A Curious Army Wife

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

Archive for the tag “Army wife life”

3-month-old Chhote Sa’ab and his first Mess party… What a mess!

“Tell your VVIP guests that I am coming to the party as well,” I fumed.

“Are you sure?”

“I am f**king sure.”

“Will you be able to manage the baby?” Major Sa’ab asked.

“Of course, You will also be there right?”

“Hmmmm”. Major Sa’ab, showing wisdom that comes only after getting 2 extra minutes in BPET, did not reveal that he would hardly be around for the baby duty at the party.

Aren’t you wondering why (really, why?) I wanted to go to this party?

The pram somehow blended perfectly!

Two reasons — Baby and Husband.

The Baby, urf Chhote Sa’ab. Because this three-month-old bundle of joy and poop was the reason I was not able to step out of our house these days.

Husband, urf Major Sa’ab. Because it was the sixth day after my return from a two-month stay in my hometown and I was yet to meet him for more than an hour a day (excluding sleep time).

Our brigade had just wrapped up some very important exercise or training or something like that (it’s all the same to me) which had kept all officers and jawans busy. It ended the day I came back.

Like a fool I thought I’d get to see more of him now that he is free. H’d come home for lunch and go off to sleep. Then games in evening and some or the other bloody party.

Ek din brigade me party.

Ek din Badakhana.

Ek din neighboring unit threw a party.

Ek din Brigade Commander kept a house party.

Ek din JCO Mess me party.

And on all these days, I struggled as a new mom to take care of Chhote Sa’ab alone. I was too invited, but excused because of the baby. 

I cried almost every evening and wondered why the father of my child had to attend parties at such a time.

“I have to go for my troops.” 

“Commander becomes senti if we don’t go.”

“There are only three of us from our Unit, so I have to go.”

Angrez chale gaye, forced socialising in fauj chhod gaye.

ENOUGH! I said. If what it takes to be with my husband is attending a party, then so be it. I will go. 

Our Unit was celebrating the Raising Day in our own Mess’ garden, so prior arrangements for me could easily be made. A lanky Lieutenant had graciously agreed to let me use his room for nursing Chhote Sa’ab during the party. 

We, as hosts, had to reach at 1830 hours. I started getting ready at 1600 hours. Though limited, experience in last three months told me that getting the baby ready takes minimum 2 hours.

An infant will sleep, poop, cry, soil clothes, feed, not burp, puke, feed again, sleep and refuse to get into new clothes quietly — all on a loop.  There is simply no way you can plan a punctual outing. Major Sa’ab got a taste of it that day. 

I was excused from draping a saree, but being the stupid-saree-lover that I am, I decided to wear one. Bad decision. New mommies, please learn from me. 

We reached a couple of minutes late. Major Sa’ab did not make an issue out of it. Brownie points for him. 

I was really touched by the warm welcome I got from Unit’s officers and ladies. It was good to see them after so many months. Chhote Sa’ab was coochi-cooed and passed around by all the uncles and aunties. Even the kids were excited to see a baby. 

It wasn’t exactly chilly, maybe a couple of degrees above what you call ‘pleasant’. That’s the WORST kind of temperature for a new mom — she just can’t decide how to dress up the baby. 

“Should I keep a sweater? Should I make him wear a jacket? How many blankets should I keep? What if he feels hot?” 

I packed everything with me. With two big bags and a pram stashed into the back of our XUV 500 and an infant car seat occupying one-third of the backseats, I casually remarked, “Ufff itna samaan! Ye gaadi chhoti padd rahi hai!

“And you wanted me to buy a Nano!” Major Sa’ab teased me. 

At the party, as the guests started trickling in, I relaxed a bit. Retired officers of our Unit came and blessed Chhote Sa’ab. Almost everyone said he looked like his father. To which I would reply like a cool cat — Shakal papa pe gayi hai, Akal maa pe. (Five pointer!)

Chhote Sa’ab had just dozed off after soaking in all the fairy lights and new faces. Husssh. I settled him into his new pram, covered him with two blankets (just to be sure) and sat down to chit-chat. Drinks arrived, and I gulped down my juice in one go. 

