A Curious Army Wife

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

Archive for the tag “Indian Army wife”

Army Train Journey Part 2: Samne se dheere chalega, dheere chal!

So where was I?

Aah yes, the Special Army Train had just arrived at our station at 12 noon. Check the first part here to get yourself up to speed (pun not intended).

The special Army train pulled up at the platform at the opposite end of the station — a platform which was not in use for other passenger or long-distance trains.

“Bas! Four more hours,” I thought about the departure time — that’s the time Major Sa’ab had said it will take to load the train.

Hashtag Husband Wale Jhooth!

Our entire Unit was moving from a field location to a semi-metro peace location, remember? Unit property and men were being transported via a special green-coloured Army train, with the officers, their families and Jawans being the only ones aboard.

It had a special train number and is managed by the railways only for the purpose of moving Armymen and Fauji property around the country — no, it does not show up on IRCTC website.

So, once the train arrived, Major Sa’ab, other officers, JCOs and ORs immediately got busy with ‘planning’ the next move. Planning is very important in fauj. Not just in war, but in loading a train as well.

I came back to the guest room. As per my calculations, taking into account time taken for loading, lunchtime and tea time, we should be good to go by 1800 hours!

Nope! It seemed more like 1,800 hours before we managed to leave the station at around midnight. Here’s why…

I am sure that by 6pm the train was loaded, but then some paperwork had to be taken care of. It is, afterall, a sarkari matter. We lost a couple of hours to that.

It was dinner time by then, so why miss a chance of a readymade meal in the transit camp mess? And once the beer bottles were opened, it became obvious to me and CO Memsahib (we were the only two ladies left now) that the officers will delay our departure further by an hour.

Hashtag Madira Sevan Train Schedule Ke Liye Haanikarak Hai!

We had waited for 5-6 days for this ‘son of a train’ to come, so a few more hours’ delay in departure is nothing! After dinner we went to the station, but were asked to wait for sometime at the platform. It was a small small station, only local trains stopped here.

So, you can imagine the kind of infrastructure they would have in place — which was nil.

There was no electricity, so CO Memsahib and I sat in dark, covered in three layers of Odomos cream to protect ourselves from mosquitoes.

It drizzled for 3-4 minutes, but we had honestly run out of fucks to give.

Once inside the train, we were thrilled to find that an entire coach had been alotted to officers and families. The bachelors took up one end of the coach, Major Sa’ab and I took up a middle compartment to give them (and us) ample privacy, and then after two empty compartments, the First Family of the unit set up camp.

It was May and the AC was a welcome blast. I was however, not so thrilled to know that the jawans were housed in sleeper compartments, with no AC.

Major Sa’ab assured me that the men were all rough-n-tough, and have seen worse. They will survive the heat as long as they got a place (and time) to sleep, he said.

Hashtag Ab Kya Hua?

So where was the hold-up now? Why the hell weren’t we moving?

We asked a young officer and turned out the delay was because of something I would have never imagined!

The senior officers didn’t like the order in which the train was laid out, and so they were busy ordering rearrangment of the coaches. The open coach was moved next to the officer’s coach; the pantry was positioned differently; jawans coaches were distributed throughout the train; ye coach idhar, wo coach idhar…. and it went on for another 2-3 hours.

You see, moving the coaches of a train is not like moving lego bricks — an engine had to be attached to everything that had to be moved and then “shunting” was done, which involved moving that coach to a different track, then making space for it on the original track, and then bringing it back to it’s rightful position.

Oh the whims some faujis have!

Hashtag Fauji Choooos

We hooted and clapped and congratulated each other the moment the train started. “Hurrraaaayyyyy!”

The officers, the ladies and the 8-year-old daughter of CO were all gathered on the open coach, taking in the cool breeze of the countryside. We chatted for sometime and decided to catch some sleep.

I had other things to worry about — high on that list being my leave which would end in two days. I had taken almost a week off from work, but we had wasted 5 days waiting for the train to arrive at our departure point.

I asked Major Sa’ab, “Ye train kab tak pahunchegi?

Bass yaar, dedh dino me (one and half days).”

“All this while you have been telling me that special army trains are known to take 5 days for a journey, and now you are saying that it will end in dedh din?” I fumed.

Arre, see… we are already behind schedule, so I don’t think the train will go that slow. We’ll reach in time for your office, don’t worry,” Major Sa’ab assured me.

A helpful tip for all Army Wives here: Uparwale se zyada bharosa Murphy’s Law me rakho. Because:

So, I had made up my mind to get off at the next city which had an airport, and catch a flight back to our destination — so that I do not overshoot my leave. Lady luck was on my side this time, since the next such stop would be New Delhi.

