A Curious Army Wife

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

Archive for the tag “Army wife”

Bucket-list of Sarees that every Army wife should have!

Iss wale function me kya pehenna hai?

Mujhe bhi samajh nahin aa raha hai yaar. Ek kaam karte hain, let’s go for a saree. Safestest!” 

How many times have you had this conversation with a fellow Army/IAF/Navy wife?

WHEN IN DOUBT, DRAPE A SAREE — this line should be tattooed by all of us because we live by this commandment so often — call it the army wife equivalent of “SERVICE BEFORE SELF…” motto of our brave men.

If you are marrying an Army/Navy/Air Force officer, then you, my girl, will need a major wardrobe overhauling.

Till now if you owned 4-5 sarees then simply multiply it by 10 — yes, you WILL need those many sarees to survive the fauji ‘socialising’ and ‘welfaring’ spree.

Why would you have to drape a saree to every second function? I can’t waste my time explaining that. If you are a new bride, some senior officer’s wife will brief you about it. If you have already been briefed, then why should I bother… haha.

And if you are non-fauji person who stumbled upon this blog, then all I can tell you is that sarees are the formal attire in which army wives are supposed to attend functions and parties (and we do that in wholesale).

I am writing this gyan-bhara piece to tell you what kind of sarees you should have in your wardrobe, so that you always have the ‘appropriate saree’ for every occasion.

Stock up now

Here’s a sneak peek into the army wives whose pics are featured in this blog post. Check out their details at the end of the post.

Solid colours

Get plain sarees in every possible colour. Material of the fabric (chiffon, silk, cotton) is irrelevant. Red, black, blue, white, yellow, green, orange, pink and purple are must-haves. Beige, magenta, brown, gray, peach, and violet are optional. 😀

You will need those especially for themed Ladies’ Meets. For eg, Blue for monsoon theme, green for teej or go green theme, red for Valentine’s Day theme, etc. It also goes great with printed blouses on occasions like Polo matches or welfare functions.

A Tiranga saree

At least once in your first few years as an army wife, you will attend a Ladies Meet in Jan/Aug with a patriotic theme. So, orange, white and green colours in a single saree will save the day.

Black & White / Black & Red saree

Keep these two sarees ready (preferrably in chiffon and silk). Black and red will come in handy for, say, ‘casino’ theme, while the black and white saree will be useful for a theme with the same name.

Classy silks

Invest in some good silk sarees that look classy on formal occasions like mess parties and events like Raising Days/Jubilees. Your first occasion to wear a silk saree could come as early as your dinning-in function in the mess.

Silks, especially Kanjeevaram, Bangalore Silk, Paithani, Mysore Silks, Chanderi, Maheshwari etc, in broad and narrow borders, look fabulous. Silks work out best during outdoor winter parties too as they’ll give you better protection against the cold.

Floral-print saree

These sarees will make an annual appearance at the famous ‘Garden Party’ in your station. My understanding of the Garden Party is (and I could be wrong) that the wife of seniormost officer in your city — GOC-in-C, Brigade Commander, Corp Commander, Academy’s Commandant etc — will host a party in their sprawling gardens once in year. Gardens look best during the spring. So expect an invitation to it in February or March. It’s a mega party for all ladies of that particular city/cantonment/academy.

Spring me ho raha hai, garden venue hai… toh theme floral hi rahega na! Flowy Georgette or Chiffons, in pastels and floral prints are the sarees you would see in abundance at that time. Start buying woman!

Rajasthan ke rang (Lehriya, Bandhej)

A military wife, specially Army and Air Force spouse, would have far more Lehriya and Bandhej sarees than even a native Rajasthani woman.

No, I am not kidding.

They come in bright colours, hug all body shapes beautifully, can be paired with a simple blouse for a small event, or a stylist blouse for a formal event. It’s so versatile, that we fauji biwis end up buying a bunch.

Chikankari saree

If you don’t have a saree from the land of nawabs and kebabs, then it’s time to go shopping. One tenure in Uttar Pradesh will rectify this problem. If not, watch out for a handloom and handicraft exhibition in your city, where craftsmen from UP will definitely have a stall.

