A Curious Army Wife

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

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Army to delink itself from AWWA

HT Awwa rewampI somehow missed this piece of news, which was published almost along the same time as the ‘Vidhya Karajagi Fashion Show Fiasco’ (Read more about it here). Just as I was going through Hindustan Times’ archives, I found this clipping and trust me, for a moment, it seemed surreal.

This cannot be happening! Not that I am not in favour of everything mentioned in this news report, it’s just that I find it really hard to believe that anyone in Army will take this seriously. Is it even practically possible?

The report  reeks of frustration faced by serving Army officers caught up with AWWA (Army Wives Welfare Association) activities, when they can be doing something more productive, something that we were recruited to do in the first place.

I am curious! It has been more than one month since this report was published. Assuming this has been implemented immediately, I wonder how many officers have still been associated with AWWA work (voluntarily or otherwise). And only Army wives across India can tell us that.

By the way dear Army wives, how well do you know AWWA, apart from its full form?

Army Chief supports working wives of officers

IMG-20140129-WA0004The Chief’s heart seems to be in the right place. How much of this trickles down, remains to be seen.

Welcoming a new bride


Photo by ChasingPixel

It was a chilly Thursday night and I was holed up in a tiny tent with Captain Sa’ab with nothing but a double blanket and an emergency lamp. I checked my phone, which had 4% battery left and I longed for the day when camping tents would come with a phone charging point.

That was my first night in Captain Sa’ab’s Unit after we got married. We were allotted a guest room during the day, but we returned after dinner to find that it was locked. Captain Sa’ab muttered under his breath, “I was expecting something like this,” when his junior came and told us that our arrangements for the night were made in that tent in the Mess’ garden.

It was 12.30 am, and we were about to call it a day when the regimental band, standing about 10 feet from our tent, pierce the silence with an ear-splitting performance of “Wo chaand khila wo taare hase“. At that ungodly hour, it didn’t even sound in tune.

They went on and finished the song… and then everything went back to being eerie. Pin-drop silence.

After 15 minutes, the band sprang into action again, this time with another classic song. Captain Sa’ab was muttering under his breath that all the band members are sure to run a BPET in the next two days if they dont stop now. I on the other hand was hysterical and very amused.

Another 15 minutes, and the band starts off with again. I think at this point they were expecting Captain Sa’ab to come out of the tent, say a few encouraging words and tell the band to go home. But our Captain Sa’ab decided he is not going to show his face to them, not tonight. “Bajane do inhe,” he said. “Dekhte hain kab tak bajate hain.”

The band was now desperate, they abandoned the lovely classics and doled out an absolute cacophony, playing all instruments in all possible tones. Total atyachaar! But we were also at our stubborn best that day. We both stayed in, and laughed and laughed some more… until our 2IC (2nd In Command of the unit) came out of his room and ordered the band to go away. He was staying in the mess as well, and the band broke his patience first!

And that’s how I was welcomed to fauj as a new bride.

Army, Navy and Air Force officers really know how to make a new bride the most uncomfortable on her first day/night, and go the extra mile to make amends there after for the rest of her life. Her entry into this crazy family is made memorable, a story she will always remember with a smile, (or a chuckle).

So step aside sasu maa… you have competition. You are in grave danger of being over shadowed by an officer’s Unit when it comes to troubling a new bride.

An officer’s unit make it crystal clear that, lady, you are in for a tough time, but what the hell, lets make that tough time fun! There are times when a unit will make your saas look like fairy godmother, you will feel like running towards her in slow motion and give her a jadu ki jhappi. And there are times when the unit takes care of you like a family member, helping you in times of need and celebrating every happy occasion.

When an officer brings his bride to the unit for the first time after the wedding, there are many unique ways in which the new lady is welcomed to the folds. Aim is to play every possible practical joke and then next day grin like nothing’s happened.

There was one time, when a senior lady dressed up like a typical saas-bahu vamp, with a big red bindi, red lipstick and penciled eyes, and made the new bride touch every officer and lady’s feet on her arrival to the unit. She tried to be as rude as possible and gave her a good dressing down the very first day. It’s a miracle the new one stuck around to laugh about it the second day.

Then there was this time when a new bride was asked to cook lunch in the officers’ mess for 30-odd guests on her arrival, saying that it was a unit tradition. Everyone was confused the next day whether they were being served rotis or papad.

I remember someone telling me that on their way to the unit location, the officer was asked to quietly get down at the previous station without telling his new bride. The poor girl somehow reached the unit by herself and told the other officers that her husband had gone missing. The naughty juniors then smeared her husband’s t-shirt in ketchup and asked the bride whether this blood smeared t-shirt belonged to her husband!

Though the juniors were spared, the husband became a punching bag for the furious bride. 😛

But this Sardarni takes the cake. After spending a almost a month honeymooning across the country, they finally returned to the squadron, where her pilot husband was posted. A costume party was organised for her in the mess and she let her hair down to dress up like a vampire. Guess what, everyone else turned up in uniforms and sarees!

Way to make your entry into fauj truly memorable.

