A Curious Army Wife

I joined this crazy tribe when I married into the Indian Army

Archive for the category “army wife”

Make some noise for the JC boys!

Every three months, hundreds of officers of the Indian Army across all arms descend on the cantonment town Mhow (near Indore) and bury themselves in books.
The grueling Junior Command course, better known as JC, is a training course that they take very seriously.
This year, Major Sa’ab was among the JC Boys (as I like to call them now) studying the way that will put serious IIT aspirants to shame.

Some came alone, while others were MBBS (Miya Biwi Bachhon samet).  Major Sa’ab was among the forced bachelors, a privilege he couldn’t enjoy on weekends as I would drop by on Saturdays and Sundays.

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Major Sa’ab’s balcony view from his bachelor pad had these lovely fall colours. The car and bike are both rentals, which is one of the flourishing local businesses thanks to the Army.

So, acuriousarmywife.wordpress.com here has a list of 10 things that only the wife of an officer attending JC will relate to:

  1. JC aya!” Sounds like “Piya ghar aya“, but has the exact opposite effect. It sends most of us into frantic mode and the first thing we do is google ‘Mhow’. Where is this place? What’s the weather like? How far is Indore from Mhow? Where do I shop there? 😛
  2. What all do I pack for two months — this question weighs heavy on our mind even after the JC course is over. Some Army wives try to pack light, especially if they are travelling by air. I emphasis on the word ‘TRY’ because, as an unsaid rule, Army wives cannot pack light. We have to pack sarees, suits, winter-wear (if any) and all that jazz that WE KNOW will be needed in a military station. Those with babies have to carry some extra baggage (and I am not referring to the baby here).
  3. Before coming to Mhow for JC, officers start asking other officers who had attended the previous course about how to study and stuff, while we ladies ask fellow Army wives about the accommodation scene, kitchen facilities, ladies’ meet menace, shopping areas and similar topics of national interest.
  4. On reaching Mhow, most of us feel a little disappointed about how the place is too far yet too close to Indore city (my pathetic attempt at translating kitne dur kitne pass). We know the malls, the eateries and the picnic spots are so damn close to Mhow. What an amazing place it would be to spend a couple of years with the family. But then every trip to Indore costs 2-3 hours, which is gold for JC officers. So the wife either sulks at home, secretly cribbing about not being pampered enough, or she just vanishes with the car to explore the city on her own. Bechara officer, sochta hai Mhow mein car leke jaunga toh time save karunga, but ultimatly has to ask coursemates for lift till classrooms too.
  5. Sugrahini becomes the place where Army wives do their JC. Mexican cuisine, baking, and other such short-term classes are organised to keep the ladies busy and out of their husbands’ way — all at throwaway prices.
  6. I once heard someone say that Mhow shopkeepers make a lot of money thanks to Army wives. Dohads, Chanderi sarees, smocking dresses and special Mhow embroidary saree (I was unaware of the last one, which is shocking considering I lived in Indore for 15 years) are the things that we Army wives love to hoard. The traders of the tiny Mhow market eagerly await the arrival of every JC course.
  7. Other than the things I mentioned above, Mhow is also famous for things that have extremely high value in the Indian Army. I am talking about bean bags, leather show pieces, paintings (especially the fauji ones) and last but not the least… fauji nameplates.
  8. Words, terms and alphabets complete it’s life cycle in two months, bouncing off our ears till it starts making some sense. We hear stuff like Syndicate, AE 1, AE2, I grading, sand model,  Alpha, AI, Bravo, BI, Charlie, and Echo, in addition to KLPD.
  9. The two months fly by way too fast. Many of us were wondering how we’ll take care of the baby (babies, in some cases) alone, without any help from husbands. Many of us kept thinking of how we’ll pass time in that sleepy town where internet connectivity is a luxury. We all think of how we’ll be able to pack all the stuff we shopped for into those tiny bags we brought. Time simply flies!
  10. And before we realise, it’s all over. We make some glorious friends, revel in the fact that our husbands consumed less alcohol and more notepads, and take back some awesome memories with us.  Hasta la vista Mhow!

An Army wife’s guide to surviving the first NDA visit

Sudan Block (NDA) in 2008. Photo by Major Sa'ab.

Sudan Block (NDA) in 2008. Photo by Major Sa’ab.

I don’t know what is it about taking the love of your life to NDA for the first time that gets all Army officers super-senti. It’s a big deal for them. Which is really surprising as very few things come in that category — the big deal category.

But it is going to happen some day. The sooner, the better.

The National Defence Academy in Khadakwasla (Pune) is that place where thousands and thousands of officers of the Indian Armed Forces have spent their most crucial years of life. So when you were out with your college friends eating samosa or bunking a class to watch a movie with your crush — they were in NDA, in an ALL-BOYS academy, dreaming of what it is like to be normal!

When they finally do manage to get a girlfriend/fiance/wife (whichever comes earliest), they will make it a point to take them to NDA to show them the place where ‘boys became men’.

I will not go into what happens at NDA and why it’s where the foundation of a good officer is laid and blah blah. You will get to hear all that from an enthusiastic Colonel at a party someday.

But I WILL tell you about all that you need to be prepared for when you visit the NDA for the first time.

When Major Sa’ab (my husband) took me there for the first time, we were just a couple of months into our relationship. I was working in Pune and he had come to visit me in the tiny mid-term break during his YOs.

He said, “Yaar, NDA jana hai ek baar.”

I said, “Ja naa…”

“You also come, I’ll give you a guided tour.”

To any other person, that would have sounded so tempting. Not to me, as I had visited NDA many times (professional hazard). I still agreed to go.

One thing is for sure, visiting the NDA with an officer who knows his way around the academy is a novelty. It feels good. And Major Sa’ab also lost no chance to say that this visit seems special. Back then, I thought he was saying that just to impress me. Until I met many Army wives (years later) who told me about their special trip to NDA. (See, I told you, it’s a big deal for these men.)