Your bridal saree

Yes, chances are you will use it at least once in your life as a fauji biwi (other than at your own shaadi, of course). I have seen many women who have draped elegant sarees at their weddings and often wear it again at formal functions like Jubilees and Raising Day events. If you are lucky, you might even attend a ‘Bridal’ themed Ladies’ Meet.

I curse my stupidity at having bought a very heavy red and gold kanjivaram saree, that I can’t even wear at someone else’ wedding (because people would know instantly that it’s my wedding saree… ufff, the saree politics).

I carry it around like dead weight. Should I just sell it off and use that money for a foreign trip? Or keep it for my future bahu as heirloom?

Maheshwari sarees

One long or short posting in Mhow (even a 2-3 days visit) will take care of this segment. These sarees, a speciality of Madhya Pradesh, are lightweight silks in stylish patterns and colours.

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

Morni saree

NOW WE ARE TALKING! This saree is an extremely stylist piece of fabric that is sold exclusively in Jodhpur by Bhatia Dyes. It is a beautiful saree with shades of green and blue — kind of like a morni (I assume the name struck because the colours of the saree resemble peacock feathers, but the fact is that a morni does not have those feathers. It should actually be called MORE saree).

Just FYI, Bhatia ji makes shaded sarees in other colours as well, but Morni Saree is his bestseller.

Kashmiri embroidary

Again, this kind of needlework is common on suits, shawls, and carpets. So if you come across this embrioidary on a silk or woolen saree (most probably during a J&K tenure) then don’t hesitate to loosen the strings of your purse (okay, this phrase is so outdated, instead I am going to say don’t hesitate to swipe that debit/credit card).

Mekhla Chador

It’s a skirt and a dupatta, combined together to be draped like a saree. With beautiful colours, asthetically designed borders, and extremely comfortable to wear, Mekhla Chador is your “lemme wear something that stands out” saree. Buy the authentic ones from Assam though — preferably in silk.

The Versatile White Saree

It could be the classic Kerala saree aka Kasavu. It could be a plain white ( rather off white) Tussar. It could be anything — from chikankari to net work, from Dhakai to a Paithani — but nothing will match the grace and elegance of a white saree. Traditionally it is not considered good to wear white sarees — associated with widows — but hey, aren’t we way past that stage of following useless customs? Go for it. And flaunt it with a stylish blouse.

That’s it ladies. This is your ‘essentials’ list. There are so many more sarees in our beautiful country that you must definitely buy whenever possible. If you are buying for region-specific sarees, then please do buy from handloom weavers and craftsmen who put in a lot of effort to bring something unique to the market. No offence to powerloom lobby but I would personally prefer to pay a little extra to the hardworking weavers of our country.

Banarasi, Chanderi, Taant, Balucheri, Kosa, Kantha, Sambalpuri, Pochampalli, Kalamkari, Narayanpet, Patola, Kota Doria, Phukari, Mangalgiri and Manipuri silk are some types of sarees that you must think of buying — depending on your taste — in addition to the ones I have described.

Now the roll of honour!

Do check out the blog/website/instagram pages of the lovely ladies in the images.

Akanksha Siwach
Blog: https://talesofthehiddentrails.wordpress.com
Instagram: @akankshasiwach

Saanya Bajaj Rawat
Blog: http://thatordinarycouple.com/
Instagram: @thatordinarycouple

Gunjan Mishra Upadyay
Blog: https://alazydesi.blogspot.com/
Instagram: @pink_pitari

Priyanka Mansotra
Instagram: @myeloquentwardrobe

Shruti Seth Gulati
Website: https://adahbespoke.com/
Instagram: @adah_bespoke_chikankari

Nupur Pradhan
Blog: https://tuggingmyluggage.com/
Instagram: @tuggingmyluggage

When Major Sa’ab gave me driving lessons with a dash of Masterchef!

Major Sa’ab didn’t know how to cook. On a scale of 1 to 10 in terms of kitchen skills, he was minus 3 when I married him.

