Marching to measure

With her chin up and chest high, Olympia Shilpa Gerald matches her steps with cadets of the National Corps on the eve of Independence Day.

August 14, 2010 04:07 pm | Updated 04:07 pm IST

STRIDE WITH PRIDE: NCC cadets preforming march past. Photo: R.M. Rajarathinam

STRIDE WITH PRIDE: NCC cadets preforming march past. Photo: R.M. Rajarathinam

The drumbeat rolls, the band strikes up and a high pitched voice issues a command. The synchronised swing of arms and the sound of thudding feet stir something within me. Besides being spectacular, there is something inexplicably inspiring about a march past. Perhaps it is the sense of dignity and pride the cadets bring to it.

All said and done, you cannot but help admiring an officer in uniform or say a spruced up NCC cadet. With a gait and bearing that is unrivalled, their stride speaks of self-confidence. Hearing that the march past drill is what cadets swear by to stay in shape, I rushed off to the Anna Stadium to witness the Independence Day rehearsal parade by the Tiruchi Group senior NCC cadets.

A genial Subedar Danieson runs me through the rudiments of a march past drill. “The first thing to remember is the bearing. You need to hold yourself erect and square your shoulders.” he says as I attempt to straighten up.

He demonstrates the heel march by digging his heel to the ground, with toes pointed upwards and arms swinging rhythmically. A comprehensive march past drill he spells out, lays emphasis on bearing, marching, saluting and weapons drill.

“When you march, you need to exercise control over your arms. While swinging, arm should not rise above the shoulder level and the forward and reverse swing should be equal,” points out Havildar R.Sivakumar, eager to help out.

Before the perfection of the heel march, it is essential to get halting and turning right.

‘Vishram , saavdhan’ - stand at ease and attention- commands the Subedar, to check my alertness. He insists I lift my leg up to the abdomen at a 90 degree angle with the ground, before bringing it down. Slackness in a march past would no way be entertained, I realise, even as I am introduced to the flat march.

“The flat march prepares the cadets for the heel march. It doubles up as warm-up exercise and an act of motivation for the contingent,” he demonstrates marching smartly in the same spot with perfect timing.

Havildar Sivakumar insists that marching alone and marching in a contingent are two different things. “March past is also all about synchronisation and team work. Marching in a contingent demands alertness and an unspoken co-ordination.”

True, there is no denying that a well-co-ordinated march past is a feast to the eyes and ears, when coupled with some stirring marching music. But one out-of- step cadet can mar the entire show.

It dawns on me why it is said NCC makes you tough. A march past drill for four hours in the invigorating early morning air is sure to endow you with enviable stamina and strength.

Lieutenant Shakila, Associate NCC Officer of SRC College briefs me on the benefits of a drill, “Marching burns all the excess fat in your body. It tones the body, strengthens and tightens calf muscles, upper arms and thighs,” she says, adding, “sense of discipline, co-ordination and alertness comes naturally with it.”

At the end of a good march, you may be left with aching soles, tingling calf muscles and throbbing arms. But once you get into the grind, it is the most fulfilling of activities, the officers assure me.

“March past kindles your appetite. A hearty breakfast after a vigorous march keeps you brisk throughout the day,” says Lt. Shakila, stressing that food is important.

Now that, I don’t mind, being hungry as a wolf. Only, I simply can’t stop my legs going ‘left, right, and left’!

Bottom-line: It may sound clichéd, but regular march past drill leaves you ‘fit as a fiddle’ without an ounce of excess fat. Perfect posture and poise are complimentary and come with health benefits of their own.

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