A typical tour generally starts with ye Sudan block hai, ye Habibullah Hall hai, ye drill square, ye swimming pool, ye NDA mess etc. Which is a lot to take in, specially for us civilian girls.

Photo by Major Sa'ab.

Photo by Major Sa’ab.

Almost every lane, ground, field, building — any place where humans can possibly tread — was used for punishments during their days as cadets. Major Sa’ab seemed to feature in an awful lot of those.

He pointed towards austere gray buildings that had alphabets written on it. He pointed to one such building (which looked like a copy of the next one) and said,”That’s my squadron.”

“You were in K squadron!”

“No! I was in Kilo squadron.”

Oh! It’s not ABC here, it’s Apha Bravo Charlie! So not K, but Kilo. Mental note to self.

“That was my room in the first two terms,” Major Sa’ab suddenly became Raju guide and pointed towards one tiny window of the Kilo Squadron. We were doing this while standing outside as it would have been inappropriate for a woman to enter the cadet’s buildings without prior notice (for obvious reasons).

And the mini-monologue started off…

“That window next to me was my best bud’s room. We used to share Maggi at night after lights out. Then that corner room was occupied by a very psycho/saddist senior. Made our life hell. In the third term, I moved to that other room. At the end of the corridor we had the common bathrooms that have partitions but no doors… where we were supposed to clear SSB (shit, shave, brush) before the seniors woke up in the morning. When I was a sixth termer, I chose that cozy little room where I would play loud music…”

And all I heard in that little speech was the bathroom thingy! NO DOORS? Is it even legal!

He then took me to the juice bar to introduce me to the maushi, who promptly recognised him! She was the lady who ran the shop and a fairy godmother for all cadets. Just at that moment, a group of 8-9 cadets came and greeted Major Sa’ab! They were the current sixth termers, who were first termers when Major Sa’ab was a sixth termer. It’s complicated.

More so, because they all looked EXACTLY the same to me. White t-shirts and shorts, lean, extra-small crew cut and skin that had enough sun for another decade. They all looked like clones to me.

“Banana shake for everyone. Maushi…!” Major Sa’ab got the cadets excited at the prospect of having free banana shake. We all sat there for a good 20 minutes (seemed like 3-4 hours) in which they all talked about ‘Academy stuff’. That was one conversation in which I could contribute in no way. So I just sat and switched off.

After the cadets left, we went to the Gol market. “That’s Kapoor’s shop right there. Itna loota hai usne hamein! You see that shop… that is Hamsa, where we used to eat paratha bhurji and chicken lollypops. He used to say ‘Garam nai hai, fresh hai’ for every item he sold. Hahaha…”

Hanss le beta. Little did Major Sa’ab know that he is going to hear the “Garam nai hai, fresh hai” dialogue every third day from his wife.

But a truly emotional moment for us came when we went pass the lawns where the NDA Ball was held years ago, where I was Major Sa’ab’s ball partner.

So that concludes the first part of the NDA darshan for me. Subsequent visits had greater details coming in from my Raju guide, with which I won’t bore you.

One of our friends came to the NDA after taking a detour from their honeymoon, where the guy in question got an earful on what constitutes as a romantic visit and what doesn’t.

Well, to be fair, the NDA is the place where every man’s romance with fauj starts, right?

 

When Army wives start using fauji lingo… Part 2

After the first part of When Army wives start using fauji lingo (Part 1, read here) was published, I got some useful feedback from Major Sa’ab. He also suggested that I ask other Army wives to contribute the words they use regularly.

I asked around on Facebook and found some more such words, which meant a sequel to that post was long due. So here it is! Thank you ladies for contributing, your names are mentioned at the end of your ‘word’.

1. JOSH-TYPE or GOOD JOSH!

Meaning: Full of life, very active. Officers’ generally use it to describe a person who is enthusiastic and does the job without any delay.

Usage: My neighbour is a josh-type lady, apparently she took care of 90% things in the Ladies’ Meet. I wish we had someone as josh-type as her in our Unit.

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2. ROGER

Meaning: Ok. Yes.

Usage: I got a message,”Roger, will check it tomorrow”, and I asked who is Roger and whether he is known to you.

(Contributed by Himantika Kumari Dugoli)

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3. PC- PARENTAL CLAIM

Meaning: If the father of a Gentleman Cadet has been the CO/Subedar Maj/battle casualty of a particular Unit, then that GC can opt for the same Unit citing PC or Parental Claim.

Usage: Abhishek Bachchan is acting because he has a PC.
(Contributed by Archana Jha)

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4. ADM INSPECTION

Meaning: Adm (administration) Inspection is the checking of a Unit/Formation’s readiness by a higher authority. Physical fitness, Administration and Operation Roles are some things that are checked.

Usage: Adm Bandobast Pura ho gaya hai. Five guests from my sasural are coming for 10 days. Samjho mera Adm inspection hai.
(Contributed by Ranjeeta Ashes)

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5. RECCE

Meaning: Short for Reconnaissance. Going to a particular location for checking, studying and observing before the actual operation at that location takes place.

Usage: I went to the market on the first day to do a recce of all the shops there. Went next day with my proper shopping list.
(Contributed by Shimbhee Rajan)
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6. DETAILED/DETAILMEMT

MEANING: To assign some work to a soldier/officer or a group of soldiers/officers. Mostly used to denote how many people are occupied where.

Usage: I wanted to go to the handloom exhibition but my mom detailed me to take care of my nani at home till she comes back. Couldn’t leave till evening and missed the show.

No such thing as a purrrfect goodbye!

Goodbye. This word definitely comes in the Top-10 words dreaded by every Army wife.

Goodbyes said to our soldier, our friends, kids, neighbours, seniors, OR families…. we never seem to be able to stop saying goodbyes, not knowing when we will meet them again.

But I just realised, if saying goodbyes sucks, then not getting a chance to say it before leaving sucks even more. And now I know exactly how Pi felt at not getting that one moment to say goodbye to Richard Parker (Life of Pi, book and movie).

I couldn’t say goodbye to my own Richard Parker (miniature version). Even if I had said it, I would not have received a reply, except an ice-cold stare back.

