Jitender Singh Charak wanted to join the army but was rejected for being short. He now runs a training camp and many trained under him have joined the armed forces
Every morning, at 4:30 AM, more than 350 young boys and girls living in villages along the India-Pakistan border in Bishnah tehsil in Jammu leave their homes to reach their training camp in Naugran village. The drill is tough, but they don’t miss coming to this camp every single day; be it scorching hot or freezing cold.
They share a common dream – to join the armed forces, and they have immense faith in their physical trainer – Jitender Singh Charak. After all, over 300 youngsters trained by Charak, 40, have joined the Army, Jammu and Kashmir police and paramilitary forces.
“The story began with my failure,” said Charak, whose only dream since childhood was to join the armed forces. However, 19 years back, when he was 21, he was rejected because of his height. But Charak, who stands at 5’4”, didn’t let the rejection affect him for too long.
“Though I failed, but I didn’t give up. I started training my nephew. When he got selected in the Army, I decided to train more youngsters. This is how the journey began, with five youths from Naugran, my native village. We now have over 350 youngsters, including girls, who come to us for training,” said Charak, who is fondly known as chachu.
There are around 50 villages in Bishnah tehsil, and the international border with Pakistan is just 12-15 kms from Naugran village. Given the geographical proximity to a very sensitive border, it’s quite natural that joining the armed forces is the first preference of people living here.
The number of youngsters serving in the Army, Central Reserve Police Force, Border Security Force, Indo-Tibetan Border police, Central Industries Security Forces and the Jammu Kashmir Police from these villages is relatively higher than other regions. This is one of the many reasons why Charak is immensely popular among villagers.
Not just from Bishnah, youngsters living in villages close by also come to Charak. One of his students, Rajesh Sharma, is working as a havaldar in the Indian Army and is also a successful international pistol shooter. Four of his students are now National Security Guard (NSG) commandoes.
In the recent past, six youngsters trained by him have got selected in the Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry (JAKLI), three in Dogra Regiment of the Indian Army, three as sub-Inspectors in Jammu and Kashmir police, two in other armed forces and one in Border Roads Organisation (BRO).
When asked how Charak, a farmer by profession, manages to run this training camp on his own, he said: “Earlier, until 2014, the training used to be free of cost, but after that I started charging a nominal fee of Rs 100 per month. This way I was able to arrange for some basic equipment for my students.”
Initially, Charak didn’t get much support, but after a few youngsters from his village got selected in the belt forces, the villages started recognising his efforts. “With the help of a local MLA, we were able to maintain the open mud track. Then we installed some iron polls for training purposes,” said Charak. Now, the track has been converted into a full-fledged club and is called Rising Athletic Club Naugran (RACN). The training starts at 4:30 AM and ends at 7 AM. Youngsters living in villages as far as 25 kms come here.
Apart from training, Charak also helps students with filling up forms and shares valuable tips which helps them in their written tests. He also trains them in terms of body language, which helps them during their interviews.
He also chalks out diet plans for his students. To make the training sessions interesting, sometimes they play games like Kabaddi and wrestling. Though the training sessions are intense, Charak keeps the atmosphere light at the end of the sessions, which helps all of them unwind.
Nikhil Kumar, a college student, joined the RACN club last year and is now gearing up to take up the physical test conducted by the Army. “We are being trained for 100 meters, 200 meters, running, high jump, long jump and push-ups,” said Nikhil.
Amit Charak, a student of Master of Sciences, who is preparing for the civil services exam, said he has become health conscious and mentally fit after joining the club. Rohit Thappa, another student, said: “Chachu trains us physically, helps us become mentally strong. He is a very good teacher and our mentor.”
Ram Singh, a retired army officer, is of the view that Jitender is not only serving the society, but also Mother India as youngsters trained by him are serving the nation. “I am giving 100 marks to this trainer, who is doing a wonderful job for the nation. He deserves some award and recognition for this,” said Singh.
Charak is getting offers from villages in other parts of the region. People are offering him land and are requesting him to train youngsters living in their villages. But Charak is dedicated to his camp and is mulling the idea to take up small, short-term training sessions in other parts of Jammu. He is also planning to approach the government for help.
“After I failed to make it to the armed forces, I took up the challenge to train youngsters from my native village, so that it becomes easier for them. I turned my failure into my success,” said Charak, who is too happy to see his patrons in uniforms.