I didn’t know how to drive. On a scale from 1 to 10, I was a 5 if someone would just remind me which one is clutch and which ones are the brakes.

So when we got married, I made a deal with Major Sa’ab (not out aloud, obviously) that he is to teach me driving and I will in turn get him started in the kitchen. And we lived happily ever after.

Until I realised one day that while teaching me how to drive, Major Sa’ab would often use examples from the kitchen to make me understand a situation better. I think he is ready for Fauji Masterchef (in which participants will be judged on their ability to give orders instead of actual cooking).

Here are some gems of wisdom from The Patient Army Officer aka Major Sa’ab to the Curious Army Wife.

  1. Ab tu mujhe doodh garam karne ko bolti hai tab batati hai na ki kam doodh me gas high pe rakho toh patila jal jayega. Bas waise hi chhote gear me speed tez karegi toh engine jal jayega!
  2. Offo, I am in control of the vehicle. I know you get scared when I speed up, but I have full control. Just like you have when you go chomp chomp with that sharp knife on the chopping board.
  3. Did you just say gear change nai kiya toh chalta hai? Ruk, ab agali baar kadhai me paani hoga toh bhi mein tel daalke gas on karunga. Chalta hai.
  4. Don’t you keep telling me that if you put the lid on the pot and turn off the gas, food will continue to cook inside for sometime and it will save fuel also? Basss! Neutral gear is like that only.

Needless to say, we are both 100% experts now — he is still 50% expert at cooking, and I am 50% comfy driving his mammoth XUV 500. Ho gaya total 100%!

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!!!!!!!

Chhote Sa’ab enters our life

A Curious Army Wife and Major Sa’ab are now parents to Chhote Sa’ab. This hurricane hit us just before monsoon hit our city.

Chhote Sa'ab's one and only job as of now... "Do Epic Shit"!
  • We are sleep deprived.
  • We talk about poop, pee and pukes.
  • Chhote Sa’ab is what Major Sa’ab’s buddy calls this little boy. He thinks the boy looks like his Sa’ab (hadd ho gayi sir ki ji hazoori karne ki bhi… except that in this case he is right).
  • We now keep track of other officers’ kids’ illnesses. (And calculate how long before it’s safe for Chhote Sa’ab to meet them again).
  • Our CSD list each month now reads — Diapers, Dettol and Badam oil.
  • Nobody asks us our haal-chaal. But our Chhote Sa’ab gets asked everything (and he can’t even speak).
  • Chhote Sa’ab’s first word was “AWWA”. I am worried. So is Major Sa’ab.
  • The boy already has a different set of clothes under the category “Ye Mess Party ke kapade“.
  • I am always on high alert when young officers play with him at parties, lest they slip him a bit of beer or whisky. Why am I paranoid about this, you ask? Because when Major Sa’ab was a young officer, he did that to almost all officers’ kids. And Karma is a ….
  • I would have loved to write a longer post in a much better way (instead of this minor SD format) but mere pass WAQTTTT nahin hai.

I’ll get back soon. Chhote Sa’ab seems to be chewing something that should not be chewed on by humans. Tata…

FAQ No 5: Kid’s schooling or keeping the family together?

Since I have no experience in dealing with a situation like this, I will request all readers to give their inputs. Many of you must have gone through something similar as well.

FAQ 3

 

Here’s the tale of Lt Nidhi Dubey and Lt Swati Mahadik

 

Nidhi Dubey’s husband, Naik Mukesh Dubey, died of a cardiac arrest when Nidhi was 4 months pregnant. Nidhi, who lived in Sagar, moved to Indore for further studies and job.

Swati and Nidhi Dubey

Lt Swati Mahadik (left) and Lt Nidhi Dubey after being commissioned into the Indian Army at OTA Chennai on September 9, 2017. Pic: Via Twitter

When she learned that war widows can also join the army, she started preparing for the entrance and was given ample support by the Mahar Regimental Centre in Sagar.

Today, she is Lt Nidhi Dubey!