“Arre Arre, what’s the hurry?” asked one of our Unit ladies on seeing my bottoms-up stunt.

“I don’t have the luxury of time. If he wakes up, I won’t be able to finish my drink,” I explained lamely. 

She was a young lady, barely an year into her marriage. She filed this piece of info in her brain as “Things kids make us do”. 

Just as I was thinking of handing the sleeping baby over to Major Sa’ab, I heard an officer on the mic requesting everyone to settle down. 

WTF! It was Major Sa’ab on the mic! He was to conduct the whole programme that evening, which obviously meant that he can’t move away from the stage. 

Images of Discovery Channel’s documentaries on animal species with least-interested-fathers flashed in front of my eyes. 

And the loud speakers instantly woke up Chhote Sa’ab. Brilliant! 

Uwaaaaan! 

“What happened? Is he cold?

“He must be hungry.”

“Memsaab snacks?”

“Why don’t you go inside the Mess.”

Oh god! If I had a rupee (not a nickel cos that is Angrezon ka term) for all the free ka advice I got during my pregnancy and early months of motherhood — I would have put India’s Defence budget to shame. 

I picked the wailing monkey and rushed to the Lieutenant’s room. Wow! what a room! 

It had nice gray walls, rock music posters, industrial lamps, guitars, music system, curtains and bedding to go with the theme, and books…. the room felt like a nice and clean place to relax.

Or maybe I was just overwhelmed at seeing a tidy room after so many months (that’s right, blame it on the baby). 

I settled down on the floor bed to nurse Chhote Sa’ab, but he was so fascinated by the new place that he did not focus properly on his dudu. 

Once back in the garden, I heard our Unit officer singing his trademark Nepalese song  “Tulsi Anganmaa Ropaula” — he refused to sing any other song at any event all these years. 

Major Sa’ab walked up to me casually and said, “I was looking for you.”

My reaction: 

“Errr mein tere liye drink leke aata hoon. You’ll have wine, darling?”

“I told you I am not supposed to right? Since I am still feeding Chhote Sa’ab…” I shot back.

But Major Sa’ab was looking at me funny and did not seem offended by my rebuttal. He was looking at my saree, actually.

“Why don’t you give Chhote Sa’ab to me and go fix your saree?” he said. It took me a minute to realise that something was terribly wrong with the way my saree was hanging on me. I quietly went back to the Lieutenant’s room (because that was closer than the washroom) and draped my saree again.

Once back, I think I consumed almost 3-4 kgs of snacks meant for all the oldies, who were too busy catching up on old times and telling youngsters stories about “In our times…”. I was hungry all the time. As are all new mommies.

Some of the ladies took me around to introduce me to the women folk of other Units in our Brigade. Chhote Sa’ab was also duly introduced.

And then, the unthinkable happened! I was standing with around 4-5 ladies, exchanging pleasantries, when Chhote Sa’ab decided to do some gymnastics. For those who don’t know, lemme tell you that while holding small babies on one shoulder, their neck needs to be supported.

Chhote saab was doing just fine on my shoulder, looking at one of the aunties and smiling.

And the very next moment, he did this:

“Oh god bacche ko sambhalo.”

“He is such an active baby.”

“Keep your palm at the back of his neck. ALWAYS.”

I should have died of embarrassment right there. This kid never did anything like that before. He was just waiting for the right audience.

I slipped away the moment I found my escape cue. Major Sa’ab swooped in and took Chhote Sa’ab with him on a stroll. I trotted along happily. But this sweet family moment was short-lived…it actually takes longer to say, “Mutual funds are subject to market risks. Please read the offer document before investing.”

A retired Colonel Sa’ab from our unit, now well into his 80s, intercepted our family ride. “I don’t know about these days, but back then we were told to always cover the head of a baby or he will catch cold.”

Yeah… So? I thought. Just 10 seconds ago I had seen Chhote Sa’ab’s head nicely tucked into his hoodie. I turned to see that Major Sa’ab had pulled it down just before the Col met us. Talk about timing boss…we were on a roll.