Day 1

Next day, Major Sa’ab woke me up at 7am.

BLOODY HELL!

I am on leave, which means I owe to it the “vacation gods” to not wake up before noon.

Major Sa’ab said breakfast will be here soon. I said I don’t want breakfast, lemme sleep.

In return, I got “that” stare from Major Sa’ab which is used by officers — in peace stations — to tell their wives that “Ab tum apni marzi ki maalkin nahin ho, ab Unit ke taur tareekon se bhi chalna padega.”

Welcome to peace postings — I thought. And woke up. And tried to make sense of this world. And hurled a few curses (mann-hi-mann) at Major Sa’ab. And had breakfast.

Jaanu ko phone pe “OK Report” bhi toh deni hai.

We all tried to find things to keep us occupied. The young officers were ecstatic on being in full mobile network and internet connectivity. Remember they were posted at a remote border location where one bar of mobile network called for celebrations.

We sat for sometime on the open coach and saw fields and rivers pass by. It was sunny, but the wind didn’t let us feel the heat.

The open coach! This is what makes this train extra special.

In typical fauji fashion, at around 11, some snacks were served with chai. Then came soup. By lunchtime, I had already forgotten what it’s like to travel in a regular train — this one was so so so different.

Lunch was served at the bachelors’ end of the coach. My eyes popped out when I saw the elaborate set-up for lunch.

On one of the side berths, a camo print cover was laid out. And then there were the bowls and platters with the Unit crest, filled with food. All army wives know how food is served in officer’s mess, right? It was the exact same setting.

Plates, spoons, forks, napkins, and then 2 types of sabjis to choose from, a plateful of green salad… I really really wanted to laugh and roll my eyes at this typical “faujipanti”. It was all new to me… you see, I was expecting packed lunch boxes, like they serve in Duranto Express.

Lunch laid out in the Special Army Train

You can take a fauji out of the fauji area, but you cannot take the faujiness out of him!

Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you. We passed a station named Phillaur. It might seem like a useless piece of info for you, but at that time, it got us all excited because Anushka Sharma starrer “Phillauri” had just released.

Phillaur station

The usual snack breaks were followed on the train as welll, like evening tea, soup, pakodas, etc. Dinner was an equally elaborate affair.

The train had to stop at a small village station in the evening, probably waiting for some other important train to pass and clear the tracks for us. The officers ordered the men to get down and run the entire length of the platform twice.

“The boys have to be kept occupied. They are used to physical activity everyday. We can’t let them sleep all day in the train. They have to be kept active na,” was Major Sa’ab’s explaination.

Train pe toh baksh do unko. This was my layman’s reaction.

In addition to men stretching their limbs, there were three dogs on board who had to be taken out on small walks.

These three well-trained German Shephards were part of the unit property, and were faithful companions who had stayed with the men at the field location.

So we had men, women, children, pigeons (see Part 1) and now dogs on this Special Army Train!

A young officer on attachment with Major Sa’ab’s Unit was excited about the entire journey because the train was to pass through his village and the CO had accepted his special request for a halt there.

Had the train been as per schedule, we would have reached his village in the evening of Day 1. The officer was, from what he told us, a ladla of his village and his family wanted to meet the officers and the jawans of their son’s Unit.

They had arranged for Chai, Samosa and Mithai for everyone at the station — yes, for everyone single person on that train.

Apparently a group of halwais were busy making the snacks for us at his village, which was to be transported to the station as soon as news of train’s arrival came.

Since we were woefully behind schedule, we could not reach his village on Day 1. He was a little upset, since some food had gone stale because of the heat. We hadn’t even reached New Delhi and his village the train’s next halt after the Capital.

Day 2

At around 1 am that night, the train pulled up at snails pace at the Tughlakabad Railway Station, where I had to bid the special Army train a hasty goodbye.

I was leaving the journey midway since all my leaves were wasted in just waiting for it. My plan was to catch a flight from New Delhi, and resume work the next day.

On my way to the airport, I checked all popular travel websites for fares of early morning flights. Baap re… I realised what a bomb I would have to spend, but eventually remembered that being a family member of a fauji, I can get some cheeky discount from www.udchalo.com.

This website (if you don’t already know about it) gives awesome airfare deals to Armed Forces personnels and their family members (provided you have a dependent card).

So that night, I found that fares here were quite low compared to other websites, so I immediately started the booking process, but my dagabaz phone network vanished the moment I hit “Pay”.

