WUHAN, Oct. 20 (Xinhua) -- The dining halls on the first and third floors of Hilton Wuhan Riverside, set by the bund of the Yangtze River, have been teeming with military personnel ever since the first batch of delegations and the staff of the International Sports Military Council (CISM) started checking into the hotel a week ago.
It's the first time China is staging a CISM event, with nearly 10,000 participants attending the ongoing 7th Military World Games in Wuhan. A substantial number of them, along with some of the staff from CISM and the Organizing Committee, are staying at Hilton Wuhan Riverside. Dharmendra Singh from India doesn't belong to either category of boarders, even though his high-and-tight army haircut and the two pins - a CISM pin and a Wuhan 2019 Games pin - on the left collar lapel of his black suit may suggest otherwise. His ability to converse in Mandarin may complicate things even further.
Singh, in fact, is in charge of tending to the guests at the hotel, in particular those who have their meals at the dining halls. Yet, by his own admission, the native of the Tehri Garhwal district in the hill state of Uttarakhand in north India feels as though he is also part of the "army family" put up at the hotel, for the Wuhan Games, he says, is fulfilling a part of his "army dream".
"Three months ago, I got to know of the 7th Military World Games, and that many athletes and high-profile guests would be staying at our hotel," says the 31-year-old, who has been a chef in the western kitchen of Hilton for nearly two years now, having first come to China a decade ago. "I was excited because I have never served such a big contingent of military personnel, or even the staff of such a reputed global sporting organization."
However, much before serving the Chefs de Missions and chief of delegations of tens of nations and the CISM top brass at Hilton, Singh had had his dreams aligned with the military. As a teen, he aspired to serve his country of birth, India, as a soldier.
"After completing my 10th board exams around the years 2005, I had made up my mind to serve my country through the Indian army. Accordingly, I had started working on my physical fitness and mental strength from the time I was 16 years old," Singh recalled.
"But when it came to clearing the fitness tests for enrollment in the Indian army as a soldier, I came up marginally short. Then I applied for a post at the Uttarakhand Police, but due to some paperwork-related issues, that dream of mine, too, fell apart."
The pressure of being the older of the two siblings in a financially underprivileged family meant Singh had to put his military dreams on hold. To provide for his parents and younger brother, Singh, at 17, set out to earn an income by making use of his culinary skills.
"I decided to start working as chef, and soon found a job in the state of Maharashtra (in west India), where I worked in many cities including Mumbai. After learning the ropes and making a name for myself in the small-scale hotels in a few years, I got the first opportunity to come to China around the year 2009."
After landing a job at a hotel in Shanghai the following year, the industry of the locals, recounts Singh, inspired him to work harder, and for the more reputed hotel chains in the country.
"And, as fate would have it, a friend from Uttarakhand had been working as a chef here in Wuhan. He had a senior colleague named Peter, who was set to join Hilton Wuhan Riverside group when he heard about me from my friend. Peter helped me get a job at this hotel, which has been a great place to work, and currently I am the only non-Chinese staff in its western kitchen department."
Singh admitted he hadn't heard about the CISM Military World Games before the preparations for Wuhan 2019 had began in the city. Neither did know about the Indian city of Hyderabad having hosted the fourth edition of the Games, in 2007. However, pointing at the Wuhan Games and CISM pins on his suit that two diners had given him earlier this week, Singh added: "Military people command respect due to their selflessness and honesty towards their work. I am glad through Hilton and the CISM World Military Games, I am able to serve them."
In ten days' time, most of the Wuhan Games and CISM guests at Hilton will have checked out, with the Games ending on October 27. The bulk of orders at the kitchen will also lessen to some degree by then, with fewer - or perhaps no - military personnel needing to have Singh tend to their needs at the dining halls.
By then, some of the guests might have handed Singh a few more pins for him to add to his suit's collar lapel, as a token of gratitude; others might bid goodbye with just a "thank you". Either way, says Singh, he will remain indebted to his guests for a memory of lifetime.
"Come to think of it, it feels as though the Wuhan 2019 Games has helped me fulfil my dream to some degree. I wanted to serve the army, and now I am serving army people. I am glad I am able to honor the military men and women's commitment to serve their nations."