National integration in home decor

A keen sense of home decor is a very unique trait of an Army wife. Almost all of them have impeccable taste and it reflects on the way they maintain the living room and the dining area.

All fauji accommodations are roughly of the same design and area throughout the country. Only the space increases as your husband picks up ranks and so it gives a lady a lot of time to collect items to decorate.

It is said that a quick look around the living room can tell you all the stations the family has been posted to. A typical Army house would have some willow work from Jammu and Kashmir, probably a kangri here and a hand woven carpet there. It would have a prayer wheel from a monastery in Leh or a buddha painting from Sikkim. It would have a giant hand-held fan from Darjeeling or bamboo furniture from the North-east.

A tenure in Rajasthan means pretty marble statues and stuffed ethnic puppets. Down south, brass statues and Tanjore paintings take the centre space while anything and everything that can be made from coconuts will be tucked away in some corner of the house.

A lady’s wardrobe also reflects the many postings across the country that she has been to, but more on that later.

And at any party, the first 30 minutes will be spent in discussing all these items of the house. Next 30 minutes, the guests will tell you what all they have in common with your house and what other unique items they have. So party ice-breakers are spread all over the house 😀 .

And Army wives are extremely meticulous when it comes to setting-up houses. I feel they add a very feminine and homely touch to the house, which would otherwise be full of Army memorabilia, silver plates course group photos and trophies won in various fauji competitions. Even the clock would have the regimental crest if the ladies leave it to the officers to decorate! There has to be at least some difference between the mess and your house, right?

Army wives’ role…

An interesting piece which was forwarded to me on a social networking site. A very interesting article. I don’t know who the author is, but she definitely captured our sentiments well in her writing. Enjoy….

Today is Aug 19, 2014 and I have finally found the author of this piece. She is another curious Army wife, Sonia Kundra SIngh. 🙂 

An Army Wives’ Role

A role that we play other than that I am married to a man who is in and out of his olive green uniforms and seeing him every morning going for PT and at evening sharp four forty five he would be out for games. Many times I would convince myself that this is the way of life. The coffee mornings, the evening social, the welfare meets and the raising days are just going to be a part of our life.

The only part that I thought I would be playing in his life would be to accompany him, dressed up in my best sari (in winters it would be the silk kanjeevarams and in summers the chiffons and crapes would be out).

But its more than that.

Most of the times it would just be us women talking about the mundane topics of where what sari could  be bought at their with the best bargain. Sometimes it would be creating your own garment by adding your own creativity like the borders bought at the ‘Laad bazar’ in Hyderabad or the inexpensive crape sari bought at the Amritsar markets. Another thing that army wives become good at is decorating their houses. You cannot beat the decor they create by using the minimal supplies their budget would allow. The MES furniture that had been used for generations, become the makeshift home for all. The artwork on the walls are mostly done by us- the wives, while husbands disappear for the official work. It becomes a lesson in making on your own independently with or without your husband. For the newly weds it is demanding but with all the support that army gives you by sending you help is somehow commendable. There are times when we also become event managers. The coffee morning becomes a complete official duty for us to make the morning for the senior ladies as entertaining as possible. The solo songs, The Master of Ceremonies, the dances, the tambola games and the paper games followed by elite snacks is done at its best. Tedious at times but when we are appraised for the effort, it all feels worth it.

Then comes the part where we are becoming a model for the ‘Jawans’ wives. No matter how younger you are to them, they follow you blindly. Be it advise on marital affairs or how to take care of children before, during and after the pregnancy (even though you don’t have any plans for starting a family), be it joining classes at the Vocational Training Center or taking up a job as a computer teacher, it is you that they come to when problems arise. The happiness in their eyes when they win a competition for your battery (The regiment is usually divided into sub-units called ‘battery’). Little do they know how brave they are. Staying all alone without help and having to take care of the house and the kids all at once is something that is only possible with complete dedication and love.

Being a part of the army is a beautiful experience. The money doesn’t matter and at times even the boring parties don’t matter. You become what you want to become in this organization. There are times when cribbing becomes a session (after all what job is perfect) but you know that you have a life and a responsibility of being not only a wife but an army wife.

10 Commandments for any Army wife

If you thought being someone’s wife changes your life, then try being an Army officer’s wife. It’s like your life has been finely chopped, then boiled and mashed into an entirely new form of existence. And for a “shudh desi civilian” like me, this sudden change can be a little unsettling.

Many officers marry daughters of fauji, fondly called SODA (Serving Officers’ Daughters Association) as those girls have the advantage of being better acclimatised to life in this organisation. They have all seen their mothers and other aunties go through the drill and so are better prepared for it.

So her is a list of 10 Commandments which might prove helpful if you are an officer’s newlywed. A very senior officer posted in IMA (Indian Military Academy) in Dehradun is said to have compiled it, along with his wife.

Commandment No.1
Please understand the capabilities of your husband. His personality is a sum total of “God given talent and acquired traits”. Do not push him beyond that limit.

Commandment No.2
When your husband comes home after a long day’s work, do not overload him with domestic problems. Find another suitable opportunity to do that.