Sometime later, just as I finished answering FAQs about why I didn’t put a kala tika on Chhote Sa’ab, I heard the DJ roll out some dhinchaak Bollywood songs with guests heading to the dance floor. I tried to remember the last time I danced… That would be almost an year ago, just before I peed on the pregnancy test and the two pink lines told me “Behen, game over.”

Ladies were waving at me, urging me to come over. I shook my head, since I had to stay with the baby, who was by the way looking at me shell shocked (maybe because of the loud noise) from the pram. Major Sa’ab got dragged away by some junior officers who were happily high.

Sigh! I assumed it would be a while, maybe 3-4 years, before we would both be able to dance together.

Wrong!

Our Unit’s 2IC walked up to me with his wife. “Ma’am, I am giving you 10 minutes. We are here with Chhote Sa’ab. Go have fun.”

Ja simran ja. Ji le apni zindagi.

I opened my mouth to protest… I was going to say something terrible like “No, no, it’s OK, I am fine here.” Thank god I didn’t.

I ran up to the dance floor and danced for full 7 minutes before I started sweating and my eyes rolled around in their socket a couple of times. My body was still recovering from childbirth and I had not started working out yet. That dance floor activated all my muscles and I was panting in no time. Back to pavilion.

I was tired now. I picked up Chhote Saab, planted a nice long pappi in his cold cheeks and chuckled, “Beta, you are heavy yaar. I can’t hold you beyond five minutes.”

A lady standing with us there suddenly exclaimed, “Haww don’t say that. Mummy ki hi nazar lag jayegi baby ko.”

Red carpet welcome

“Listen woman… I don’t know your name, and I’ll bet a thousand rupees that I won’t see you again after the party. I am sorry that you feel the need to talk shit. But not just me, even Aamir Khan (jo Science ki taraf se hai…remember 3 Idiots?) will tell you that there is no such thing as ‘nazar lagna‘. So zip it and save your precious lipstick from eroding.”

👆 This is what I wanted to say.

👇This is what I actually said.

“Huh.”

Postpartum hormones I tell you!

I rapidly retreated and bumped into a group of veterans’ wives. For some reason, Chhote Sa’ab liked the non-supersonic attention that they gave him and instantly smiled at them. They then started telling me some wonderful stories about the time they became mothers.

Mind you, these were women who’s husbands retired just before the internet boom, mobile mania and the 6th Pay Commission. So, for them, life in fauj meant letters, STD calls and limited travel options.

“Which is why raising my son alone was tough, since my husband won’t be around most of the time,” Mrs Deokar, now in her 60s, said. Mrs Kulkarni chipped in, “Exactly! My husband was not even with me at the time of delivery. My daughter, and three years later, my son, were born in SF. His CO did not give him leave to come home.”

The two ladies, joined by three more veterans’ wives, narrated their own struggles with motherhood. Everyone told me one thing very clearly — for a majority of my child’s growing-up years, I would have to be both, mother and father, to him. Because Army wives have it tough, but mothers have it tougher.

The guests settled down for dinner and we saw them off just around midnight. Throughout the party, I took breaks for two more nursing sessions and three saree re-draping sessions.

Since ladies get to fill up their plates first, Major Sa’ab offered to look after Chhote Saab while I gobbled my dinner super quick. Somehow, I feel getting married to him was the turning point in my life after which I stopped eating my meals the normal way. I could now give an NDA cadet a stiff competition in gobbling meals. I am not saying I’d win… I’ll just give competition, a la Aam Admi Party Or Shiv Sena.

So yeah, I was halfway through my dinner when I heard Chhote Sa’ab wail. Major Sa’ab was taking him around the garden to distract him, but the monkey had had enough. I think he wanted to go home. Waiters, bar attendents, and the rest of the mess staff was clearly amused — I assume they had never seen Major Sa’ab so flustered that too because of such a tiny human.

I excused myself from the dinner table even though other ladies were not yet finished. I rushed to rescue the father of my child from possible loss of hearing. I saw a fraught baby, an exasperated father, a brilliant three-piece suit splashed with puke (milk reflux to be precise) on both shoulders and the pram, abandoned at some corner of the garden.

