So where was I?
Aah yes, the Special Army Train had just arrived at our station at 12 noon. Check the first part here to get yourself up to speed (pun not intended).
The special Army train pulled up at the platform at the opposite end of the station — a platform which was not in use for other passenger or long-distance trains.
“Bas! Four more hours,” I thought about the departure time — that’s the time Major Sa’ab had said it will take to load the train.
Hashtag Husband Wale Jhooth!
Our entire Unit was moving from a field location to a semi-metro peace location, remember? Unit property and men were being transported via a special green-coloured Army train, with the officers, their families and Jawans being the only ones aboard.
It had a special train number and is managed by the railways only for the purpose of moving Armymen and Fauji property around the country — no, it does not show up on IRCTC website.
So, once the train arrived, Major Sa’ab, other officers, JCOs and ORs immediately got busy with ‘planning’ the next move. Planning is very important in fauj. Not just in war, but in loading a train as well.
I came back to the guest room. As per my calculations, taking into account time taken for loading, lunchtime and tea time, we should be good to go by 1800 hours!
Nope! It seemed more like 1,800 hours before we managed to leave the station at around midnight. Here’s why…
I am sure that by 6pm the train was loaded, but then some paperwork had to be taken care of. It is, afterall, a sarkari matter. We lost a couple of hours to that.
It was dinner time by then, so why miss a chance of a readymade meal in the transit camp mess? And once the beer bottles were opened, it became obvious to me and CO Memsahib (we were the only two ladies left now) that the officers will delay our departure further by an hour.
Hashtag Madira Sevan Train Schedule Ke Liye Haanikarak Hai!
We had waited for 5-6 days for this ‘son of a train’ to come, so a few more hours’ delay in departure is nothing! After dinner we went to the station, but were asked to wait for sometime at the platform. It was a small small station, only local trains stopped here.
So, you can imagine the kind of infrastructure they would have in place — which was nil.
There was no electricity, so CO Memsahib and I sat in dark, covered in three layers of Odomos cream to protect ourselves from mosquitoes.
It drizzled for 3-4 minutes, but we had honestly run out of fucks to give.
Once inside the train, we were thrilled to find that an entire coach had been alotted to officers and families. The bachelors took up one end of the coach, Major Sa’ab and I took up a middle compartment to give them (and us) ample privacy, and then after two empty compartments, the First Family of the unit set up camp.
It was May and the AC was a welcome blast. I was however, not so thrilled to know that the jawans were housed in sleeper compartments, with no AC.
Major Sa’ab assured me that the men were all rough-n-tough, and have seen worse. They will survive the heat as long as they got a place (and time) to sleep, he said.
Hashtag Ab Kya Hua?
So where was the hold-up now? Why the hell weren’t we moving?
We asked a young officer and turned out the delay was because of something I would have never imagined!
The senior officers didn’t like the order in which the train was laid out, and so they were busy ordering rearrangment of the coaches. The open coach was moved next to the officer’s coach; the pantry was positioned differently; jawans coaches were distributed throughout the train; ye coach idhar, wo coach idhar…. and it went on for another 2-3 hours.
You see, moving the coaches of a train is not like moving lego bricks — an engine had to be attached to everything that had to be moved and then “shunting” was done, which involved moving that coach to a different track, then making space for it on the original track, and then bringing it back to it’s rightful position.
Oh the whims some faujis have!
Hashtag Fauji Choooos
We hooted and clapped and congratulated each other the moment the train started. “Hurrraaaayyyyy!”
The officers, the ladies and the 8-year-old daughter of CO were all gathered on the open coach, taking in the cool breeze of the countryside. We chatted for sometime and decided to catch some sleep.
I had other things to worry about — high on that list being my leave which would end in two days. I had taken almost a week off from work, but we had wasted 5 days waiting for the train to arrive at our departure point.
I asked Major Sa’ab, “Ye train kab tak pahunchegi?”
“Bass yaar, dedh dino me (one and half days).”
“All this while you have been telling me that special army trains are known to take 5 days for a journey, and now you are saying that it will end in dedh din?” I fumed.
“Arre, see… we are already behind schedule, so I don’t think the train will go that slow. We’ll reach in time for your office, don’t worry,” Major Sa’ab assured me.
