ASK any Army officer who has come up the National Defence Academy route about two things he instinctively remembers about NDA. In majority of the cases, the first will be the name and antics of the strictest Directing Staff. The second, and I am about 99 per cent sure on this, will be tipsy pudding!
Tipsy is a mouth-watering dessert which basically mixes sponge cake and chopped seasonal fruits (apples, bananas, grapes, pomegranate, pears) in a custard base, topped with whipped cream and dry fruits. It is simple to prepare and delicious. This pudding is imprinted on every ex-NDA officer’s mind because it is associated with a lot of events (and stories).
Tipsy was not your everyday pudding, it was made only on occasions like the Academy Dinner night and campfires. Generous helpings were catered for or else the seniors would corner the bulk. And yes, the name is misleading. Tipsy pudding does not have alcohol — my wife did try making it with a rum cake, but the taste was not the same!
In NDA, there are three outdoor training camps, one each in the second, fourth and sixth terms. These are of three to five days’ duration and culminate into a run back, which is an inter-squadron competition. A night prior is the campfire dinner in which tipsy pudding is a must. In my second term camp, a senior surreptitiously visited our location (since camps are held in the same areas each year, the locations are known), simply to savour tipsy. The fact that he knew fully well that if caught he could be relegated (demoted by six months) was inconsequential for him! He simply walked over 20 km for the love of a pudding! There is a tradition, too. In the fourth-term Camp Rover, which is held in the rolling hills overlooking the NDA campus, squadron Senior Cadet Captains (SCCs) come to the campfire, ostensibly to motivate their squadron teams to do well in the run back to the Academy the following morning. In actuality, most come to pack tipsy pudding (as much as they can) for coursemates back in the squadron.
There are a lot of unsavoury tales also linked to the tipsy, the most common being about some cadets eating copious quantities on campfire night and delaying their squadron teams in the run back due to runny tummies. But our course’s story takes the cake, literally. It involves a particular second battalion squadron.
In camps, tipsy pudding was given to each squadron quarter master in rectangular pans of about 4 feet by 2 feet (with 4 inches high pudding layer). This was more than adequate for 25-odd cadets. Of course, as a tradition, a large helping was sent back to the squadron with the SCC. Now the participants had eaten their share and the pan contained the remainder tipsy to be sent for squadron sixth termers, when Cadet LVR, with his mucky size 11 DMS boot, accidently stepped into the pan, leaving his footprint mark right in the centre. It was a well- known fact that non-provision of tipsy for the sixth termers could turn the week after return to the Academy a very miserable one. So, after a quick collective brainstorming session, the pudding was rearranged, with the visible effects of LVR’s footprints removed and the balance concoction, which had considerably reduced in quantity, vigorously stirred and packed. The fact that the squadron fared badly in the run back resulted in curtailment of some privileges in the weeks thereafter. The limited quantity of tipsy was also understood to be a contributing factor.
Tailpiece: Tipsy pudding is banned in my house. It has less to do with my bulging mid-section and more to my insistence that it be the default dessert in most dinners we hosted. No matter what recipe my wife adopted, her pudding never matched the NDA’s and I would foolishly tell her that! Then one day, she swore never to make it.