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“Oh god, so you won’t even let me sit in peace. Paparazzi kahin ki.”

And that breaks my heart, even today.

I am a huge cat-person and had befriended this stray kitten in our last peace station. She was a cheerful and naughty kitten, and her multicolored fur resembled that of my pet cat I had when I was in school. She technically belonged to the maid who used to live in the servant quarters of our block. The maid had named her Chandani (yes, a peculiar name for a cat), and I was amazed how the kitten would readily respond to this name.

I personally preferred to call her Chhoni (started off with Soni but ended up corrupting the name) though she never even twitched her ears at this name. She was a typical moody and aristocrat cat — AristoCat to the core. 😛

She would initially just come over to rub herself against our legs whenever we came out into our garden. Then gradually she warmed up and used to come into our house for some milk. Then twice a day. Then thrice.

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“See the thing is that you can sit on some other chair, you don’t need the sofa. But I do.”

She started stopping by for naps in the hot afternoons too. Yes, she got that comfortable in our house. She would come, drink milk, climb up on the sofa and sleep for 2-3 hours. So one fine day, when we both were in a particularly playful mood, I noticed that her movements had slowed a bit. It also looked like she had put on some weight.

Two weeks later, she delivered a litter of 3 in our neighbour’s garage. A month later, all four of them would drop by for milk and playtime. Major Sa’ab was not particularly thrilled… you see, he was not a great pet-fan. And whenever Chhoni went up to him to play or just sit by his side on the sofa, her fur would end up on his uniform.

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“I don’t think Major Sa’ab is vigilant enough. Here, let me too keep watch.”

But he too warmed up — it was hard not to with all the circus-type activities that the three kittens would put on display in our living room.

The kittens grew up and went their own way. It was just me and Chhoni once again.

She had somehow figured out that the front door opened every time the doorbell rang. She would show up at the front door whenever the maid, the MES repair guy, Major Sa’ab’s Sahayak or the milkman rang the bell. And she would be inside the house before the door was fully open (yes, those first few inches would be enough for her to sneak in).

My sister came with her family to visit us and that meant NO ENTRY for Chonni for at least 7 days as my sis was allergic to cat’s fur. Oh I think I must mention that even I am allergic to cats’ fur. This was also one of the reasons that Major Sa’ab didn’t want Chhoni inside the house — he was sick of having a sneezing wife who had red swollen eyes after a cat-visit.

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“I am here for some stringent quality checks on everything that is prepared in this kitchen. I don’t really trust women like you.”

Chhoni later figured out that if there’s clinking-clanking of utensils, then she is supposed to climb onto the kitchen window and meow like crazy. And if the TV is on, then it is time to attack the bedroom window and go supersonic.

The fun part was to train her not to enter the kitchen. The kitchen door wouldn’t close entirely, so we couldn’t bolt it shut whenever Chhoni was inside. So we would scream like hell whenever she stepped inside. We would mix it up with sprinkling water on her which made her exit the kitchen on the double. Stomping my feet like a little girl also helped in passing on the message to her.

As a result, Chhoni would never enter the kitchen but wait on the panv-ponch outside it. But she was a cat after all. So one fine day when I accidentally fell asleep while she was still inside the house, she sneaked into the kitchen and happily finished off all the milk. Oooo I blew my top off when I found out, and didn’t take her inside for two days. But then I only felt bad and apologised to her… see they do have magical powers and are masters at manipulating us.

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“Ya fine, I know I am not supposed to enter the kitchen. I am waiting on the mat here, but you need to hurry up and get me my milk.”

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“The kitchen door is close and the memsahib is in another room. I should definitely go inside and see if everything in the kitchen is alright.”

She was expecting her third litter this summer. Major Sa’ab was out on some official work for a week while I was enjoying some alone-time at home. I didn’t have to prepare meals at meal-times and I didn’t have to follow any schedule at all… total vella-pan. Two days before Major Sa’ab was to return home, a thunder storm hit our city. Electricity went off, and it was raining the entire night.

I went to sleep at 0300 hrs, after reading a book by the candlelight — there was nothing else to do as the TV and Wi-Fi was not working. At around 0500 hrs, Chhoni woke me up with her incessant meowing by my bedroom window. I said a firm NO to her, indicating that I won’t let her in at this hour. She understood “No”. Probably the only other word she recognised after “Chandani”.

But she kept on meowing quite aggressively, in different tones, which was enough for my sleep to vanish. Jeez I had just gone off to sleep like two minutes ago. I even tried to breath as slowly as possible to fool her into thinking that I wasn’t in the room anymore. It had worked in the past. Didn’t this time.

I caved-in within 10 minutes and opened the back door. She ran in, paused just for a minute to shrug the rain drops off her fur coat, and then proceeded at full speed towards Major Sa’ab’s room. When I say Major Sa’ab’s room, I mean the spare room where he keeps all his clothes, uniforms, files, books and stuff.

For some reason, Major Sa’ab never got into the habit of closing his almirah doors.

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“I am going out. Oh but you stay at home and take care of my five kittens.”

So Chhoni went straight for the almirah in which all the Uniforms and fauji-stuff was kept, vanished into the bottom shelf behind the green Mec Gear rucksack and… well that was it.

Chhoni had never behaved this way and I immediately sensed that maybe it was time for her to deliver her kittens. With the emergency light, I set up camp in that boring room that night (early morning). I could ocassionally hear some moaning, but sleep got the better of me. I woke up after two hours when the lights came on. And I could hear squeaky meowing! Badhai ho! Hamare ghar naya mehmaan aya hai. Err… ek nai, 5 aye hain.

Two days later when Major Sa’ab came home, I told him to check out the bottom shelf of his uniforms wala almirah.

“Oh Be***odd!”

Ufff, not the kinda reaction you expect in a delivery room. He immediately ordered the cat+litter bundle to be thrown out of the house. Promptly vetoed by me. Out of his room. Nada, not happening under my watch. Out of the cupboard maybe? Nope.