Swati Mahadik’s husband, Col Santosh Mahadik, was martyred in Kupwara in 2015 while fighting terrorist in Jammu and Kashmir. Though financially stable, Swati decided to join the Army to honour her late husband’s sacrifice. She has a young daughter and son, who were put in boarding school so that Swati could prepare for the entrance.

Swati3

Lt Swati Mahadik with her son and daughter at the PoP in OTA Chennai. Pic: Via Twitter

Today, she is Lt Swati Mahadik.

The two women walked through the gates of Officers Training Academy in Chennai in September 2016.

Every year, there is only one vacancy for a war widow in OTA. This time, the Army made an exception and allowed both the ladies to undergo training.

They are not alone — their name will be added to the small  yet growing list of war widows opting to join the Army after rigorous training.

Swati2

At the Passing Out Parade at OTA Chennai. Pic: Via Twitter

If the entire process of getting over grief of loss of a loved one, and then pulling themselves up again to prepare for the future, that too in the Army, is something that will send shivers down the spine of even the strong-hearted!

A Curious Army Wife salutes them all! 

 

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! 😛
20170424_183611
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) 

*Guest Post* How being a Fauji’s girlfriend changed my life!

He’s there alone, working extremely hard, not eating well, not sleeping well, not getting a second for himself and the only person he can share his heart with is me.Being a soldier’s girlfriend may not sound anything different or specialto many… but when you are actually with a soldier, you will see how life changes in unthinkable ways. We have been together since forever but it’s been a couple of years since I became the soldier’s girlfriend

Our relationship has changed in a lot of unimaginable ways since then. The best part — I am so so proud of my man. The feeling cannot be described in words. I have seen him change from a careless and immature schoolboy into a soldier, who now shares the responsibility of protecting billions of countrymen.

I can just not respect him enough, I could not be more proud of him.

The bad thing is I got demoted to the second position in the list of his loved ones. His love for his job tops his list now. He has pampered me a lot all these years and I have been literally in seventh heaven all the time, so for me it was like being thrown back to the earth. But that’s how it is.

I know how much he loves me, how much he wants to be with me and still he has to be in some godforsaken place for his duty — it makes me love him more and be more strong.

One obvious thing to have happened is that the relationship turned into a long distance one and there’s already so less time at our disposal and when once in a blue moon, we are all set to talk, bless the mobile network in Armed Forces areas.

At times, we may have 10 mins to talk and we will end up wasting 15 mins in just trying to connect the phone. So yeah, there is always a desire, a longing to be able to spend some time with each other, to not say anything, to escape from everything, just to be there with him.

This has made us appreciate each and every moment we spend together. We long to be with each other be it even for a moment and are always ready to scale any heights, fly any distance just to be together.

With time, I also became an excellent actor. No, I don’t act to hide my pain, I have to act to forget my pain. I have to be his strength. He’s there alone, working extremely hard, not eating well, not sleeping well, not getting a second for himself and the only person he can share his heart with is me.

I am the one who has to take care of him. And taking care doesn’t always mean cooking for him or doing his little chores, it’s more about taking care of his heart.

Always make him feel loved so that the rays of happiness shine on him. At times, I would feel extremely jealous and frustrated of not knowing about his whereabouts. With time, I have lost track of his likes and dislikes.

But I know the most important thing, he madly loves me and so do I! I started loving myself more because I’m lovely to him.

Even in today’s online world, we still write letters to each other. The joy of getting a letter after days of wait is just not comparable to getting an online message. We can read and re-read these letters years after years. The fragrance of our love will always be there in those letters.

I could not have imagined living, with him not being by my side for a day and here I am writing all this. It’s his radiating strength shining upon me too.

And the best perk is I get aviator glasses, Air Force t-shirts and souvenirs from all over the country as gifts!

— A Fauji Girlfriend.

The girl who wrote this wonderful piece did not want to disclose her identity. 

Fauji upbhokta

You know how a song, a phrase, a dialogue often reminds you of your fauji, and whenever you hear it, his image comes to your mind?

For me, that dialogue is “Jiss upabhogta se aap sampark karna chahte hain, wo abhi coverage shetra se bahar hai.” 😈😈

*Guest Post* How is it Like Being an Army Wife?

