The proceedings were supposed to start at 10:45. Although we were running late by about half an hour, it did not call for a change in the schedule. Thus we had almost no time to change (into whites as per the instructions) and get ready. I had around a couple of minutes to check my room, which was clean and furnished with a comfortable bed, closet, mirror and desk,with a jug full of drinking water on top. Dropping my luggage on the floor, I hastily pulled on my white shirt and cream pants and sports shoes. Changing was a matter of five minutes, which included a quick sprinkling of water on my sweating face and neck and a quicker inspection of the sparkling clean toilets (which was a relief).
At 10:50 all the participants (about 30 of them were there in all) gathered downstairs in the New Hostel compound where we met our camp commandant. We were marched (well, almost literally) to the Tata Hall compound where there was a brief practice of a Guard of Honour. The camp commandant, who was in the air force for forty years was pretty passionate about this session, and to me, who isn’t quite familiar with sports or military protocol, it was interesting. My high school knowledge of commands like “attention” and “stand at ease” and “right turn” etc helped quite a bit I must say. After this brief session was over, we were sorted into four houses – yellow (bhabna), red (sankalp), blue (biswas) and green (chetna). I fell in the yellow group (unfortunately I hate yellow, but anyway) along with six other participants (two girls and four boys). Then we were each given a sash (yellow sash for yellow house and so on) and a cap to put on for the events coming up.
The inaugural session began with the lighting of the RYLA lamp in presence of all the dignitaries. After the welcome address by the host club president, the commandant came looking for someone who could read English well. I was the first one to volunteer and hence, I was given the job of going up on stage and reading the RYLA pledge while the other participants would follow what I said and repeat. I must say that the prospect of being noticed so early delighted me considerably (one of our main objectives was to show our vivacity and leadership skills which ultimately would decide who will win the awards). The reading of the pledge was followed by more formalities like the address of the guest of honour and the Rotary district governor. It took up till 12:05, when we had a tea break. Finally, things were going as per schedule.
The end of the break at 12:30 saw the first actually interesting event of the day, where we could put in some active participation. It was a session on self introduction by the participants. I took up my allotted two minutes to introduce myself by naming my school and university and major as usual and then proceeded to talk about my interests and what I expected of the camp. I concluded with my ideas about leadership, which according to me is not excelling over the rest but the ability to co operate with and chaperon the rest. The session took around 45 minutes. Around five participants, I’m afraid, messed up big time due to stage fright or lack of good vocabulary and did not use more than a quarter of their allotted two minutes. At the end of the session aptly named “first impression”, the commandant and another couple of judges gave their comments. They named the favourites from each house. Again I was delighted that they found me best in the yellow house. However, they reminded us, things could change fast as there was a long way to go before the final judgment. I had begun to truly enjoy the event and at 1:30, as we headed for lunch in the Tagore Hostel dining hall, I knew that I wouldn’t return home disappointed from RYLA 2008.