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“You wanna work? Stop looking at me as if I am the one preventing you from working. You go right ahead…”

Had to sit down with him and explain that this is not how things around a new mother (cat or human) work. That Chhoni and her baccha-party were now our responsibility. And we cannot interfere with the way cats naturally cope with pregnancy, delivery and post-natal care.

Major Sa’ab had just about managed to grasp the idea, when Chhoni decided that it would be fun to shift her new family into OUR BEDROOM. One by one, she moved the kittens into my almirah’s bottom drawer where I kept my spare Tupperware stock. God! One of these days, we are going to have to remember to close our almirah doors!

So for almost a month and half, all eight of us were staying in that room. We could no longer afford to keep the room messy as our friends would drop by, often unannounced, to have a look at the kittens. We watched how an utterly vigilant Chhoni later on loosened up to leave the kittens under our care. Oh the ruckus those kittens created once they were able to walk, run, jump and squeak bloody murder!

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“I came inside to have some alone time. You let my kitten in, so now you look after him. I am going to relax and I don’t want to be disturbed.”

The day they started climbing up the bed, we decided it was time for them to leave our house. And we were about to start packing as Major Sa’ab’s tenure was coming to an end. So the Chhoni khandaan was forcefully relocated in to our garage. Chhoni was still allowed inside because…err.. it was her house after all. We were just adopted owners and temporary tenants. 😀

We soon started packing. Just packing up certain corners, not the full-fledged packing that Army wives and officers do. And I could see that Chhoni was sensing that something was not right. She would often check out the corner in the living room where she had always seen a lamp (which was now packed up), or curiously peek into the trunk in Major Sa’ab’s room.

I had now started hugging her for no reason in that last week. I would well-up at the thought of leaving her behind. I obviously couldn’t have taken her with me, no matter how much I dearely wanted to pack her up in one of the cartons. This place was her home, she had friends and relatives here, and unlimited open space for her to roam around. I cannot simply uproot her and cage her in the 2bhk I was to move in next week.

The day the packers came, Chhoni was restless. Partly because she realised one of her kittens was missing and partly because she could see people moving in and out of the house with boxes. By afternoon, she decided the commotion was too much to handle and moved her kittens somewhere else (I couldn’t keep track of it amidst the frantic packing).  But she came back to supervise the loading of the truck.

She was there when the truck left. She was there with us when we stayed back to pack our personal belongings. She was there when the maid came to clean the house one last time. And all this time, Chhoni did not utter a sound. Not one meow. Not even the usual purring. She kept staring at us while we moved around the house. I sat down for a minute and she sat down with me. I hugged her and cried my eyes out, she was still totally expressionless. As if she knew what was coming and was angry with me.

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“WHAT THE…. WHY THE… SHIT.”

Later that evening, we handed the keys over to the MES guy. Chhoni was still there in the garden, pouncing on butterflies and insects. We were to stay with Major Sa’ab’s coursemate for a day, so we walked up to his car to leave. She just looked up, her face totally blank as if she wanted to zone us out. I vowed to come back the next day to say a proper goodbye.

We left our friend’s house the next day and Major Sa’ab asked the driver to take us to our old house so that I could meet Chhoni. I immediately broke down, sobbing like a schoolgirl. He gently asked me whether I still want to go there.

“Lets go to the airport directly. I don’t know how to face Chhoni right now,” I said.

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“Just leave. Like everyone else does. You are just another fauji family even though I thought you were special and won’t leave me alone. And now you expect me to be understanding. Huh”

We went to the airport and left that city. I did not have the heart to meet Chhoni and tell her that we won’t be meeting ever again. It would have been so cool if she could reply with a “no problem, we’ll stay in touch through facebook”. No, she can’t do that. And I didn’t want to be the only one ‘saying’ anything.

Oh how much I now regret not meeting her that one last time. Pets, or visiting pets (a la visiting faculty) can so easily cement their place in your heart that it becomes painful to bid farewell. Maybe saying goodbye to friends is not that difficult.

All I can wish for is that whoever moves in to our house will love Chhoni as much as we did. And I don’t think Major Sa’ab is going to let me befriend any feline from now on. Because one day, the time to say goodbye will definitely come. And one-way goodbyes hurt like hell.

 

When Army wives start using fauji lingo… Part 1

THE BOSS IS HERE

Photo: IMA Photography Club

No Army wife can escape this! We say what we hear and what we hear has a strong fauji tadka. There are many terms and words that are typically used by Army men in India that become a part of an Army wife’s vocabulary too. Those could be official words, or general words used to communicate with the troops.

Now every army wife (any wife for that matter) takes eavesdropping on her husband’s conversation very seriously. We get to hear a lot of these words at every party or social meet where officers effortlessly shift every conversation to “fauji-related” stuff.

For example, you ask?

Lady: “We have just purchased some awesome stuff from the local hatt-market, you must take your wife there.”

To which the officer would reply, “Of course ma’am. My wife has just returned from a shopping trip from Mhow. (Turning to the lady’s husband). I hear Col XYZ is now posted in the JC Wing in Mhow and is after his unit jungoo’s life who happens to be doing his YOs. His coursemate Col ABS is doing very well there but then he is thankyou-types from what my DS in NDA tells me who is there on TD.

(Shopping gayi khadde me, pehele ABCD seekh leti hoon).

So the poor lady had to hear all this when she had oh so innocently started a neutral conversation with an officer. Story of every Army wife.

And hilarious results follow… Army wives often start using many fauji terms in their normal conversation. They simply adapt those words to fit it in every situation. (Remember how I keep telling you that fauji biwi can adapt anything and everything, everywhere).

A Curious Army Wife has attempted to compile these words and make a mini-dictionary on this blog. Ladies are welcome to add their own well-worn words. New brides can have a look to get a head-start on the boring officers’-talk. Others can simply sit back and enjoy.

