Toorjo vs. the jungle: One perspective on National Service

Not everyone looks forward to putting off college for two years, marching through the humid jungle and performing exhausting physical work five days a week. But Toorjo Mishra couldn’t wait to join National Service (NS).

Toorjo came to SAS his preschool year and graduated with the class of 2015. He is best known for his t-shirt company, Teesharks, and for his club Achieving Dreams, which he started as a freshman. 

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Photo by Gabriel Goh

During the middle of his junior year, Toorjo received his letter for his enlistment to NS, which he said he had always looked forward to. “I had a choice to leave the country and not serve, but I chose to serve so I could hone my leadership skills that I could take into the workforce. I want to go into banking, and with handling employees, I would need to know how to handle various people, and NS will really help with that,” Toorjo said.

The Eye: What did you do to prepare for NS?

Toorjo: Before NS, I asked a lot of people who were already in NS questions to try to learn more about life in the army. I also read a lot online about the various activities and skills we were going to learn during NS. I also did some physical training beforehand so the first two weeks of NS would be easier.

The Eye: How is army life different from civilian life?

Toorjo: There is a lot more discipline and regimentation that are practiced in army life. You have to follow the set of core values and stay true to them which include loyalty, leadership, discipline, professionalism, fighting spirit, ethics, care for soldiers, and safety. You also have a lot less freedom

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Photo by BMTC

because you have to follow a strict timing and be vigilant at all times. You can’t afford to fool around because everything is very formal in the army. However, there are some similarities between army life and SAS, because you still have to study and do quizzes and assignments on various activities such as close quarter combat and urban operations.

The Eye: Do you feel more responsibility and that you have more expectations now that you are a soldier?

Toorjo: When people think about a soldier, they have this preconception of someone who is very respectful and know what they are doing at all times. Now that I am in the army, I represent Singapore, so if I do something stupid, I bring the army’s reputation down. Now I have to be presentable at all times so I can represent this country well and show that our army is one to look up to.

The Eye: What things surprised you when you came to the army?

Toorjo: I had had such a privileged life that I didn’t realize how difficult it was to do simple things like folding bedsheets or washing clothes. When I first came to NS, I faced a culture shock because I wasn’t used to doing these kinds of things. In SAS, most people are wealthy, but here people are from very different economic backgrounds. My friend’s dad is a bus driver. There are also many different races such as Malay, Chinese, and Indian, so at first, it was hard for me to fit in. But then as time went by and we went through struggles and hardships together, we all bonded

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Photo by Toorjo Mishra

together and created a strong sense of camaraderie. Even though I see them five days a week, I still want to hang out with them on the weekends.

The Eye: What new skills did you acquire?

Toorjo: Besides obviously getting more physically fit, you also learn basic military skills such as how to handle weapons, fighting in the jungle, clearing danger rooms, and you also learn what it really means to be a soldier. You learn why we are fighting for this country and why Singapore needs NS. You learn how important it is to be a conscript soldier and how to act in front of other people. We learn skills and go through experiences we wouldn’t be able to anywhere else. This is a free way to acquire skills that could help you for the rest of your life.   

The Eye: What’s your most memorable experience so far?

Toorjo: My most memorable experience was going through field camp. It’s where you spend a week in the jungle. You can’t shower the entire time and you have to sleep inside a hole you dig yourself. It was really stressful for me because I’ve never experienced challenges like this before. Interim in SAS was supposed to be challenging, but this really put me out of my comfort zone. When you experience this firsthand, you realize the amount of hardship that people have to go through. It really made me value the simple things in life such as using your phone to call your parents at night, showering, and the comfort of your home.

The Eye: What advice do you have for those going into NS?

Toorjo: The most important thing is to make friends and enjoy your time in NS. The physical training can be really brutal, but when you do it with so many other people, it makes it so much easier. That’s what keeps me going. If you stop running or give up, the person next to you has to go through it by himself. It’s better to suffer together than suffer alone. Camaraderie is important. It’s all about having friends that help you push through and keep you going.

Toorjo Mishra graduated from his four months of Basic Military Training on Dec. 12.

Author: Namrata Ray

This is Namrata’s second year on the Eye! Currently a senior, she’s better known as Nimi and is originally from Dallas, Texas. This is her fourth year at SAS and in Singapore. She enjoys playing tennis and eating chocolate lava cakes. Namrata can be contacted at ray45882@sas.edu.sg.

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