A helpful tip for all Army Wives here: Uparwale se zyada bharosa Murphy’s Law me rakho. Because:
So, I had made up my mind to get off at the next city which had an airport, and catch a flight back to our destination — so that I do not overshoot my leave. Lady luck was on my side this time, since the next such stop would be New Delhi.
Next day, Major Sa’ab woke me up at 7am.
I am on leave, which means I owe to it the “vacation gods” to not wake up before noon.
Major Sa’ab said breakfast will be here soon. I said I don’t want breakfast, lemme sleep.
In return, I got “that” stare from Major Sa’ab which is used by officers — in peace stations — to tell their wives that “Ab tum apni marzi ki maalkin nahin ho, ab Unit ke taur tareekon se bhi chalna padega.”
Welcome to peace postings — I thought. And woke up. And tried to make sense of this world. And hurled a few curses (mann-hi-mann) at Major Sa’ab. And had breakfast.
We all tried to find things to keep us occupied. The young officers were ecstatic on being in full mobile network and internet connectivity. Remember they were posted at a remote border location where one bar of mobile network called for celebrations.
We sat for sometime on the open coach and saw fields and rivers pass by. It was sunny, but the wind didn’t let us feel the heat.
In typical fauji fashion, at around 11, some snacks were served with chai. Then came soup. By lunchtime, I had already forgotten what it’s like to travel in a regular train — this one was so so so different.
Lunch was served at the bachelors’ end of the coach. My eyes popped out when I saw the elaborate set-up for lunch.
On one of the side berths, a camo print cover was laid out. And then there were the bowls and platters with the Unit crest, filled with food. All army wives know how food is served in officer’s mess, right? It was the exact same setting.
Plates, spoons, forks, napkins, and then 2 types of sabjis to choose from, a plateful of green salad… I really really wanted to laugh and roll my eyes at this typical “faujipanti”. It was all new to me… you see, I was expecting packed lunch boxes, like they serve in Duranto Express.
You can take a fauji out of the fauji area, but you cannot take the faujiness out of him!
Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you. We passed a station named Phillaur. It might seem like a useless piece of info for you, but at that time, it got us all excited because Anushka Sharma starrer “Phillauri” had just released.
The usual snack breaks were followed on the train as welll, like evening tea, soup, pakodas, etc. Dinner was an equally elaborate affair.
The train had to stop at a small village station in the evening, probably waiting for some other important train to pass and clear the tracks for us. The officers ordered the men to get down and run the entire length of the platform twice.
“The boys have to be kept occupied. They are used to physical activity everyday. We can’t let them sleep all day in the train. They have to be kept active na,” was Major Sa’ab’s explaination.
Train pe toh baksh do unko. This was my layman’s reaction.
In addition to men stretching their limbs, there were three dogs on board who had to be taken out on small walks.
These three well-trained German Shephards were part of the unit property, and were faithful companions who had stayed with the men at the field location.
So we had men, women, children, pigeons (see Part 1) and now dogs on this Special Army Train!
A young officer on attachment with Major Sa’ab’s Unit was excited about the entire journey because the train was to pass through his village and the CO had accepted his special request for a halt there.
Had the train been as per schedule, we would have reached his village in the evening of Day 1. The officer was, from what he told us, a ladla of his village and his family wanted to meet the officers and the jawans of their son’s Unit.
They had arranged for Chai, Samosa and Mithai for everyone at the station — yes, for everyone single person on that train.
Apparently a group of halwais were busy making the snacks for us at his village, which was to be transported to the station as soon as news of train’s arrival came.
Since we were woefully behind schedule, we could not reach his village on Day 1. He was a little upset, since some food had gone stale because of the heat. We hadn’t even reached New Delhi and his village the train’s next halt after the Capital.
At around 1 am that night, the train pulled up at snails pace at the Tughlakabad Railway Station, where I had to bid the special Army train a hasty goodbye.
I was leaving the journey midway since all my leaves were wasted in just waiting for it. My plan was to catch a flight from New Delhi, and resume work the next day.
On my way to the airport, I checked all popular travel websites for fares of early morning flights. Baap re… I realised what a bomb I would have to spend, but eventually remembered that being a family member of a fauji, I can get some cheeky discount from www.udchalo.com.