1. CHECK MAAR DIYA

Meaning: Usually senior officers and the senior ranks among jawans keep a check on their juniors to ensure that their dress and conduct is in sync with Army standards. So when an officer wears the wrong-coloured socks to an official function or if his fingernails are too big, a senior can ‘check’ him by pointing it out. If the senior is a tough nut, he is likely to maarofy ‘check’ in presence of others to make the situation super embarrassing.

Usage: Meri saas jab dekho mujhe check marti reheti hai, bolti hai “bindi lagao”, “aaj jaldi uth gayi?”, and “tum toh call hi nai karti”… arrgh.

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2. FALL-IN

Meaning: It’s a kind of formation to stand for report.  For instance, if an officer needs to convey some order to 10 jawans, he will ask those jawans to fall-in at a particular time and place. Those jawans gather there and stand in proper formation, like if there are four jawans, they will all stand in a line, or if 10 then in 2×5 (just giving vague examples). a

Usage: The leopard from the neighbouring jungle was on prowl in the cantonment last night. I got so scared about the cats and kittens of my block, immediately unka fall-in karaya to see if all were alive. Thankfully, they were!

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3. GO KAR DIYA

Army minionMeaning: The term used to denote whatever happens after someone in authority says a hypothetical Get Set Go. Usually used to denote the start of cross-country runs, or to indicate how cadets find food irresistible and simply gobble it up (khane pe go kar diya).

Usage: There was no advertisement in the paper and no sms alert too! I went shopping just like that and when I saw that Sale sign at the FabIndia store, meine Go kar diya!

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4. IN LIEU OF

Meaning: This instead of that. X in place of Y.

Usage: See I am coming to watch this pathetic action movie with you in lieu of meeting that boring aunt of yours. But I do all this because I love you. 🙂

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5. LAGOO HAI

Meaning: Something that is authorised to a person in the Armed forces. Often used in terms of allowances. ration or chhutti.

Usage: Yaar mujhe harr function me tum saree pehenne ko bolte ho, toh mahine me ek saree khareedna toh mujhe lagoo hai. (Husband shocked, biwi rocks)

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6. CAR-DIARY CLOSE

Meaning: For every military vehicle, a dedicated diary is maintained which has details like the dates and frequency of servicing in addition to the number of kilometres has it logged. Army rules require a vehicle (Ambassador, Gypsy, ALS, Dhai-Ton etc) to reach a certain target in terms of kilometres traveled. If the vehicle reaches that mark before the end of the year, then usage of that vehicle is discouraged till the new log book for new year becomes operation and its existing car diary is closed for the remaining month.

Usage: I have been using this laptop for the last 8 years and it is a pain now. Iski car-diary ab close hai.

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7. PUTTI-PARADE

Meaning: A fixed time-period in which an Army man has to change into another dress or uniform. It is a part of officer’s training, which teaches them to waste no time (when there actually is no time). It is also a very popular form of punishments in all training academies like NDA, IMA, OTA etc.

Usage: Army Commander ki wife ne hum sabki putti-parade kara di. Pehele coffee morning, fir welfare program, then high tea and dinner party! Jaan hi le li.

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8. LINE-TOD

Meaning: Break-off. Dismissing everyone after a parade. Command asking a group of jawans/officers/cadets to leave the parade area after a practice or a parade.

Usage: There were three mali, four maids and two cooks working tirelessly for this big party that colonel’s wife was throwing at their bungalow. But the cooks decided they had had too much of Memsahab’s snooty attitude and wo dono line-tod kar gaye.

More to follow soon…. Feel free to contribute. 🙂

Attack of the Saree Brigade

Yesterday, I came across an article in Hindustan Times about two women in Bangalore starting off a saree revolution of sorts by pledging to wear at least 100 sarees this year. After reading it, I felt happy and optimistic — so there are people like me who love wearing sarees! So there are people who appreciate a good weave! So there are women who feel special in a good drape! Yippie!

A gorgeous Maheshwari Saree, I want I want. :P Source: Pinterest

A gorgeous Maheshwari Saree, I want I want. 😛 Source: Pinterest

I personally love wearing sarees and am astounded at the response the #100sareepact has received. So many sarees ‘coming out of the closet’ (pun 100% intended) and becoming a part of the graceful-selfie club was nice. From the way I see it, those are the tales of women who have no obligation of wearing a saree (mostly in urban India), but do it willing for whatever reason.

It took me years to master the art of draping it properly, but I was a pro by the time I got married to Major Sa’ab. And then my putti-parade* started.

I used to wear saree to office on all major festivals (regardless of whether I celebrate it or was even remotely associated with it) and my colleagues would ask me, “Kya baat hai, shaadi ka rishta aya hai kya?” Duh!

But when I joined my husband at his Unit, I realised that it’s not just the men who wear the uniform, but their wives have to wear sarees to all functions and parties as the unofficial uniform. And the frequency of those parties was maddening.

The day I entered the Army as a new bride, I was told that there is a big reunion function after two weeks. It was a 3-4 day celebration of all past and present officers of Major Sa’ab’s Unit and there were at least 2 functions daily. Dress code — saree.

I was new to the Army culture and I rather liked the idea of getting this opportunity to flaunt my collection of sarees that I had been buying for 4-5 years. But the putti-parade* part began when almost every time I would have to change into a new saree in just 15 minutes. It seemed an impossible task at that time, and I gradually resented wearing saree at all.

My love for cotton and silk sarees has not faded though. But now I can drape a saree in flat 5 minutes, and need just one safety-pin (on the shoulder) to hold it together. I have attended so many fauji functions and parties in a saree, that I must have surpassed the #100sareepact – as have thousands of other Army wives.

But the sad part is that not many wear it happily. Some Army wives crib a lot about having to drape a saree, and I would sometimes join them in this anti-saree rant.

It dawned on me that the joy of wearing a saree loses its charm the moment it is made mandatory.

Is saree really the only appropriate outfit for women, or are we just playing safe? Photo Credit: ChasingPixels.in

Is saree really the only appropriate outfit for women, or are we just playing safe? Photo Credit: ChasingPixels.in

Women who live in conservative sasurals would agree. When there is this ‘wear a saree all the time’ dagger hanging over your head, then the six-yard fabric too suffers along with the woman.

