Sunshine story: Former Armyman trains hundreds of aspiring soldiers for past 50 years

May 14, 2018, 14:58 IST | Hajra Bi

Many of his students have gone to have illustrious careers. Take Rajeshwari Kori, the current deputy controller of Civil Defence in Raigad, who was the Captain's first woman student

His students prepare for the Services Selection Board written exam
His students prepare for the Services Selection Board written exam

Captain Suresh Vanjari, 80, can fill an entire battalion with the soldiers he has trained in the past half-century. While he served in the Indian Army for five years (1963-1968), he continued to serve the nation for 49 years, by coaching each new generation of defence personnel. Many of his students have since retired, but he continues to fight the good fight with the Captain Vanjari Academy.

It was after his stint as an emergency commissioned officer came to an end in 1968 that his next service began. "I never had plans to become a teacher, but one day in 1969, one of my colleagues referred a candidate to me for help. I suggested a book to the youth, but he requested my guidance. I respected his desire to join the Armed Forces, so I began teaching him. After he cleared the exams, more candidates came to me for help," he recalled.

Rajeshwari Kori, the Capain's first female student
Rajeshwari Kori, the Capain's first female student

Grateful students
Many of his students have gone to have illustrious careers. Take Rajeshwari Kori, the current deputy controller of Civil Defence in Raigad, who was the Captain's first woman student. "I was felicitated by the Ministry of Defence last month for my work in the Navy and was one of the first lady officers in the Asian sub continent to be posted on board a naval warship in July 1997. I am grateful to Captain Vanjari for making me for what I am. No amount of guru dakshina is enough for what he does to the unpolished diamonds of the nation," she said.

Another alumnus from his academy, Dr Kshama Bhalerao, served as an instructor in the Officer's Training Academy under the Short Service Commission. She is the senior security officer at Federal Bank, Mumbai. "With the help of his academy, I was the topper in 2010. Even though we graduated from the academy long back, we still approach him when we need help," she said.

Captain Suresh Vanjari
Captain Suresh Vanjari

'A life of respect'
"Many people associate the Armed Forces with fighting at the border, but it is so much more than that. The Armed Forces gives candidates respect and grants them an opportunity to serve their country, along with paying well," said Vanjari.

Vanjari trained a majority of the students at no charge. "Between 1969 to 1995, my academy groomed nearly 550 students who became part of Armed Forces. During this period, I did not charge them anything, and classes would be conducted at my residence. However, now the academy charges nominal fees to meet expenses on stationery and electricity bills," he said.

He has since trained as many 800 candidates who have made it to the Armed Forces. The academy now charges R80,000 for the entire course, which takes between two-and-a-half to three years. Students are admitted right after they complete Std X. The academy runs two batches every day; one in the morning and another in the afternoon, for 6 hours each. The academy also grooms students for the civil services exams.

Tejas Mane, studying at the academy, told mid-day, "The academy has filled me with positive energy and boosted my confidence and morale. I'm confident I will soon become a defence personnel too."

Captain Vanjari emphasised that the Services Selection Board holds a rigorous five-day interview programme to screen candidates. His tip for young aspirants? "'To be a good soldier, the most important factor is to have the urge to serve your country. One must be hardworking, honest and love nature. Without these traits, one can't be a good soldier," said the veteran.

Catch up on all the latest Mumbai news, crime news, current affairs, and also a complete guide on Mumbai from food to things to do and events across the city here. Also download the new mid-day Android and iOS apps to get latest updates

Weekend Getaways: Soothe your mind and unwind at Tarkarli beach!