I’m back with another guest post, this time from Army wife Manisha Shejwal with this amazingly insightful post. Enjoy…

How is it like being an Army wife?

Every young girl dreams and waits for a prince charming to come on a black horse and take her away as his bride to get married. When she is about to get married to an Army man, it is like realizing her dream.

I think dreaming to marry a man in olive-green and being an exemplary Army wife are two different equations. To decode what it takes to become an Army wife, let me shortly tell you about the men in uniform.

Army-Wife-MedIndian Army is one of the first five largest military forces among the total 126 military forces present in the world. The most eligible gentlemen cadets are handpicked for further training through the toughest exam conducted by Service Selection Board (SSB). An Army man undergoes rigorous physical training that tries and establishes extreme limits of his stamina, endurance, and abilities to cope up with harsh working conditions.

He is groomed to handle any crucial situations may they be professional or personal. This training turns him into a completely confidant, smart, and a fit officer, who can take anything; may whatever comes his way. Being aware of his enhanced capabilities after the training, pride comes to him naturally. And ahem:-) … it suits him whether he wears any of his smart uniforms or a simple casual outfit.

During the course of his profession, he gets posted at various peace and field places every 2 to 2.5 years. At the place of peace posting, there is no separation from the family and life is still much easy.

But his field posting is a different affair. Sometimes the names of these field places are difficult to spell and locate on the civil versions of maps. He cannot keep his family with him while he is posted to a field.

While on duty at a remote field place, his day starts at 4:45 am. He takes all meals at the officers’ mess. His office starts very early and he is all occupied with inspections, planning and executing war games, training subordinates, establishing systems, and administration. He always carries the professional responsibilities towards the organization on his mind.

Some of his field areas record the daytime temperature of sub-zero and the lack of oxygen. During some crucial times, he works around 16 to 18 hours a day, without proper food or water at hand. He witnesses the game of life and death from a close proximity.

When he is away from home, he waits for letters and messages from his loved ones. He urges to hear baby talk that his little daughter or son utters into the phone speaker…He keeps his baby’s picture as his cellphone wallpaper.

He tirelessly eats all Aloo-mixed versions of vegetables that the mess cook prepares for meals; may it be Aloo-Gobhi, Aloo-Paneer, Aloo-Capsicum, Aloo-Bhindi, Aloo-Methi, Dum-Aloo, or Aloo-Mutter! Oh yes, also the Aloo-bondas as tea time snack, or that Aloo-paratha in the breakfast…He wonders what the mess cook would serve him if there comes a dearth of potatoes in ration! 😀 He waits for days and months to go home and have the tasty food that his mother or wife serves him with love.

ArmyMan-in-Shoes-MedBehind his tough, disciplined, and hardworking adult persona hides a little child, who giggles freely and sleeps for little extra time while on vacation. He tries to catch up on all that he missed while he was away. And when the vacation comes near to its end, he gets anxious on the slightest thought of separation from his loved ones. But he never shows. As a strong officer, he needs to be in control always; for all that comes his way. He prepares himself again to take the leave of his family and departs with the stock of love to resume work.

It takes something special to be able to handle this proud and commanding alpha man, a loving husband, a father of his children, and a child himself. Being an Army wife is not just about flaunting branded outfits and accessories, or driving a sedan…In my view, an Army wife is a courageous life partner of her husband. Her sacrifice starts when she enters marriage with the awareness that she is at second place in the list of his top priorities. Because for him, the nation comes first.

Here I remember a very meaningful quote in Hindu Neeti-Shastra that narrates six basic virtues of a married woman:

“कार्येषु दासी, कारणेषु मंत्री। (Karyeshu Daasi, Kaaraneshu Mantri)
भोजेषु माता, शयनेषु रंभा। (Bhojaneshu Mataa, Shayaneshu Rambha)
रुपेषु लक्ष्मी, क्षमायेषु धरित्री। (Roopeshu Lakshmi, Kshamayeshu Dharitree)
सतधर्मयुक्ता, कुलधर्म पत्नी।” (Satadharmayukta, kuladharma patni)

This Sanskrit quote means, “She works like a servant for her family, she advises her husband like a wise minister, she feeds her family with a mother’s love, she pleases her man romantically like a beauty named Rambha, she is the form of Goddess Lakshmi because she helps to multiply wealth, and she is forgiving like the mother earth”.

