I am sure you, me and in fact, most of the people submit to the destiny and take this statement as part of our belief, yet, I thought to write few lines on this theme for two reasons. Firstly, to reiterate my full belief that, “If it is meant to be, it will be” and secondly wish to suggest adding a small line to this phrase so that it reads as “If it is meant to be, it will be, but we still need to pursue our well-thought-out objectives, proactively”. Here, I wish to share a personal experience, which to some readers, may seem to be just a normal happening in life but for me it was a complete game changer.
I am an Abdalian (studied in Cadet college Hasan Abdal from Class 8 to FSc). Cadet College is semi-military institution, which produces high-grade professionals for almost all occupations, however, majority opt for their career in Pakistan Army and so did I. In fact, from day-one, I had no other option in my mind but the “Pakistan Army”.
On completion of my studies I applied for Pakistan Military Academy Long Course and passed the written exam and preliminary interview for selection, in one go. Now, I just needed to clear my medical tests and go through Inter Services Selection Board (ISSB), to finally land in PMA.
I was an active sportsman in the college and a known fittest guy in my class, therefore, did not foresee any problem in clearing medical test. Going through ISSB was also not likely to be an issue because of the military like environments that we were put through during our five years in the college. So, everything looked set for me to be in PMA soon… my life time goal.
I still clearly remember myself in my village in Azad Kashmir after my FSc exam, anxiously waiting for a “khaki envelope” with a letter asking me to appear before the medical board. (Just for those who may not be familiar with “khaki envelopes”, most of the correspondence in army is done in khaki envelopes, sealed and addressed to the addressees by name 😊).
So, it came one day, asking me to appear before the medical board at Military Hospital (MH) Rawalpindi. Feeling confident of my selection, I appeared for the tests as desired, wearing my blue college blazer with sports colours on my chest (just to impress the doctors how fit I was 😊). After three days of medical check-ups, we were finally in front of Commandant’s office to get the results. Entered the office at my turn and smilingly greeted the Colonel who was very kind to offer me a chair to sit. However, I could feel that he was little tense and un-easy. With a pause of few seconds, he broke the silence with a shocking news that I had been deferred for three weeks due to suspected systolic murmur, a kind of heart ailment and needed medication before re-examination. With some kind words of encouragement to help me absorb this temporary setback, he guided me to collect the medicine from the store.
Returned to the village for three weeks for a forced holiday to spend some time with my parents and also get mentally prepared for my future life as a soldier, which I thought would start in another 5/6 weeks’ time. Enjoyed a well needed break and was in MH Rawalpindi again on the given date, fully confident to be declared fit the same day and proceed for ISSB. However, after a brief check-up, I got shock of my life when the Commandant informed me that I still have problems and needed re-examination again after another three weeks medication. The real bomb-shell was his next sentence informing me that since the PMA course was to start in less than three weeks, there was no time for me to be tested again and therefore, I was not to be re-examined.
I was totally shocked at the news and did not know how to react. I was not finding suitable words to express my disgust and frustration. The Commandant could apparently, feel my pain and with few words of sympathy, advised me to continue medication and apply for next course, if I so desire. That meant a wait for another six months, going all over again and still not sure to get selected. The game was over, as far as, I was concerned.
Honestly, I considered it as a doomsday for myself. A person who had never thought of doing anything else in life but soldiering—declared medically unfit despite being Cadet College’s sports colours holder in five major sports; captain of college football team, member of college boxing & hockey teams and winner of inter services long distance races. I found myself totally helpless.
In next few hours, I was riding the bus back to my native village, this time, with no dreams for the future in dignified military career, which had always been my only passion. So, I was back to square one, at a place from where, about five years back, I was able to fight my way through the mountains to Cadet College Hasan Abdal. Though, failing in the medical tests was not in my control, I was still blaming myself to have let down my dearest father who had shown me a way forward from a village school to cadet college, the prime institution of the country and had imagined a brilliant military career for me in Pakistan Army.
Although, I had passed FSc in pre-engineering with good grades, I was so much demoralised that I was finding it difficult to convince myself to apply for admission in any of the engineering universities. Nobody will believe that in my heart, I had decided to work in our own lands in the village. My hats-off to my great father (God bless his soul), who once again, quietly applied for my admission in Engineering University Lahore through one of our relatives, without my consent. For me, the life there-after was directionless and purposeless.
It was after about two weeks that I got surprise of my life when I, once again, received a “khaki envelope” from MH Rawalpindi, informing me that since PMA course for which I had applied for, had been delayed by few weeks, there was time for me to appear for my medical test as per the schedule and if I pass, I could still run for my selection through ISSB. The news gave me hope for a “second life”.
With a new hope in sight, I was, once again on a bus to Rawalpindi, very hopeful and enthusiastic. After a very brief appointment with the cardiologist, I was sent to the Commandant for the result. The Colonel looked at the result and with a very heavy heart informed me that the problem still persists, and I required more medication and therefore, I fail to join this course.
It was totally shocking, and I could not control my unwarranted emotional outburst. I asked the Colonel, if he could not see cadet college’s sports colours on my blazer and certificates of merit at inter- services level competitions and still thought that I had heart issues. I don’t remember what else I might have said but, the sentences must not have been very decent and matured. Instead of getting annoyed on my unwarranted out-burst, the Commandant, like a good senior military officer, could understand my position, felt moved and asked me to wait outside his office for some time.
After a while, I was called in again and told that in order to clear any doubts, Colonel had ordered a special board of five doctors to re-examine my heart. Confused, demoralised and hopeless, I followed the individual who was deputed to guide for the tests. The doctors examined me for nearly one hour and sent me back to the commandant. I was delighted to see commandant, this time in an absolutely different mood, welcomed me with a big smile and greeted me with great enthusiasm, “Oh! young man, finally you have won a career for yourself. Congratulations.”
There-after, I proceeded to appear before ISSB and got selected for PMA Long Course that I had applied for. Served gracefully for nearly 40 years in the army and now live a retired life with left over energies that this great institution provided me during all these long years. Thank you, Pakistan Army.
Interestingly, while I was in process of joining military academy, I also received a letter from engineering university, Lahore, informing me about my selection for the admission and was to join the session starting in another two months’ time. It was my father’s contingency planning which also came through, as an alternate option. But obviously, I was already home…Pakistan Army.
I wish to once again take an opportunity to pay homage to my late father, who remained a source of great strength for me all along, during my career searching stage, till I was finally settled in the profession of arms. I honestly, believe that I owe everything to my parents. While, my father was always with me in the field, my mother who played an important role in my initial grooming, has always been a source of spiritual strength. Parents play an important role in our life, for which we have no substitute. Though we cannot repay for what they do for us, at least, we all need to take care of them when they require to be taken care of.
I hope this short and simple narration of an actual happening in my life, justifies that, a successful life is a combination of destiny, self-belief and proactive pursuance of well-thought-out objectives. Parents in their own capacity, provide a safe and favourable playing conditions. Rest is all your show and that of your destiny!
Brig (Retd) Naseem A Khan