This website (if you don’t already know about it) gives awesome airfare deals to Armed Forces personnels and their family members (provided you have a dependent card).
So that night, I found that fares here were quite low compared to other websites, so I immediately started the booking process, but my dagabaz phone network vanished the moment I hit “Pay”.
I got a msg from my bank that money has been deducted, but didn’t get a booking confirmation.
Hashtag Lag Gaye!
I had reached New Delhi airport by that time, so I checked with the airlines who told me that they don’t have me on their flying list.
At that time, the UdChalo team did not have a 24×7 customer care service, so I panicked a little. I had to book that same ticket again, but thankfully the next day I got a mail from the folks at UdChalo that my erroneously deducted money will be refunded.
Hashtag Mera Piya Ghar Aya!
I reached my destination safe and sound, and three days — YES THREE DAYS — later, on Akshaya Tritiya, the special Army train arrived at our new peace station.
I missed half of the train journey, but the look of awe on my colleagues and friends’ faces when I told them about the experience was worth the trouble.
Hopefully, when the Unit moves to their next location, I would be able to enjoy the full journey, in full fauji tashan!
Tab tak ke liye, namashkaar!
Since I have no experience in dealing with a situation like this, I will request all readers to give their inputs. Many of you must have gone through something similar as well.
Nidhi Dubey’s husband, Naik Mukesh Dubey, died of a cardiac arrest when Nidhi was 4 months pregnant. Nidhi, who lived in Sagar, moved to Indore for further studies and job.
When she learned that war widows can also join the army, she started preparing for the entrance and was given ample support by the Mahar Regimental Centre in Sagar.
Today, she is Lt Nidhi Dubey!
Swati Mahadik’s husband, Col Santosh Mahadik, was martyred in Kupwara in 2015 while fighting terrorist in Jammu and Kashmir. Though financially stable, Swati decided to join the Army to honour her late husband’s sacrifice. She has a young daughter and son, who were put in boarding school so that Swati could prepare for the entrance.
Today, she is Lt Swati Mahadik.
The two women walked through the gates of Officers Training Academy in Chennai in September 2016.
Every year, there is only one vacancy for a war widow in OTA. This time, the Army made an exception and allowed both the ladies to undergo training.
They are not alone — their name will be added to the small yet growing list of war widows opting to join the Army after rigorous training.
If the entire process of getting over grief of loss of a loved one, and then pulling themselves up again to prepare for the future, that too in the Army, is something that will send shivers down the spine of even the strong-hearted!
A Curious Army Wife salutes them all!
I should have changed the name of this blog to The NAIVE Army Wife right there!
Last minute flight fares are sometimes insane. Thankfully, the only portal that could give me some discount was UdChalo.com.
I reached the airport and saw Major Sa’ab there after almost 5 months! Oh! How I loved my man!
For the next five… no no, I need some more drama here… FOR THE NEXT FIVE FREAKING DAYS, the train didn’t come.
Being a soldier’s girlfriend may not sound anything different or specialto many… but when you are actually with a soldier, you will see how life changes in unthinkable ways. We have been together since forever but it’s been a couple of years since I became the soldier’s girlfriend
Our relationship has changed in a lot of unimaginable ways since then. The best part — I am so so proud of my man. The feeling cannot be described in words. I have seen him change from a careless and immature schoolboy into a soldier, who now shares the responsibility of protecting billions of countrymen.
I can just not respect him enough, I could not be more proud of him.
The bad thing is I got demoted to the second position in the list of his loved ones. His love for his job tops his list now. He has pampered me a lot all these years and I have been literally in seventh heaven all the time, so for me it was like being thrown back to the earth. But that’s how it is.
I know how much he loves me, how much he wants to be with me and still he has to be in some godforsaken place for his duty — it makes me love him more and be more strong.
One obvious thing to have happened is that the relationship turned into a long distance one and there’s already so less time at our disposal and when once in a blue moon, we are all set to talk, bless the mobile network in Armed Forces areas.
At times, we may have 10 mins to talk and we will end up wasting 15 mins in just trying to connect the phone. So yeah, there is always a desire, a longing to be able to spend some time with each other, to not say anything, to escape from everything, just to be there with him.