Similarly Army’s unsaid rule of wearing a saree at ALL FUNCTIONS is taken in a sasural-diktat manner by the ladies. I get it if a lady has to wear a saree to a formal dinner party, Family Welfare function, or in the Officer’s Mess. It is a smart formal attire that looks good on every shape and age. But insistence on wearing it to a Ball party or a Polo/Golf match is dragging it a bit too far.

Some of us like to flaunt a well-tailored Salwar-Kameez, a stylish pair of trousers with a shirt/kurti or some nice western dresses. Hamari guhaar suno!

I find some stations have a relaxed approach to the way ladies dress up, so that’s a positive sign I guess. I know it will take a long time for the Army to open up to the spirit of an independent woman, and leave the choice of dress to her. Whenever it happens, I am sure the girls would eagerly wait for the ‘saree-wala’ function and happily drape this Indian outfit.

Having said that, let me boast about the incredibly stylish Army wives and their stash of sarees…but all that in the next post.

Meanwhile Fauji biwiyon, show some love to the awesome #100sareepact krantikaris (Krantisaris?) Anju Kadam and Ally Matthan on their website, Facebook page and twitter to share your own saree stories.

*Patti Parade is a kind of punishment Army officers go through during their training in which they have to wear all their uniforms one after the other in a small time bracket.

The curious syndrome of vanishing careers

In love with an Army man? Badhaiyaan ji badhaiyaan!

In love with your career too? Good for you.

Until.

Until the time comes for you to bid one of the two a tearful goodbye, hopefully temporarily.

Two of the blog readers asked me what to do of their lucrative careers when they marry their fauji boyfriends. A very valid concern for a modern woman who has been brought up to excel professionally and is suddenly faced with this dilemma. What do you focus on, being with the guy you love, or earning that fat paycheque?

Photo credit: outsidethebeltway.com

Photo credit: outsidethebeltway.com

The reason we have to make this hard decision is because … er… okay lemme break it down into 10 points (like we used to for writing long answer to questions in school).

1. You love an Army man.

2. An Army man’s career is a cycle of field posting (border areas or sensitive areas) and peace postings.

3. They are allowed to stay with their families only during peace postings.

4. About 2-3 years separates a field from peace from field from peace…..

5. Marrying an Army man means a happy reunion at peace station.

6. “Where are the peace stations located?” you ask, well, the peace station might be in small city or in smaller town or in tinier village or it might be in the middle of nowhere and last but not the least – it might be in a place that makes you go …’Alright! where the FUCK are we??’ Unless you are super lucky to get good-city postings.

7. Now it so happens that in all of the above scenarios, the only viable career option for women is teaching. Because there are schools everywhere. And hospitals… so yes, its safe even if you are a doc or a nurse.

8. If you are anything other than a teacher or are in the medical profession, chances are you will find it extremely difficult to land a decent job.

9. If you do get a job, it will probably come with a 50-70 per cent pay cut.

10. Or you can just get a B.Ed degree and start teaching…just a suggestion.

There, in the simplest possible language, I have summed up the battle which we girls fight before making the choice. And when I had to make this decision, I chose to be with my man.

I chose to be with my man because (and I take special pride in it) I knew that I had found the right guy. However clichéd that might sound. I chose to put my 6-year-old journalism career on hold to stay with him for 3 precious years before he goes off on a field posting. And I did all this in spite having full knowledge of what lay ahead of me or didn’t – that there won’t be a stable career or an enviable CTC from now on.

I took solace from the fact that my husband would have adjusted his career choices to suit my needs had he not been in the Army. That it is something he can’t do, simply because it is not in his hands, is a different story. Now that’s one way to ‘look up’, isn’t it. I did not stop working though. Internet became my best friend and I took to freelancing and content writing. And it gave me time to blog — something that my regular job would have left no scope/time/energy for.

I meet women who were bankers, IT professionals, HR executives, lawyers, musicians, PR honchos, scientists, chartered accountants, air hostesses, doctors  and real estate professionals, all of whom had to put their blooming career graph in the freezer when their husbands got posted to smaller military stations. And they all did it happily.

Then again, there are women who choose to stay in bigger cities to keep their jobs and travel frequently to meet their husbands. They try to balance work and married life quite well (and are deaf as well, specially to all those who say to them, “fir shaadi hi kyon ki”). I have special respect for all those women only because I know how difficult this choice is. Hats off to them!

So all those women out there who are still not sure what to choose, I have just one thing to say. Choose what you would miss terribly if you let go of. Choose what is dearer to you and won’t give you sleepless nights for not being a part of your life.

Do not feel guilty for choosing your career, you did nothing wrong. Don’t cry about loosing you career either, should you choose to be with your soldier. But since I chose to be with Major Sa’ab, I’ve already told you what the thought process behind it was. Now it’s your turn.

Good luck superwoman.

This post was written to satiate an urge to write when Housing prompted me to.

Discounts for faujis at ClickOnCare

Faujis love discounts! I don’t have to look very far to prove my point, as there is a CSD canteen just round the corner in my cantonment. For my civilian friends who might not get what CSD is, it is the military “Canteen” which sells all that we need at a cheaper rates. I just found out about this online portal which gives discounts to people of Armed Forces, so thought why not shout it out to the world (issued in public interest).. 😉

Groceries, dinner sets, electronic items, even vehicles, are sold at discounted prices to all Defence personnel in India. But I am curious (if it wasn’t already evident from my blog title), do we look for deals while shopping online also? I asked some fellow Army wives and I found that it largely depends on where you are stationed at the moment.

If it is a big city, then chances are that the markets would be full of all kinds of branded/non-branded stuff and one would have the choice of buying it anytime. So if there is a snappy-deal (pun not intended) somewhere on an online portal, then city dwellers are more likely to turn to that option.

But hey, don’t forget…one of the charms (read side-effects) of being married to an Army officer is that you get to live in some pretty exotic locations (more like remote areas of the country). Stylish divas that all Army wives are, it becomes a task to satisfy their shopping cravings and that is when, deals or no deals, online shopping becomes the way out.

