Walking in mum's boots

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12 May 2024 | PEOPLE

Walking in mum's boots

SV2 Karri Sarada joined the Singapore Armed Forces Volunteer Corps (SAFVC) in 2017 as she wanted to pave the way and prepare her son for NS. Today, her efforts have paid off.

//Story by Teo Jing Ting /Photos by Kenneth Lin & courtesy of interviewees

SV2 Sarada (right) joined the SAFVC as she wanted to understand and prep SCT Aarush (left) for NS.

How far would you go for your child?

SAFVC Volunteer (SV) 2 Karri Sarada decided to join the SAFVC as she wanted to experience firsthand a slice of what her son would go through during National Service (NS).

After all, he would be the first in the family to serve the nation.

Born in India, SV2 Sarada came to Singapore in 1997 and attained her Permanent Resident (PR) status in March 2002. She gave birth to twins – a girl and a boy – four years later, all of whom are PRs.

"I also enjoy challenges so I wanted to challenge myself by joining the SAFVC," explained the 49-year-old auxiliary security trooper, who went for her Basic Training (BT) in June 2017.

SV2 Sarada (second row, right) undergoing BT in June 2017. [Photo: SAFVC]

Despite undergoing BT in her early 40s, SV2 Sarada had no issues with her training, thanks to her fitness regime.

Before joining the SAFVC, she would go for half-marathons twice a year and go for hikes in her free time. She also holds a 2nd Dan (second degree) black belt in taekwondo.

In fact, SV2 Sarada has inspired her son so much that she is his source of motivation when training gets tough.

Specialist Cadet (SCT) Karri Aarush, 18, is currently going through his professional term in Specialist Cadet School (SCS).

This Mother's Day, we speak to this mother-and-son duo to find out just how special their relationship is!

SV2 Sarada (left) receiving her Singapore Assault Rifle 21 during her Weapon Presentation Ceremony at Kranji War Memorial in 2017. [Photo: SAFVC]

SV2 Sarada, how has the SAFVC been like for you?

SV2 Sarada: I was very excited to join the SAFVC! From the training regime to the soldier fundamentals, the 15-day BT was an eye-opener and I truly enjoyed learning everything.

My most memorable experience was probably digging the shell scrape during our three-day-two-night outfield in Tekong – that was really tough!

It may be easy for the young boys but I was 42 at that time, and my buddy was even older than me. The whole time we were digging, we just looked at each other and said, "What are we doing?"

But this is the kind of thing that we look back on and laugh about.

SV2 Sarada going through the basic trainfire package during field camp. [Photo: SAFVC]

SCT Aarush, how do you feel about your mum joining the SAFVC for you?

SCT Aarush: At first I was a bit nervous because she's actually doing military stuff but I know she's gaining experience (to help me) have an easier time in NS. I'm also touched 'cos I don't know of many other mums doing this for their sons.

SV2 Sarada: During outfield, I received a letter that my children wrote telling me not to give up, that I can do it and they missed me. They were only 11 years old then. Till today, I still keep the letter! (laughs)

So what kind of advice did your mum give you before you enlisted?

SCT Aarush: I think the most powerful one she told me was, "Be respectful, kind and humble and you'll make lots of friends."

SV2 Sarada: Even though it was just 10 days of BT, I felt that the relationships that you build with your buddy, section and platoon is lifelong. 'Cos you all have the same goals, you sweat it out and train together – you'll form very heart-warming and genuine friendships.

SV2 Sarada (left) and her daughter, Anshika Karri (right) with then-Recruit Aarush (centre) on his first day of enlistment on 3 Jan.

SCT Aarush, I hear that you surprised your fellow recruits with your skills on the first day of Basic Military Training (BMT)?  

SCT Aarush: My sergeant was teaching us how to fold our uniforms properly into Smart 4 and they realised that I had already folded mine.

So they asked me how I knew these stuff and I told them I learnt from my mum, who is an SAFVC Volunteer. I also learnt how to lace up my boots from her!

SV2 Sarada: Actually I only taught him how to fold Smart 4 once, and he practised a few times (with my uniform) at home. (laughs)

How did your mother's experience motivate you when things got tough?

SCT Aarush: The toughest moment during BMT was the 16km route march. The first 8km was fine but after that, my body was in pain and I was just pushing myself on.

I thought of my mum and how she overcame her tough moments during BT… (and) my friends were also encouraging me to finish (the march), so it was truly a painful but rewarding experience.

SV2 Sarada (front row carrying stretcher, left) assisting other female Regulars as trainers during the Women's Boot Camp in 2019.

Have your military experiences brought both of you closer?

SCT Aarush: In SCS, I learnt how to lead, use more weapons and equipment, as well as go through navigation exercises. So when I got back, I shared my experiences with her and she could relate 'cos she's done something similar before.

SV2 Sarada: I've been through a specially curated 5-day leadership programme for SVs. I also went through a navigation exercise so I understood what he experienced.

Sharing a love for outdoor activities: SV2 Sarada (far left) and SCT Aarush (second from left) hiked Mount Kinabalu, Malaysia in 2018. They were joined by SV2 Sarada's husband, Diwakar Karri (second from right), and daughter, Anshika.

I hear that both of you enjoy doing outdoor activities together…

SV2 Sarada: Three months before he enlisted, we would often go for walks at MacRitchie and other hiking places. So I would go for my regular walks while he ran with a weighted vest to train for NS.

In 2018, we also went to hike at Mount Kinabalu, together with my husband and daughter.

SV2 Sarada (fourth from right) conquering Everest Base Camp with her fellow SAFVC mates in April 2024.

You also went to Everest Base Camp with your SAFVC mates recently, right?

SV2 Sarada: Yeah, there were 12 of us and it was a 10-day trip. Getting to an altitude of 5,364m was not easy but we did it together. I want to experience it again so I'm going to plan another trip there with Aarush and my husband 'cos they were complaining that I went without them! (laughs)

Proud mum: SV2 Karri (left) and SCT Aarush during the latter's BMT graduation parade at Our Tampines Hub on 9 Mar.

You guys are really close! How would you describe each other?

SCT Aarush: My mum's a very important person to me. She guides me in everything I do. She teaches me how to be disciplined, how to not be lazy at work. Basically, she's a very important stepping stone in my life.

SV2 Sarada: He's a very disciplined person – he wakes up very early every day, even on Sundays. I always tell him to sleep in an extra hour but he will still wake up to do his things.

And when he goes out with his friends, he always keeps me informed on who he's going with and where. He's very transparent about what he does and I trust him completely.

Bonded by love and the military: SV2 Sarada (left) and SCT Aarush share an enviably close relationship.

SV2 Sarada, are you proud of the man that Aarush has become?

SV2 Sarada: Oh definitely! I used to be the one carrying the groceries from the supermarket but after he entered BMT, we went Cold Storage once and after I paid, he immediately carried the bag and told me, "I'm a man now, I can carry the groceries." (laughs)

Another time, we went to Jewel to celebrate his birthday after his BMT graduation parade, and both of us were wearing our uniforms in the lift.

When the doors opened, we automatically let the rest step out first. When an auntie told him that she will let him go out first, he said: "No, it's okay. Civilians first."

I was laughing but all these small things show how much Aarush has matured from NS. All the training and discipline that he is going through now will definitely benefit him in the long run.

And SCT Aarush, what would you like to say to your mum in light of Mother's Day?

SCT Aarush: Just three words – I love you. (hugs his mum) You've been a strong wall of support my entire life. Thank you for everything.

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