This has made us appreciate each and every moment we spend together. We long to be with each other be it even for a moment and are always ready to scale any heights, fly any distance just to be together.
With time, I also became an excellent actor. No, I don’t act to hide my pain, I have to act to forget my pain. I have to be his strength. He’s there alone, working extremely hard, not eating well, not sleeping well, not getting a second for himself and the only person he can share his heart with is me.
I am the one who has to take care of him. And taking care doesn’t always mean cooking for him or doing his little chores, it’s more about taking care of his heart.
Always make him feel loved so that the rays of happiness shine on him. At times, I would feel extremely jealous and frustrated of not knowing about his whereabouts. With time, I have lost track of his likes and dislikes.
But I know the most important thing, he madly loves me and so do I! I started loving myself more because I’m lovely to him.
Even in today’s online world, we still write letters to each other. The joy of getting a letter after days of wait is just not comparable to getting an online message. We can read and re-read these letters years after years. The fragrance of our love will always be there in those letters.
I could not have imagined living, with him not being by my side for a day and here I am writing all this. It’s his radiating strength shining upon me too.
And the best perk is I get aviator glasses, Air Force t-shirts and souvenirs from all over the country as gifts!
— A Fauji Girlfriend.
The girl who wrote this wonderful piece did not want to disclose her identity.
I had been meaning to write about these two books earlier (months ago actually) but staring at the walls in my house and the computer in office took up most of my life’s time all this while.
Book 1: Boots Belts and Berets by Tanushree Podder traces life of a group of friends through their years at the National Defence Academy (NDA) in Pune.
Book 2: Its sequel, On The Double, is obviously the story of a Cadet’s transformation into a Gentleman Cadet at the Indian Military Academy (IMA) in Dehradun.
The latter was released just last year, and I was fortunate to be a part of its unveiling at the Pune Literature Festival, where I had the honour of meeting the author! What’s more — I even dressed for the occasion in a new camo print shirt (remember military style was in vogue at that time). I was secretly quite proud of myself for this brilliant stroke of thinking. UNTIL.
UNTIL I saw who was seated in the audience. A few veterans, some super-smartly dressed women (who had to be Army wives, I can sniff them out from a distance now), serving officers (in civvies) and AND AND… about a 100 odd cadets from the NDA.
See it’s one thing to flaunt camo print in front of the aam junta, but a totally different ball game when in presence of people who actually wear it (or in case of NDA cadets hope to wear it) as a part of their life.
I am sure they hated my guts. I hope they don’t remember my face.
Coming back to the point, I met Mrs Podder there, and introduced myself, expressing a desire to meet her once I finish “On The Double”. She gave me her number and we parted ways.
By the time I met her months later, she was fresh off the launch of her latest book “Solo in Singapore”. On a hot summer afternoon, we met at RSI in Pune. In a wonderfully candid chat, she told me how she had written the first book as a surprise gift for her husband, a retd Col, and how everyone who’d read this one was eagerly anticipating the IMA book.
Having spent a good two years in IMA myself, I was bound to be a little biased in favour of “On The Double”. It was like having a 3D imagery in my head giving me the visual aid as I read about the matar-gashti of the Gentlemen Cadets in Dehradun.
I was a little surprised by the omission of the IMA ball parties, events that an army man remember as vividly as their first cross-country run! I asked Mrs Podder about it, but it seems the ball was not ‘rolling’ at that time. The books are set in 1970s, you see!
She recalled stories of her days as a Commanding Officer’s wife, various postings and of course, Ladies’ Meets — yes, two Army wives always talk about it whenever they meet, in this case it was fascinating to compare the ‘then’ and ‘now’ notes.
Get these two books ladies! Trust me, reading material on what our husbands went through in NDA and IMA is gold if you wanna know about the ragda they went through in their ‘pre-us’ years. These two books also make an awesome gift, if you are going through the what-to-gift-a-fauji phase).
In other news, do check out these latest books by fellow Army wives, Shuchi Singh Kalra and Aditi Mathur Kumar.
When the Curious Army Wife doesn’t get her prescribed dose of phone calls, she resorts to making mean memes of Major Sa’ab.