Though I was a hardcore online shopper till the time I was working fulltime, I became extra cautious after moving to a small town with Major Sa’ab as I didn’t want him to go through the trauma of having a spendthrift wife.

Coming back to point… I recently came across this unique portal ClickOnCare, which sells fitness, healthcare and cosmetic products which are not easily available. I couldn’t believe that they have some pretty cool discounts for people from Armed Forces! Isn’t that just what we were looking for?

Apparently, this unique scheme at ClickOnCare is the brainchild of its founder and CEO Akshat Malik, who is also an Army brat. Million thanks to him, more so because now many healthcare products, personal care, baby care, sports and fitness products are available just a click away for us faujis. How can an Army wife say no to such deals, hanh!

Use the coupon codes to avail these discounts.

Use the coupon codes to avail these discounts.

Worry not if you are at some remote location of the country, they promise to deliver it to your doorstep thanks to the Indian Postal Service. Their packaging looks sturdy to me, so I wouldn’t worry about damages to the parcel. And don’t even think of acting smart, because they have people to verify your claim of being a fauji/family, so imposters beware.

There were a couple of products here at ClickOnCare that caught my fancy.

  • Every time I move to a new military station, the change in weather and water causes a lot of hairfall. Add to cart – Hair products.
  • Every time I run have to run to that small shop kilometres away for my contact lens solution, I curse my eyesight. Add to cart – lens solution.
  • Every time I need some personal care items which every woman uses these days, but sadly shopkeepers in small towns rarely stock up on, I wish someone in heavens was seeing my plight. Add to cart – Sanitary napkins, intimate care and panty liners.
  • Every time I feel like taking care of my fitness, I put off going to the gym because I don’t have proper clothes or equipment. Add to cart – gym clothes (women) and yoga mat.
  • Every time my grandparents come to visit us, I wish I could make their stay at my place more comfortable. Add to cart – Walking stick and commode seat.
  • Every time a lady staying in SF complains about not getting time to pick up new diapers and other baby supplies for her new born, I wish there was an easier way for me to help the lady. Add to cart – Diapers and Baby food supplements.
  • And finally every time Major Sa’ab vows to improve his fitness ahead of an important tournament or a BPET run, I worry whether his diet is complementing his rigorous workout. Add to cart – Sports nutrition supplements.

Moral of the story: I shopped online for ‘important’ stuff. I am a happy woman. I availed fauji discount on ClickonCare. Major Sa’ab is a happy man. And we lived happily ever after.

You know you are in a fauji home when…

Every Army wife takes her home décor very seriously (I doubt Mr Modi takes running the country that seriously) and would not rest until she is satisfied that her nest is unique in every way. In spite of that, there are a few things which every fauji house will have. You know you are in a fauji home when…

1. You see a cap stand. Have you ever seen one in a normal Indian’s house? Nai na? But an Army officer’s house will have one for sure. Having a cap stand in the house, mostly near the front door or in the spare bedroom, sounds so British. Every time a civilian relative/friend comes over, the first thing they will ask is why on earth do you have a XXL sized key holder? And then you patiently tell them that it is a hat stand which is needed to hang the peak-cap and the games cap and beret and the regimental hat and the golf cap and the combats hat and the NDA/IMA/OTA cap and that branded cap and that hunter hat and…. you get the drift!

The wife of Major Sa'ab's CO was kind enough to let me click a picture of her elaborate cap stand.

The wife of Major Sa’ab’s CO was kind enough to let me click a picture of her elaborate cap stand.

2. Drinks and appetisers are served in crystals. Even the ashtray is a crystal one. Whisky glasses, juice glasses, snacks, desserts and mouth-fresheners too are mostly served in crystalware sourced from the north-east, in and around Siliguri to be specific. If Army officers have their way, they will take bath in crystal buckets and also get window glasses replaced by it. And there is a high probability that they’ll gift it too! Moral of the story, crystals are a fauji’s best friend.

Crystal glasses

Crystal glasses

3. You find one of these five things in the house: (a). A giant paper hand-held fan. (b) A weird glass top table with…err..are those tree branches posing as its legs? (c) A piece of home décor form Rajasthan, like those hanging puppets or a wooden carved chair. (d) Swords, spears, fancy looking trophies and group photographs of various courses in which everyone looks exactly the same. (In case of Air Force officers, it is toy models of various aircrafts and for Naval officers, ships and anchors.) (e) Racquets of all racquet-sports (yes, and not just one) and/or Golf kit.

Tree-branch repurposed as a table stand.

Tree-branch repurposed as a table stand.

The famous Paper Pankha!

The famous Paper Pankha!

4. There are more peg tables in the house than there are pegs and tables put together. It kind of makes having a centre table redundant. Oh wait, the centre tables are for that crystal ashtray in point No.2.

5. You see non-functional chimneys and fireplaces (even in relatively warmer stations). What is the deal with that, seriously? Are we supposed to feel the warmth by just looking at it? My kitchen has a chimney placed strategically over the stove. It is just eating up precious storage space. And the best part is that it is blocked. But is it? Wait till it starts raining — the chimney will leak like a bloody tap.

6. You see a giant shoe-rack full of — what the hell — men’s shoes? Correcto! An officer’s shoes will hijack the shoe-rack which is originally a woman’s territory. Two-three types of DMSs, a couple of running shoes, then two-three formal shoes, a fancy pair of over-expensive sports shoes, a couple of those trusted Woodland shoes and…. you get the drift right? If not, refer to the ‘drift’ in point No.1. In my house, there was no place for a second shoe-rack. As Major Sa’ab’s footwear was literally falling out of the 5-6 storied rack, I finally had to get a space-saver shoe hanger for myself, you know, the one which one hangs at the back of a door and has pockets to keep the footwear. This borders on domestic abuse but what to do!

When glitter can boots simply cannot share the same shoe rack. Picture clicked by another Army wife Sheetal Sahay.