I got a msg from my bank that money has been deducted, but didn’t get a booking confirmation.

Hashtag Lag Gaye!

I had reached New Delhi airport by that time, so I checked with the airlines who told me that they don’t have me on their flying list.

At that time, the UdChalo team did not have a 24×7 customer care service, so I panicked a little. I had to book that same ticket again, but thankfully the next day I got a mail from the folks at UdChalo that my erroneously deducted money will be refunded.

Hashtag Mera Piya Ghar Aya!

I reached my destination safe and sound, and three days — YES THREE DAYS — later, on Akshaya Tritiya, the special Army train arrived at our new peace station.

I missed half of the train journey, but the look of awe on my colleagues and friends’ faces when I told them about the experience was worth the trouble.

Hopefully, when the Unit moves to their next location, I would be able to enjoy the full journey, in full fauji tashan!

Tab tak ke liye, namashkaar!

No 4G for Fauji. Only Parle G!

No 4g shoG for Fauji!

When the Curious Army Wife doesn’t get her prescribed dose of phone calls, she resorts to making mean memes of Major Sa’ab.

Sigh!

What do you do when your man is out of network or just doesn’t call fyou for weeks at end?

13 Egg starters to utilise those ration wale ande!

Egg special

If those weekly egg trays that come in the ration are too much for your small family, then I am sure you are always on the lookout to finish off those 20-something eggs before the next batch gets delivered. Major Sa’ab and I had literally broadcast to the entire military station that we have extra eggs if anyone was falling short. We even had a tie-up with another  officer who had to buy extra eggs for his pet dog (not after we made a deal to send him our stock).

I later realised that it’s best to utilise the eggs during the numerous house parties that we had at our place. So invariably, the menu would have anda curry.

However, since we end up spending a bomb on the starters (the frozen variety), I thought why not put these eggs to good use in this department.

So here I have for you 13 egg appetisers or starters that will floor your guests. I am not very great with writing recipes and measuring ingredients, so I am just going to give you a general overview and you can use the services of Youtube to get the complete recipe from professionals! Also, I am not rambling here… I have actually taken the pains to cook these 13 dishes for you (to check feasibility)!

  1. Capsicum Ring Omelette: I’ve taken this one right off Pinterest. You will need extra small capsicums for this starter recipe — it will be difficult for your guests to eat it if you use a big one. So just cut a horizontal section of the capsicum and use it as a mould to cook whole eggs (or whisked) within it. Flip it and garnish with cheese (another diary item that fauj loves to shower on us).

    IMG_20160411_114247

    Capsicum Ring Omlette

  2. Potato Omelette slices: Whisk eggs and add all those things that you generally do while making a normal omelette. In addition to that, add grated boiled eggs. Do add a bit of diced tomatoes, because potato tends to dry out the omelette. It’s gonna be a thick omelette, so cut it up like a pizza and serve it with sauce.

    Potato-Egg Omelette slices

    Potato-Egg Omelette slices

  3. Scotch Eggs: You’ve probably seen it at the formal dinner parties that have ‘English Menu’. It’s not that difficult to make it. Minced meat added with greens and whites of spring onion and garlic, salt and pepper will make up the outer cover of the egg. The half-boiled egg needs to be covered properly with the mince and then fried. Cut it up vertically (halves or quarters, your choice) and serve with love!

    Scotch Eggs

    Scotch Eggs

  4. Egg-Cheese Crostini: You can either use your ration wale bread slices for this crostini, or you can buy that long bread (I don’t know if it has a name). I bought toasted garlic slices and put up layers of cheese, slice of boiled egg and cheese on top it again. In the over for 10 mins at 200 degrees. Garnish in a fun way to have small bites of heaven.

    Egg Cheese Crostini

    Egg Cheese Crostini

  5. Little Egg Muffins: The savoury kind, duh! Whisk eggs with diced onions, tomatoes, chilies, salt and pepper. Feel free to add anything else that you fancy, like grated carrots, cheese or mushrooms. Add a little milk and bake in a muffin mould (small size) for quick bites!
  6. Korean Egg Roll: It’s a rolled up omelette, cut into neat discs that makes it look like a pinwheel! This is like the easiest starter recipe that looks equally pretty! A tip – don’t whisk the eggs vigorously, you want the omelette to be flat and not fluffy. One way to achieve that is to pass it through a sieve.

