Fifteen-year-old Sarthak Poddar looked down the barrel of a Kalashnikov on Sunday afternoon and spotted a career.
“Before today, it had never occurred to me that I could join the armed forces. The sight of upright officers commanding their battalions, majestic horses and latest weapons have tempted me to try and don the army uniform,” said the student at Calcutta Boys’ School.
Sarthak was not alone. Colonels and majors present at the Army Equipment Display and Military Tattoo, supported by The Telegraph, on the Army Training and Polo Ground at the RCTC were flooded with queries from young visitors (tattoo is a Dutch term meaning army display).
“Some teenagers wanted to know about the jobs in the army they could apply for in future. Some wanted to know the advantages of an army job over other jobs. The guardians too looked impressed,” said a major in the 14 Bihar Regiment, which managed the logistics of the Army Equipment Display.
|A military band performs in uniform fitted with LED
A turnout of around 25,000 on Sunday — at least 500 people were waiting to enter the venue at 2.30pm, four hours after the event started — was “overwhelming”, said officers.
At one point, so many children had mounted the three T-72M1 battle tanks that they could barely be seen.
“Besides giving civilians a feel of the various aspects of army life, one of the main objectives of the event is to kindle interest among the youngsters about the army,” said a lieutenant colonel.
The Military Tattoo in the afternoon certainly got the attention of the audience.
Daredevil officers on horses and helicopters had everyone on the edge of their seats. A Cheetah helicopter swooped down in front of the stand, eliciting loud cheers. “It was more thrilling than scary,” said Gayatri Khullar, a first-year student of English at Loreto College.
The best part of the Military Tattoo was reserved for the end. Motorcycle stunts by the Shwet Ashwa team of Military Police had everyone cheering and craving for more.
“Such stunts look even more breathtaking in real life than in the movies,” said Class VII student Mehek Mehta.
Sensing the rush of adrenaline in kids, who were imitating what they saw even before the programme ended, announcements were made asking them not to try the stunts.
As the dusk set in, a marching band in special LED uniform lit up the ground to the lilting tune of bagpipes, drums and other instruments.