When glitter and boots simply cannot share the same shoe rack. Picture clicked by another Army wife Sheetal Sahay.

PS: All pictures in this post are from the houses of real Army families. And I am thankful to all of them as they allowed me to raid these special corners of their quarters.

Mom, dad, I love him!

Damn it is not easy! This is my pathetic attempt at making that heart sign. Major Sa'ab says it looks more like a pahadi aloo.

Damn it is not easy! This is my pathetic attempt at making that heart sign. Major Sa’ab says it looks more like a pahadi aloo.

Unfortunately for Major Sa’ab, I am a very unromantic person. At least as far as roses, teddies, cards and chocolates go. I don’t mind the candles, because you know, you can always use them when the electricity goes off (which is a problem in Army accommodations too). Heck I am the kind of person who corrected grammar and punctuation in Major Sa’ab’s first love letter and sent it back to him (can’t mess with journalist on that one).

So you can imagine how flustered Major Sa’ab was, looking for a way to express his love when he was pretty sure that the usual gestures would end up being laughed at – by me!

Being the brave soldier of the Indian Army that he is, Major Sa’ab did try those stunts AFTER we got married, which was two years ago. Now that I am married to him, I obviously can’t run away, so he went all mushy on me last Valentines Day and on our anniversary as well!

But this is after marriage na! The first time he proposed his love to me was in totally un-DDLJ style. He texted me. I replied back. He texted again. I replied again. He said he was in love with me. I said give me time to decided whether I love you too, but I am definitely attracted to you. Over the next 20 days, he said “I love you” so many times, that I had to give in and during one of our nocturnal phone conversations, I said “I love you too”, partly to shut him up! As if!

Bluestone
This pic reminds me of the time I used to show my ring to others after getting engaged. 😛

But after so many years, I am amazed that not a day passes without us saying ‘I love you’ to each other. I have never heard my parents express their love for each other in front of us (I highly doubt they did it in person as well). More than expressing my love to Major Sa’ab, I found it more difficult to tell my parents that I am in love.

Though they had given me the freedom to marry anyone I like, they never missed a chance to warn me that the guy should be from our religion. I had my moments of pleasure in tormenting my parents about this (admit it, we all like to see our parents worrying about us).

I would torture them with made-up stories of my fake boyfriend Rashid, though they got used to it later on. So when the time came for me to tell them I am indeed in love with Major Sa’ab, I was lost for words. Not because of any religious conflict because we both were form the same religion, but because we simply didn’t know how to start this conversation with our parents.

But thankfully, my sense of humour and adventure (not at all inherited from anyone in my family) got the better of me.

So after a late night movie, Major Sa’ab dropped me home with instructions to tell my parents about us asap. “Ji Sa’ab”, I replied back in true military style. We both worked in different cities but were in our hometown that week to break the big news.

I went inside, announced grandly that I have something important to declare. Sleepy-eyed papa and wide awake mummy followed me to the living room.

“Just because you have been after my life to get married, I have found a guy,” was my opening line. That’s right, blame it on them.

“Okay. Who is it?”

“See, now don’t panic,” I said, as they both sat up, alarmed. “It’s not Rashid.” They relaxed a bit. “But I think you should prepare yourself for this, he is a Christian,” I finished the sentence. Within nanoseconds, my mom’s palm went to her forehead and papa started shaking his head.

I give them a lot of credit for asking for more details.

“What’s his name, what does he do?” my dad asked.

“His name is Edwin, he is from Goa, and he is a DJ.”

“What is a DJ?” my mom looked puzzled.

Arre those guys who play music in parties,” my dad answered. When you put it like that, DJ sounds more like a bandwala in a marriage function. Which was why my mom went supersonic!

“He plays music for a living! Naach gana karta hai wo!” she squeaked. Now that sounded like I was marrying a bar dancer.

I was not done yet. “Please don’t be rude to him when you meet him. His appearance is slightly odd, I should warn you. He has long hair and facial piercings.”

By this time, their BP had reached a high/low mark (I think it’s different for them on different occasions) and they were mentally striking off my name from their Will.

Finally my dad said, “Do whatever you want, it’s your life after all.” And I regret that I burst out laughing at that very moment. I should have waited a little longer to see what other filmy dialogues they were gonna hurtle my way.

“Oh ho don’t worry. I was kidding. I am in love with Major Sa’ab (then Captain Sa’ab). I want to marry him,” I said as their BP instantly shot back to normal.

“Aaaaah! We knew it.” They did not.

And that was how I proposed to my parents. In India, proposing to parents is more important. And a couple of years later, Major Sa’ab and I got married. And I have ever since been hearing the “Sound of love”.

I hear it when he wakes me up with a bed tea (not always, I am not THAT lucky). I hear it when his car comes to a stop in the driveway. I hear it when he groans about me teaching him how to cook. I hear it when he says “Shabaash” while giving me driving lessons. I hear it (I have put on the ‘maybe not sure expression here) when he launches his abusive rant on the phone directed to those training under him. I hear it when he jumps like a surprised kitten when I place my ice-cold hands on his neck during winters. I hear it when he snores at night, and then snores in a different tune after I poke him.

But if there is something that I associate more deeply with his love, it is my ringtone! It is the guitar tune of the song “Agar mein kahoon” form the movie Lakshya, where an Army officer falls for a journalist (that’s our story, only with good-looking people).

So whenever my Major Sa’ab calls me from remote places during long periods of separation which is common in Army, my heart skips a beat. I hear my Sound of Love. That ringtone reminds me of the lovely days we’ve spent (including the Valentine’s Day when he got beaten up by me for gifting me a red teddy bear).

I am participating in the #SoundOfLove activity atBlogAdda in association with Bluestone If I win that gold band, I will work towards achieving WORLD PEACE. That is, after I scandalise my husband by declaring that I bought it. The picture at the top of the post has been clicked by me, and is copyright protected, so don’t get naughty. Check out the video (below) where this hot chick says yes to a guy only when he says I love you dil se. She is the same chick in the picture I posted above, showing that finger to us. Deva re deva!

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