    Korean Egg Roll

    Korean Egg Roll

  7. Boiled Egg salad on Monaco: It’s easy, economical and tasty… all you need to do is present it like a pro!
  8. Egg Murtabak: I’ve used the Malaysian name here. You probably know it by the name Mughlai paratha or egg paratha. Roll out a maida roti real thin, put it on a hot pan, and spread your spicy whisked egg bater on the uncooked side. Fold the sides onto the egg once it thickens and cover it up. Flip it, let it cook, and then cut it up into bite sized pieces. The ones I made were not that pretty, so no pics here.
  9. Boiled eggs zindabad: Cut them in halves, or quarters, sprinkle some chat masala, and you are good to go. Perfect for those midnight raids or impromptu night outs at friend’s place. I won’t bother with the pics, it’s just so damn easy.

  10. Anda Bhurji: The easiest recipe that can be used as chakhna when hungry bachelors come calling for a midnight snack. Major Sa’ab used to say Anda Bhurji is like the ultimate JCO Mess starter. Since wives of officers are not allowed inside a JCO Mess, I have no choice but to believe him. This recipe is quick and simple.  Load it up with cheese or veggies to give it’s taste some variation.

    Anda Bhurji

    Anda Bhurji

  11. Egg Puff: Here’s an interesting starter item for those who love to bake. If you don’t usually bake but still wanna try something ambitious, then this one is perfect for you. First get some gyaan on how to make a pastry dough at home. Alternatively, you can buy frozen pastry sheets (I am not sure if small military stations will have this fancy item). Almost all cantonments have one or two kick-ass bakeries, so you can ask them for help on making the dough. Roll it out and fill it with anda bhurji or boiled egg with spices. Cover it up, coat it with egg-wash and bake it for about 20 minutes at 200 degrees. Taa-daaa! IMG_20160427_132927
  12. Egg momos: What makes momos awesome? Two years in momo-land have taught me a few basics. Crumble up boiled eggs with minced ginger, green mirchi and coriander. Use this as the filling in your momos. Serve it with that fire-brand red chili tomato chutney for a unique snack-time experience.
  13. Egg cocktail samosa: Making cute little samosas is completely manageable — I am talking to women here who like me are guests in their own kitchen. Instead of the aloo or paneer filling, you just need to make anda bhurji and stuff the samosa with it. Small bite sized pieces  will go quite well with your welcome drinks! I guess you can use a mixture made of boiled eggs also… lemme give that a try and let you know how that went.
    Egg Coctail Samosa

    Egg Coctail Samosa

    Got anymore ideas? Write to me (email in About section) or just pen it down in the comments section. If you’ve got pics, then great! I’ll feature it here as a guest chef creation!

 

Confessions of an Army Wife

I am married to an Army man. This simple introduction will tell you ten thousand things about my life.

And we know the value of ‘life’ like no one else.

We are a typical tribe

Yes, we are. There are some attributes that are unique to us. Many of you know us as the super-stylish women who are party experts and travel the country with their dashing husbands in smart uniforms. Some of you know us as the women who live in bungalows-too-big-for-our-own-good and enjoying discounts too-good-to-be-true at military canteens.

wp-1458589308707.jpg

This piece was first published in Complete Wellbeing magazine.

What people don’t know about us is that we are amazing actresses too – we have to put up a brave face for the world but deep inside we are shit scared for the safety of the men we love.

We just don’t get enough opportunities to stay together because that’s how life is in fauj. When our friends in the corporate world talk about going on a vacation alone to get some space from their spouses – we feel like smacking them. Maybe it is because army wives like me desperately look forward to staying with our husbands whenever we can. In fact, we can count the exact duration in a year (down to the last minute) that we stayed as a couple before duty called.

I had a nice steady career before I became a full-time housewife when I married Major Sa’ab. And for six months, I enjoyed every moment of it. After years of working my ass off, covering various sporting events around the country as a journalist, I finally found myself having time to read that book and cook that dish — the ones I had been wanting to since a long time.

Time to kill
I was suddenly feeling like a rich person amongst all my colleagues, having the one thing they did not have — free time!

But no no no… I had completely under-estimated Army’s talent of keeping its officers and ladies (yes, us too) super busy during peace postings. We had AWWA functions to attend, family meets to organise, ladies meets to practise for and attend every social engagement (by order)!

I almost burst out laughing when one fine day I was told that the station commander’s wife had called a Banarasi saree seller to her place and had asked all interested ladies to join her in saree-shopping. Who had so much time on their hands?

But that was not to be treated as an invitation. It was a farmaan! An order!

So I accompanied all the ladies of the Unit to the memsahib’s bungalow to check out some sarees. And I had to hand it to the lady, she had indeed done us all a great favour by getting that saree-man to her place. He had some of the most beautiful banarasi sarees and at super-cool prices.