I humbly mention that an Army wife has almost everything in her. She is a blend of strength and warmth. She understands her husband’s unparalleled hardships and runs their house single-handedly when he is away. She takes care of his parents in his absence so that he can concentrate on his work. She becomes their children’s father and does not crib about the problems she tackles in his absence.

She drives car smoothly. She is an awesome cook. She applies her unique artistic ideas to convert a white-washed house into a beautiful warm home. She has an eye for colors, fabrics, weaves, and prints. She can change the cooking gas cylinder or an electric tube by herself. She is an amateur carpenter. She handles bank transactions and investments proficiently. She knows how to handle medical emergencies. She can even bring up their autistic or differently-abled child when he is not around.

C’est tout? Non…She knows Roger means okay and recce means reconnaissance. She knows Army diction of the terms such as TD, Adjt, Div, Cmdt, QM, and more. She can cook three-course meal for 20 people on a brief notice. She is fearless with cockroaches and she can use her new pair of Marie Clair stilettos to kill the small snake that sneaked in from the ground floor bathroom pipe.😀

She conducts herself gracefully and knows all dining etiquettes during parties. She is a mentor for junior ladies and a counsellor for jawans’ wives. She maintains cordial relations with fellow Army wives and senior ladies. She understands her man and complements him effortlessly. She holds her strength up even during those bad times when she feels like she is getting more than she can handle. She can multitask. She is jovial. She is cool.

Does she sound like a superwoman? Or a woman from another planet, maybe…😀 No…She is a common lady with uncommon spirit, endurance, creativity, and emotional quotient; doing it all for the ultimate noble cause.

There are quite reasonable pay-offs for her being an Army wife. She gets to be an inseparable part of a man’s life who is always morally upright. She is his most trusted friend and an advisor. When her hero is promoted as a Commanding Officer (CO) of a unit, she becomes the first lady of the unit. She always receives genuine respect from her husband and his fellow officers. These gentlemen around her make her feel like a pampered queen.:-)

She can stay with her husband during his foreign missions or join him on short foreign trips. She can visit unique places of his postings. She gets to see the natural and cultural beauty within and outside India. She gets to participate in adventurous activities and make a lot of friends. She gets to look at people beyond their places of origin, castes, and religions. She gets to serve others and thus she can create positive karmas for herself.

Army-Couple-MedI am happily married to a very capable signal officer for the past 17 years. We both hail from civil background. My civilian acquaintances knew that I was going to marry the then Captain Saab. They knew only the rosy side of Army life and they often equated it with parties, freebies, and drinks. They used to say like, “How lucky you are! You would lead a very lavish life!” After our wedding they would say, “You have sahayaks and maids at your disposal, you get free house, canteen facilities, blah blah blah,…, you really live life king-size…”.

How much of it is really free, at what cost, and to what extent is another topic for discussion. But yes, we Army people do live our lives king-size. We party hard as if there is no tomorrow. Maybe because we frequently undergo long separations from our families…Maybe because we face numerous uncertainties and we wish to make the most of each moment in hand…Maybe because we know tomorrow would be different…

An Army wife neither receives any formal training to manage the show nor does she receive any bravery award…She stumbles, observes, learns, and moves on with smile and confidence…She becomes stronger each day, for she knows that she is the strength of her Army man. She knows, however unacknowledged her sacrifices go; she will continue to contribute in kind for her motherland.

The writer of this post, Manisha Shejwal is a Freelance Content Writer/Technical Writer. She likes cooking, baking, reading, painting, learning new skills, making Henna tattoos, and writing. She is inclined towards spirituality and  strongly believes in two ideas: One, whatever goes around comes around. Two, happiness is a journey of life by choice. You can check out her blog Happiness Mocktail.

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