Commandment No.3
When you as Commanding Officer/senior officer’s wife create a happy and healthy environment in the unit, formation or establishment, your husband’s problems will be halved.

Commandment No.4

Learn to live with your senior officers’ wife. Each person has her own characteristics. Also learn to be magnanimous with your younger ladies. A big heart is an essential prerequisite for earning goodwill.

Commandment No.5
Communicate with, rather than talk behind the back of your senior officer’s wife.

Commandment No.6
As a Commanding Officer’s wife, avoid playing favourites.

Commandment No.7
Do not live in a ‘self-siege’ syndrome, i.e., by harbouring a perception centred around the choking feeling that ‘I am besieged from all directions.’

Commandment No.8
Do not create tensions when you visit a lower unit, formation or establishment. Remember your days in the unit as a young lady.

Commandment No.9
Learn to take supersession with grace. Destiny has a lot to do with it. We all will be superseded someday in life.

Commandment No.10
Always carry a smile on your face and display a warm heart. Avoid a stiff necked approach. A hug or a touch from a senior lady can convey a lot to the younger lady.


Pati, Patni and the sahayak

Ah that good old Hindi movie whose title everyone quotes but no one seems to have seen it ever! Pati, Patni aur Wo. And in fauj, wo=sahayak. Now I mean this in the cleanest possible way and you better read through this post before your dirty mind starts racing.

Every woman on this earth will agree that there have been times when she has been made to feel secondary in her husband’s life…mostly the time when the guy keeps salivating about his bike or car. But an Army wife gets demoted one more place down the rung as she mostly comes third in the order…. bike/car, sahayak (orderly) and then her.

Why do I say that? Well he knows more about your husband than you do! He knows where he keeps his socks and underwear, he decides what shirt is to be worn to the party tonight, he knows where all his files and papers are, how much petrol is there in his bike, and his likes and dislikes.

Throughout my courtship period and a couple of months after shaadi, I have always kept my financial issues independent from Captain Sa’ab’s. I did not even touch his debit card, a practice which changed the moment I came to know that his buddy (as sahayaks are fondly called) knew his atm pin!

They are also super jugaadu! At least Captain Sa’ab’s buddy definitely was. A broken rod would be replaced within minutes with a rod that nobody knows came from where.

I have heard so many stories of initial tussle between a new bride and the sahayak. One Major sa’ab’s wife would tell us how each morning she would wake up to make tea for her husband and their buddy would show up in the kitchen saying, “Sa’ab ko toh neembupani pasand hai subeh.”

To which the lady would say, “pehele pasand hoga. Ab toh unko chai hi milegi.”

“Then let me make it.”

“It’s okay, I will make it.”

“But I know how much sugar he has with his tea.”

“So do I.”

“But he also likes Marie biscuits with tea. You don’t have it.”

“I have bought Monaco this time. He’ll have that.”

Buddy whispers to himself “Uh, of course!”

And the cold war continues. No war, no peace 🙂

First things first

It had been almost one year since I had been dating Captain Sa’ab. We hadn’t told our parents yet and he was insisting that we do it soon. When neighbours and relatives and colleagues and utter strangers start bringing “perfect matches” for their only son, it was a little difficult for Captain Sa’ab’s parents to hold off the inevitable. And so we told them. And others. And some more people. And those strangers also.

I bring to you their first reactions.

My parents
“Oh thank god. We were so worried you are going to marry some non-Hindu guy. Yes yes, we know Captain Sa’ab. He is a good guy. We have met him only twice but we know he is a good guy. So what if he is in the Army. Aajkal toh life ka risk har kisi ko hota hai. Chalo good. Now get married as soon as possible. You are not getting any younger and who knows how long we are going to be around.”

Captain Sa’ab’s parents
Hamein toh pehele se pata tha. What do you think,  you bring this girl to our family functions and go with her to late night movies and we won’t get the hint? Chalo now get married this year only. Maybe in the next six months? What do you say?”

My colleagues
“Wow! your fiance is in the Army? So cool na. You will get free house, free daaru, free food. You guys get a full time servant also right? Teri toh aish hai yaar. You won’t have to do a thing. You will get to see all these exotic places around the country. So you get one servant or two?”

My relatives
“Oh Captain Sa’ab will get servants right? That is so nice. They live such a comfortable life. Now that you will marry him, you will get to live in a big big bunglow. You will have a huge garden and lots of servants to do your work. Do you know my bhabhi’s sister’s friend’s brother’s daughter? She married an Army man and she is living like a queen. Our little girl could not have found a better man…of course the match that I had suggested was far better and lives in US but it’s ok.”

Capt Sa’ab’s relatives
Arre wah now after he gets married, we will all go to his house and bahu rani will take care of us. She will have so many servants to take care of the villa.”

“Servants, servants, servants, blah blah blah…”

Just to be clear, we DO NOT get free servants or maids. They are all paid help. I think people confuse an Orderly with a house help. More on that later though.

And that’s how I realised that for so many people, life in Army means having a free servant courtesy an extra benevolent government.

Guess what was a close second….discounted stuff at CSD Canteen!

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