What do you do when your man is out of network or just doesn’t call fyou for weeks at end?
You know how a song, a phrase, a dialogue often reminds you of your fauji, and whenever you hear it, his image comes to your mind?
For me, that dialogue is “Jiss upabhogta se aap sampark karna chahte hain, wo abhi coverage shetra se bahar hai.” 😈😈
I’m back with another guest post, this time from Army wife Manisha Shejwal with this amazingly insightful post. Enjoy…
How is it like being an Army wife?
Every young girl dreams and waits for a prince charming to come on a black horse and take her away as his bride to get married. When she is about to get married to an Army man, it is like realizing her dream.
I think dreaming to marry a man in olive-green and being an exemplary Army wife are two different equations. To decode what it takes to become an Army wife, let me shortly tell you about the men in uniform.
Indian Army is one of the first five largest military forces among the total 126 military forces present in the world. The most eligible gentlemen cadets are handpicked for further training through the toughest exam conducted by Service Selection Board (SSB). An Army man undergoes rigorous physical training that tries and establishes extreme limits of his stamina, endurance, and abilities to cope up with harsh working conditions.
He is groomed to handle any crucial situations may they be professional or personal. This training turns him into a completely confidant, smart, and a fit officer, who can take anything; may whatever comes his way. Being aware of his enhanced capabilities after the training, pride comes to him naturally. And ahem:-) … it suits him whether he wears any of his smart uniforms or a simple casual outfit.
During the course of his profession, he gets posted at various peace and field places every 2 to 2.5 years. At the place of peace posting, there is no separation from the family and life is still much easy.
But his field posting is a different affair. Sometimes the names of these field places are difficult to spell and locate on the civil versions of maps. He cannot keep his family with him while he is posted to a field.
While on duty at a remote field place, his day starts at 4:45 am. He takes all meals at the officers’ mess. His office starts very early and he is all occupied with inspections, planning and executing war games, training subordinates, establishing systems, and administration. He always carries the professional responsibilities towards the organization on his mind.
Some of his field areas record the daytime temperature of sub-zero and the lack of oxygen. During some crucial times, he works around 16 to 18 hours a day, without proper food or water at hand. He witnesses the game of life and death from a close proximity.
When he is away from home, he waits for letters and messages from his loved ones. He urges to hear baby talk that his little daughter or son utters into the phone speaker…He keeps his baby’s picture as his cellphone wallpaper.
He tirelessly eats all Aloo-mixed versions of vegetables that the mess cook prepares for meals; may it be Aloo-Gobhi, Aloo-Paneer, Aloo-Capsicum, Aloo-Bhindi, Aloo-Methi, Dum-Aloo, or Aloo-Mutter! Oh yes, also the Aloo-bondas as tea time snack, or that Aloo-paratha in the breakfast…He wonders what the mess cook would serve him if there comes a dearth of potatoes in ration! 😀 He waits for days and months to go home and have the tasty food that his mother or wife serves him with love.
Behind his tough, disciplined, and hardworking adult persona hides a little child, who giggles freely and sleeps for little extra time while on vacation. He tries to catch up on all that he missed while he was away. And when the vacation comes near to its end, he gets anxious on the slightest thought of separation from his loved ones. But he never shows. As a strong officer, he needs to be in control always; for all that comes his way. He prepares himself again to take the leave of his family and departs with the stock of love to resume work.
It takes something special to be able to handle this proud and commanding alpha man, a loving husband, a father of his children, and a child himself. Being an Army wife is not just about flaunting branded outfits and accessories, or driving a sedan…In my view, an Army wife is a courageous life partner of her husband. Her sacrifice starts when she enters marriage with the awareness that she is at second place in the list of his top priorities. Because for him, the nation comes first.
