I hear my alarm ringing for the fifth time. Still feeling heavy-eyed, I look at the alarm clock set on my table. It's 5 am. IT'S 5 am! I am still in my dorm and not at the PT fall in.
Panicking about the situation, I take a look around and guess what? Not only am I late but so are my two dormmates. "We are doomed," is the only thought that crossed my mind in the first five minutes. I anxiously start waking up my dormmates. One of them awakens and joins me in my frenzy, while the other remains in her slumber. I give a final exasperated call to her and this time she sits up. Glaring at me in utter silence for an entire minute, she spits the words, "It is Friday" followed by a handful of expletives. My other dormmate was standing on another corner fully dressed for PT and looking at me as if she was about to toss me off the building. I stand there a while flooded with relief, regret, and embarrassment all at the same moment.
As I walked toward the dining hall for breakfast, the absence of the usual long queue made me smile as I realised that I don't have to wait an eternity today for food. Even the ambience of the hall is different on Fridays. The usual rush to get to class on time is replaced by slowly sipping teas; the hasty tinkering of cutlery is replaced by indistinct mumbling; even the background music seems more calming.
However, the best part of Fridays is also related to food. It is that the canteen remains open until noon. Finally, today I'll get to buy the stock of chips for my entire week. Who knew some coloured papers bound into a small book called 'canteen coupon' could feel like dollars?
With no classes today, we plunge into a discussion of all the amusing things we did throughout the week. I giggle as one of my classmates narrates how she unintentionally spilt a glass of water on a senior who sits beside her in the dining hall. That's when I realised how, in this constrained life, we've learnt to treasure every small moment of bliss.
Unlike other days when the clock seems to be static during the last class, time flew by and the bell rang for lunchtime. A seemingly perfect day took an unexpected turn when an announcement stated that we have drill practice during games hour for the upcoming drill competition. The lunchtime ended with sulking faces and long rants throughout the house corridors.
A few minutes into the dreaded drill practice, filled with sulking cadets expressing coerced enthusiasm, I spiralled into thoughts about how life could have been so different right now. The unifying chant of my classmates' "Left, Right, Left" drew me back to the game's ground. I look up and am amazed at how each footstep is synchronised, how the hands sway at the same rhythm, and how the plume on the berets glint in the afternoon light. I take a minute to enjoy what I have earned: the pride of this uniform and join the chant with my classmates.
Now, you would think of taking a two hours nap, won't you? Sadly, there's so much to the day yet. The few minutes between game time and the prayer fall-in is completely chaotic with the agglomeration of haphazard activities -- some running to take a bath, some waiting to buy a cold drink, and some hurrying to finish their afternoon prayers. However, the chaos fades into serenity as we stare at the sky standing outside the mosque, spellbound by its shifting colours.
If there is a haven in cadet college, it is the form, the place of the craziest parties and the most focused studying. The evening prep begins with the form buzzing with gossip, someone's faint singing, and sporadic guffaws. However, with the entry of the prep guide, the senior cadet designated to maintain discipline, it all turns into a deafening silence. As the bell rings at the end of night prep, we run down to join the last fall-in of the day. Precisely at 11 pm, the duty cadet blows the lights-out whistle, signalling the end of yet another hectic day.
Thankfully for me, the day isn't over yet. I wake up to the sound of distant voices and realise that in the busy schedule of the day, I forgot it's my birthday today. My eyes well up with tears while I can't stop smiling at the two friends who are holding a cupcake for me.
What is priceless about cadet college is how we look after one another like family, motivate like friends, a guide like mentors, and support like comrades. On days you feel homesick and tear up, you'll have a shoulder to lean on and a voice trying to cheer us up. Someday if you find it hard to concentrate, you'll find your classmate sharing the desk with you to teach you. On exam days, you'll find someone summarising an entire chapter for you on a 10-minute walk.You might ask why people would ever want to put themselves into such a hectic and bounded life. Well, the answer is it's for these people. The small acts of love that bring way more joy than big parties in the unrestricted outside world, the memories you make along the way and the unexplainable love you develop for these people are what make it all worth it. Taking inspiration from Marvel Cinematic Universe's Thor, it can be said, "Cadet College is not a place, it's a people."
The writer is a first-year BBA student at IBA-DU. The above narration reflects her own experience in a cadet college in Bangladesh.