jawans who have families as well.

At the end of the day the mind is the best weapon. We are responsible not only for our own lives, but the lives of several other jawans who have families as well.

Q. Any words of wisdom for our readers.

“The Safety, Honour and Welfare of your Country comes first always and every time.
The Honour, Welfare and Comfort of the men you command comes next
Your own Ease, Comfort and Safety comes last always and every time”

Gursartaj Nijjar

Gursartaj is a mathematician, former investment banker, and wannabe standup comic. He loves technology and looks at his phone more than he looks at the mirror. He is also an avid gamer and spends hours playing Assassin’s Creed. He is a fitness freak and loves to run marathons, and wishes to climb Everest one day. He knows several languages including French and Spanish, and loves to talk in an Italian accent. In his spare time, he is found matching his turban with his tie.

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