Here I remember a very meaningful quote in Hindu Neeti-Shastra that narrates six basic virtues of a married woman:
“कार्येषु दासी, कारणेषु मंत्री। (Karyeshu Daasi, Kaaraneshu Mantri)
भोजेषु माता, शयनेषु रंभा। (Bhojaneshu Mataa, Shayaneshu Rambha)
रुपेषु लक्ष्मी, क्षमायेषु धरित्री। (Roopeshu Lakshmi, Kshamayeshu Dharitree)
सतधर्मयुक्ता, कुलधर्म पत्नी।” (Satadharmayukta, kuladharma patni)
This Sanskrit quote means, “She works like a servant for her family, she advises her husband like a wise minister, she feeds her family with a mother’s love, she pleases her man romantically like a beauty named Rambha, she is the form of Goddess Lakshmi because she helps to multiply wealth, and she is forgiving like the mother earth”.
I humbly mention that an Army wife has almost everything in her. She is a blend of strength and warmth. She understands her husband’s unparalleled hardships and runs their house single-handedly when he is away. She takes care of his parents in his absence so that he can concentrate on his work. She becomes their children’s father and does not crib about the problems she tackles in his absence.
She drives car smoothly. She is an awesome cook. She applies her unique artistic ideas to convert a white-washed house into a beautiful warm home. She has an eye for colors, fabrics, weaves, and prints. She can change the cooking gas cylinder or an electric tube by herself. She is an amateur carpenter. She handles bank transactions and investments proficiently. She knows how to handle medical emergencies. She can even bring up their autistic or differently-abled child when he is not around.
C’est tout? Non…She knows Roger means okay and recce means reconnaissance. She knows Army diction of the terms such as TD, Adjt, Div, Cmdt, QM, and more. She can cook three-course meal for 20 people on a brief notice. She is fearless with cockroaches and she can use her new pair of Marie Clair stilettos to kill the small snake that sneaked in from the ground floor bathroom pipe.😀
She conducts herself gracefully and knows all dining etiquettes during parties. She is a mentor for junior ladies and a counsellor for jawans’ wives. She maintains cordial relations with fellow Army wives and senior ladies. She understands her man and complements him effortlessly. She holds her strength up even during those bad times when she feels like she is getting more than she can handle. She can multitask. She is jovial. She is cool.
Does she sound like a superwoman? Or a woman from another planet, maybe…😀 No…She is a common lady with uncommon spirit, endurance, creativity, and emotional quotient; doing it all for the ultimate noble cause.
There are quite reasonable pay-offs for her being an Army wife. She gets to be an inseparable part of a man’s life who is always morally upright. She is his most trusted friend and an advisor. When her hero is promoted as a Commanding Officer (CO) of a unit, she becomes the first lady of the unit. She always receives genuine respect from her husband and his fellow officers. These gentlemen around her make her feel like a pampered queen.:-)
She can stay with her husband during his foreign missions or join him on short foreign trips. She can visit unique places of his postings. She gets to see the natural and cultural beauty within and outside India. She gets to participate in adventurous activities and make a lot of friends. She gets to look at people beyond their places of origin, castes, and religions. She gets to serve others and thus she can create positive karmas for herself.
I am happily married to a very capable signal officer for the past 17 years. We both hail from civil background. My civilian acquaintances knew that I was going to marry the then Captain Saab. They knew only the rosy side of Army life and they often equated it with parties, freebies, and drinks. They used to say like, “How lucky you are! You would lead a very lavish life!” After our wedding they would say, “You have sahayaks and maids at your disposal, you get free house, canteen facilities, blah blah blah,…, you really live life king-size…”.
How much of it is really free, at what cost, and to what extent is another topic for discussion. But yes, we Army people do live our lives king-size. We party hard as if there is no tomorrow. Maybe because we frequently undergo long separations from our families…Maybe because we face numerous uncertainties and we wish to make the most of each moment in hand…Maybe because we know tomorrow would be different…
An Army wife neither receives any formal training to manage the show nor does she receive any bravery award…She stumbles, observes, learns, and moves on with smile and confidence…She becomes stronger each day, for she knows that she is the strength of her Army man. She knows, however unacknowledged her sacrifices go; she will continue to contribute in kind for her motherland.
The writer of this post, Manisha Shejwal is a Freelance Content Writer/Technical Writer. She likes cooking, baking, reading, painting, learning new skills, making Henna tattoos, and writing. She is inclined towards spirituality and strongly believes in two ideas: One, whatever goes around comes around. Two, happiness is a journey of life by choice. You can check out her blog Happiness Mocktail.