I am a saree-freak, so totally enjoyed feasting my eyes on silks and crepes. I did not buy anything though — defiantly disobeying memsahib’s hints that I should get one — because I was out of job and felt it below my dignity to ask my husband for money (a  situation that changed very soon).

The other ladies present there went home with a bunch of sarees, having already earmarked them for future functions.

“This blue saree is for the monsoon theme party.”

“I will save this black one for a dinner function”

“There will be a ladies’ meet during the GOC visit too naa? I’ll wear this crepe saree there.”

I was amazed to see their planning! It put government’s panch-varshiya yojna to shame.

Chivalry isn’t extinct

“Don’t call me Ma’am, please.”

“Ok Ma’am.”

I gave up trying to convince officers to call me by name. I was not used to being called ma’am, it felt unnatural especially when someone belonging to my father’s generation addressed me so.

But that’s when I realised, if there is one place where a woman can enjoy the company of a chivalrous gentleman, it would be in the Armed Forces.

And I am not talking about pulling-the-chair and holding-the-door kind of chivalry. I am talking about a deeper sense of honour and responsibility that makes the men in uniform take care of their women folk.

They will help each other to any extent (even if they are not particularly fond of each other) and take the meaning of the word camaraderie very seriously. Women get pampered the most. And we love every moment of it. Occasionally, Major Sa’ab would make sure that I didn’t get carried away and brought me back to reality. Tried to ‘groom’ me into becoming a good example for others.

wp-1458592578482.jpgDress up!

Grooming is another word that faujis like to use a lot. There is a big list of words that normal people don’t use, but faujis can’t live without those words. Like Groom, detailement, fall-in etc.

I was extremely amused on seeing the sign board outside a military mess. Something about the way “Offrs’ Mess” is written triggers the journalist in me, wanting to point out every time that any normal person would read this as “Offers” instead of “Officers”.

I also had a hearty laugh when my husband first said he needs to “prepare his dress” for the next day.

“DRESS! Ha ha ha! Are you a woman that you want to wear a dress?”

Major Sa’ab frowned. He opened his wardrobe and made me memorise the names of all his “Dresses”. Games dress, ceremonial dress, No.1 dress, No.2 dress, combat dress…. so I learned it the hard way that in Army, even the men wear dresses. And they do it in style!

We, the Army wives, sometimes have to catch up with them in this department. I had to undergo a complete wardrobe change to cater to the requirements of every occasion (in every season).

This involved spending a bomb on sarees, which is the unofficial dress code for all women in any social function. Army wives are experts at wearing a saree in 5 mins, 5 times a day.

Major Sa’ab often joked about how my life changed from being a care-free army girlfriend to a responsible army wife. I sometimes feel that too.

Interacting with soldiers’ families

I realised how little I knew about the organisation before I married him. Only the glamour of crew cut, aviators, woodland shoe and powerful bikes was visible to girls our age.

It was only after I started living with him in his Unit that I came face-to-face with things that only an Army wife will come across.

The most memorable among those things was my interaction with Jawaans and their families. The kind of background they come from and their hardships was the jolt I needed to bring me back to earth from all the show-shaa baazi and Victorian hangover of Army.

Most of wives of Jawaans came from villages and towns, some had not even passed class 10 exams while some were post graduates. I was told that the women looked up to wives of officers (provided we were nice to them) and I needed to be by their side in sickness and health.

I was actually shocked to learn that many of them don’t get to stay with their soldier for 3-4 years at a time and have to live alone or in joint families, which comes with its own set of problems. But I definitely salute them for being the force behind their soldiers, just like the families of the officers.

Interacting with them was an eye-opener.

One young wife asked me how much I earned, and it actually felt nice to see her shocking expression when I told her.

“Can women earn that much money? Can I too?”

I didn’t know what to tell her. I asked her what was her education background, to which she replied that she was a computer graduate. I gave her a lot of gyan about how she should not waste her time at home and get a job. I gave her many options and I sincerely hope that I was able to help her — I don’t know the outcome of that gyan session as my husband got his posting orders the very next month. But I hope that I will meet that young woman someday and that she is earning as much as I am.

That’s the beauty of this organisation. We meet, we bond, and we party like there is no tomorrow. And very soon, it is time to say goodbye to everyone, pack our trunks and move to a new place to start all over again.

That’s life for us. And we know its value like no one else.

This article was written for the magazine COMPLETE WELLBEING and was published in February 2016 issue. The illustration used with this article has been made by Maryam Hasanahmed of homespunaround.blogspot.com.

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.

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