Feeding Chhote Sa’ab calmed him down, but he was still restless and wanted to go home. Meanwhile, Major Sa’ab ate whatever he could get his hands on — food enough to feed the three judges of Masterchef Australia but clearly not enough for a fauji! He understood the Need For Speed. But other officers and ladies refused to move from their place and were busy chitchatting. It was midnight for heavens sake!

Chhote Sa’ab was now 4th gear cranky. “Why have you made him wear the warm jacket and blanket? It is so warm, we all are sweating,” one of the ladies said.

“We all are sweating because we just danced so much,” I pointed out.

One cue, a senior officer suggested that everyone stay for some more time to enjoy the DJ (the guests had left, it was just us hosts), and I started getting panic attacks.

Major Sa’ab, my knight in puke-covered armour, saved the day that night — no pun intended. He quickly protested, “Sir hame jaane do please, warna ye baccha hamein disown kar dega.”

The moment we were given the green signal to go, we quickly fired off “Good Evenings” in all directions and ran towards the parking. Fastened securely in his car seat, Chhote Sa’ab showed no signs of slowing down, and kept crying with Ganga-Jamuna flowing from his eyes.

The entire journey we kept saying “sorry beta” to him. I vowed never to bring him to any mess party. Major Sa’ab vowed he’d stay with him at home rather than go to parties. “Sorry beta” continued for another 5 minutes till we reached home. The boy settled down and immediately went to sleep.

And we stayed up for another hour.

And that was how Chhote Sa’ab first Mess party ended. Phew!!!!!!!

Army Train Journey Part 1: ‘Expected Time Of Departure’ is moh maya!

