Story based on Poonam Yadav, LS Raheja College, Mumbai
Story by Mahima Dev
When you meet Poonam, she comes across as the quintessential girl-next-door. From her warm smile, it’s hard to gauge the kind of unfathomable feats she has achieved at a very young age. She was one of the chosen few to march at the Prime Minister’s Rally Parade on the 28th of January 2017. Yes, you read that correctly! One of Vacha‘s early associates, Poonam has had an enthralling journey and come incredibly far, keeping her values intact. She shares with us her story…
Poonam is a second year BA student at LS Raheja College Santacruz and a proud National Cadet Corps (NCC) member. NCC is the Indian military cadet corps with its Headquarters at New Delhi.
Poonam represents the naval unit in the NCC.
When the selections for the PM’s Rally began back in August, Poonam was determined to get selected and started practicing religiously for the same. She exceeded everybody’s expectations and made the shortlist from Mumbai. The shortlisted few were then taken to Nashik for the state finals where she qualified as well. The State Finalists were finally taken to Aurangabad where they practiced for 2 months.
The 2 months spent in Aurangabad were grueling and disciplined. Everybody would wake up at 4 AM for warm up and training would start at 6 AM. Post a quick breakfast break, practice would continue again between 8-10 AM. After a half-day break and lunch, march practice would resume at 3 pm until late evening.
During these sessions more and more candidates were sent back home. But the best, including Poonam remained. Finally only 37 girls from Maharashtra remained and 3 representing the naval unit.
They had become best friends by now and proceeded on to take the capital, New Delhi by storm!
The brave girls from Maharashtra stepped foot in NCR in January and met the top qualifiers from all the different states. It was an immersive cultural experience for them and responsibility as well. Poonam met girls from Karnataka, Uttarakhand, even her own state Jharkhand and many more. In totality 300 girls would perform the march. In Poonam’s words, “At first I was representing my college, then city, now state! I felt pride but at the same time responsibility as many wanted to be in my position and I had to uphold my country’s flag.”
During the last month in Delhi, the atmosphere was tense with bursts of fun and laughter. Anecdotes from back home and contact numbers were exchanged. And of course the inevitable selfies were taken too! All midst strict practice and healthy competition.
Finally the day arrived after 4.5 months of intense preparation. It was a sunny 28th January, a huge crowd, press and VIPs collected to watch the spectacle. The chief of Naval Staff, Defense Minister and Prime Minister took front row. The parade began on time and Poonam was overcome with immense happiness because she was doing something she loved- and everything was falling right into place! She donned a speckless white uniform and held her head up with pride. The girls worked like a well- oiled machine and received standing ovations from the dignitaries.
Having fulfilled their “mission,” it was now time to bid farewell to the other girls. There were some tears as well since they had really lived a once in a lifetime journey together. Although everyone knew they would remain in touch.
Poonam, reflects upon her enriching experience fondly and recalls how at first it felt odd to greet her seniors with a “Jai Hind” but now she embraces it with pride. She talks about how the youth is losing interest in cultural events like parades and thinks more encouragement is required. “All girls must join NCC, women are really respected there. It’s a place for true patriots,” she says.
Poonam hopes to join the army and fight at the borders to inspire other girls to do the same.
We at Vacha wish Poonam all the strength in the world and vow to support her every step of the way!