Heard of the special Army train?
No, no, not the NDA special.
I am talking about the one in which female presence is allowed! 😛
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I first heard about this special Army train from many army wives, who had accompanied their husband’s battalion (or Unit) in such trains while shifting from one positing location to another, and decided it was high time for me, the ‘Curious Army Wife’, to experience the journey.
Hashtag Travel Goals
Hashtag Life mein ek baar. 
Hashtag Rahul Gandhi Pappu Hai. 
So, when it was time for Major Sa’ab’s unit to move from a field location to a peace station, I came to know the famous special Army train will be used for this movement.
Major Sa’ab told me officers are allowed to bring their families on this special Army train. I think it’s only legit that I have a minor listicle-attack to explain some things about this train before I tell you my story.
Salient features of special train (yaad kar lo bhiya)
1. Moving an entire battalion from one location to another is a massive task and an ENTIRE train is needed to shift it. Some Units need 2-3 trains!
2. On routes where there are no railway tracks (like the remote mountainous regions), army trucks do the work.
3. Men, machines, files, furniture, all the troops’ luggage and even the flower pots (bole toh gamle) are transported via this train.
4. The train is green in colour, not the usual brown/blue/duronto colour. Coaches have Indian Army written on it. Jhanki hai boss!
5. The train travels at a leisurely pace. It takes its own sweet time in reaching its destination. So a journey that takes, say 12 hours by a normal train, will take at least 36 hours in the special Army train.
6. No civilians are allowed to board it. The train is so exclusive that not even other faujis (as in those who do not belong to the battalion that is moving) are allowed to step in.
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Getting back to my story. 
“Chalegi kya Special Train mein?” Major Sa’ab asked me.
“Jaisa aap kahein,” I replied.
“Aa hi ja. Bahut kam logon ko mauka milta hai. Baad mein pata hai aa paye ya nahin,” he said.
“Aapki iccha ko na bolne wali mein kaun hoti hoon. Aa jaungi,” replied the obedient me.
Hashtag True Story. 
Major Sa’ab’s Unit was in a very volatile location in the valley. It was scheduled to move to the same city where I was working (very very convenient for me).
Two months before the expected journey date, he advised that I should ask for leave of absence from my office. I said,”Give me the dates first.”
I should have changed the name of this blog to The NAIVE Army Wife right there!
Major Sa’ab patiently explained that these dates are not fixed two months in advance and gave me a tentative moving date.
Let’s, for the sake of easy calculations, assume the date was April 1 (quite symbolic).
I was to take connecting flights to reach the station where from where the Unit would move in train.
This was the date I had with me when I approached my boss seeking leave. Once I got the green signal, Major Sa’ab said they have received communication from Delhi that their unit is to move on April 5.
Chalo koi na, I thought, since my office was pretty flexible when it came to leaves.
With a fortnight to go, Major Sa’ab told me the revised date is April 12-16. “Book your flight tickets,” he said!
“HOW?” I asked in my politest voice. “I need ONE date to book it.”
Days passed as I anxiously waited for that. Everyday, I heard a new departure date. When the date was finalised on April 18, I decided to book my flight ticket.
Last minute flight fares are sometimes insane. Thankfully, the only portal that could give me some discount was UdChalo.com.
If you haven’t heard of UdChalo.com, then you are probably spending a lot on flight tickets. This start-up (completly run by fauji kids and Ex-servicemen) provides discounted airfare to Armed Forces personnel and their family members.
Hashtag Plugged. 
Hashtag Travel Hacks For Faujis
Now here’s Major Sa’ab’s official statement about the special train departure.”The train will come to the station on April 18. It will take roughly 4-5 hours for us to load it. Once that is done, we will leave by April 18 night, or maximum by 19th afternoon. Normal train takes 2 days in reaching our destination, we will take not more than 4 days.”
I decided to reach the station of departure on April 19th morning — I had full faith that the train won’t leave before that.
I reached the airport and saw Major Sa’ab there after almost 5 months! Oh! How I loved my man!
In the jeep, he tells me, ” Accha listen, you were right and made the correct decision.”
Hashtag What’s The Fuck Up NOW? 
“That train hasn’t come here yet.”
Ein?
“There’s been a slight delay. But it will come tomorrow,” he gave me aashwasan like Modi.
“This is so unfair. I’ll waste one day of my leave for nothing” I did kadi ninda like Rajnath.
He was silent. Like Manmohan.
The Unit had to travel to this railway station — located at the nearest city — by loading all their stuff in those army trucks. It took the trucks an entire day to cover this distance, and three journey’s to-fro.
Our Commanding Officer’s (CO) wife and the new bride of another officer were there in the transit camp to keep me company.
For the next five… no no, I need some more drama here… FOR THE NEXT FIVE FREAKING DAYS, the train didn’t come.
Some stupid cargo train carrying coal had derailed somewhere, blocking the route from where our empty special Army train was to come.
The ladies shopped, cribbed, slept throughout the day, cribbed some more and then topped it off with some more cribbing.
We went to a mall in the evening, saw that toy train in which kids ride, and decided that we are going to sit in this train for a joy ride. Three grown-up women trying to fit themselves in that small coach was a testimony of how badly we wanted to sit in a TRAIN… ANY TRAIN.
“Train ki koi khabar,” we would ask everytime we saw each other in those five days and then burst out laughing.
Hashtag How Sad Are We. 
Hashtag Panjon Panjon Panjon Panjon
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On April 24th, Major Sa’ab was getting ready in the guest room to go to the railway station. Today, like the previous five days, the train was “definitely” going to come.
I accompanied Major Sa’ab to the station.
I wasn’t prepared for this.
The entire length of the platform at the other end of the station was covered with Unit property. From this side, it looked like a miniature model of the New York skyline. It was covered in green tent cloth to protect from rain and dust.
Breaking the monotony of black boxes and trunks were some flowerpots (as promised), furniture covered in gunny bag, personal belongings of the Jawans, classified stuff and a net box full of pigeons.
YES… PIGEONS!
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These were pet birds who kept the jawans company in the hills and were looked after very well by the fauj. When the time came for the Unit to leave that location and move to a big city, the CO decided to take these birds along! Isn’t that just… I don’t know.. I have never heard of people moving with lock stock barrel and pigeons!
And all this, I didn’t think would fit in a train.
And then the unthinkable happened!
I heard a nice long whistle and the rhythmic sound of the train pulling up at the station from one end!
200w_d
Show some love to inspire me enough to write Part 2 of this blog(coming soon) to read about how I realised there were 3 four-legged friends with us on the train and why I couldn’t complete this journey (no, wasn’t thrown off it) 

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