I am writing this letter just out of boredom, because I know it won’t reach you before the summer sets in. And that’s four months away. Ever since we lost internet connection exactly a month ago, I have been missing you so much. Our video calls were such a blessing — I realise that now!
It snowed again on our post last night, and I saw a full moon in the sky through my window. It was lovely… I wish you were with me to see it.
On second thoughts, it’s good you are not here with me. You would have fussed over the right angle and ‘white balance’ and blah blah of clicking that perfect photo for your Instagram account. You would have missed the fun, and I would have missed it too in the process.
The road leading to my post has closed down now. It will keep snowing over the next couple of months, so this road is no good. No one can come here, and none of us can leave now. It’s scary and thrilling at the same time.
You and I are about to experience the longest period of separation. It will be seven months by the time I come home on leave.
I worry about you. And our son, our Chhote Sa’ab. He must have forgotten what his Baba looks like. Has he started speaking words other than ‘Baba’ and ‘Mamma’ yet?
You have to record as many videos of him as your jhuggi phone allows you to. Didn’t I tell you that an iPhone would solved all your storage problems. But nai nai, tumhare liye toh iPhone bada bekaar phone hai na? Now please use your not-so-smart-phone and keep my son’s activities on record.
Here’s a to-do-list for you for the next 10 days (assuming we won’t be in contact):
1. Chhote Sa’ab is due for some vaccination. Check and get it done. 2. Buy yourself an anniversary gift from my side. 3. Wish the COW on 12th, it’s her birthday. 4. Renew my car insurance on 15th of this month. 5. Shortlist holiday spots — jab chhuti aunga tab jayenge. 6. Pay my mobile bill. 7. Give Rs 10,000 to the JCO who is coming back from leave this Sunday. He will wait for you at the station, just hand it over to him, it will reach me in next 15 days. 8. Send a photo of you and Chhote Sa’ab with him too. The latest one. 9. Remember I asked you last week to keep my formal suits out in the sun? I am pretty sure you haven’t done it. JUST DO IT! 10. Rest all ok!
I started reading that book you gave me. I couldn’t read it beyond the first chapter. Boring hai yaar, kaise padh lete ho tum log ye Harry Potter-Sharry Potter. Insead, I utilised my energy in finishing all seasons of the Game Of Thrones.
I know you hate driving, but keep my car in top shape in my absence. Hafte me ek baar ghuma laya kar usse 5-10 km ke liye. And don’t ever let your cousin borrow it. College students are not to be trusted these days… hawabaazi and all. Let him do whatever he wants, but not in/with my car.
Areee you know what! Yesterday I opened my trunk and decided to take out everything to clean it. I found five currency notes. Of Rs 1000! SHIT MAN! I don’t remember keeping it there, and now these bloody notes are banned. B****od Kya karoon ab inka? Bidi banake piyoon?
I should have cleaned that trunk years ago. I should listen to you more often. You are always right. I should pay more attention to my own stuff. I shouldn’t let my sahayak be in charge of everything — chal le. Tere saare dialogues meine hi bol diye. Khush? Hehehe!
Chal now, I will see if internet connectivity gets restored over the next couple of months. But it’s highly unlikely, CO ko makkhan lagana padega. Tab tak ke liye bye! I love you. And Chhote Sa’ab.
I hated missing you during previous field postings. And now there are two of you to miss! Grrrrr.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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%!
“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?
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!
“What happened? Is he cold?
“He must be hungry.”
“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.”
“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.
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.”
“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.
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!!!!!!!
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.
Next day, Major Sa’ab woke me up at 7am.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
I am talking about the one in which female presence is allowed! 😛
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.
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 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.”
“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
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.
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!
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)
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.
Indian 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.
Behind 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:
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.
I 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.
There should be two stories under this title — the first Ladies’ Meet that I attended, and the first Ladies’ Meet I hosted.
As luck would have it, both these historical accidents incidents happened at the same Ladies’ Meet.
It was my first month as a newly wed in my husband’s unit, which was hosting this mega reunion of all unit officers (serving and retired).
Can you believe it! All these years and I have not been able to attend any garden parties that I was invited to. Photo by Saanya Bajaj Rawat, a fellow army wife and an Instagram star!
Women of my unit decided to have a coffee morning and since I was the latest bakra — was given emcee duties. I’ve was an active orator in school and college, so was thankful of the department I was to handle for that “Spring” or “Holi” or “Colours” or “Floral” theme meet (I can’t seem to remember what the theme was).
Having never attended anything that remotely resembled a Ladies’ Meet, I was kind of taken aback by the extensive preparations that went into it. Right from the games, the menu and the gifts, it all seemed a little surreal and waste of time.
Rehearsals took it’s toll on everyone.
I lost my ‘Tambola virginity’.
By the end, I lost my appetite for that elaborate menu.
I also learnt how to say Thank you and Good Evening for at least 7 times before the guest actually left. Before that, guests spent a good 10 minutes gushing about what a great performance we’ve all put up, and how the food was smashing (even that lady whose expression changed the moment she took a bite of that samosa … to be fair, it did not have enough salt).
And I prayed (more than what I’d prayed during Maths exams) that some divine shakti would stop me from attending the next one.
Maybe my silent prayer was heard by the same upar-wala who had earlier handled (manhandled) my maths request.
Within a month, it was time for me to attend another one. Thankfully, I was a spectator this time.
I made the rookie mistake of not carrying my wallet, because it was a man’s wallet and did not go well with my saree (or any saree). So, at the entrance, I felt a little embarrassed when the lady at the reception desk said, “Rs50 please,” and I had no money with me.
A senior officer’s wife, who was standing right behind me, generously offered to pay my share. She later told me that she had an inkling that I would not know about this “entrance fee”, as was the case with most of the newly weds.
The chief guest of the event arrived (usually wife of the senior most officer) and was “shown” FOUR welcome drinks! She picked one. I wanted to stop the waiter cause a blue drink had caught my fancy. It was gonna go waste as it is na, why not put it to good use. I thank my invisible fairy godmother who prevented me from putting my thoughts into action.
As soon as the MC started off with her animated enactment of the script, a semi-loud chuckle was heard from the far corner. I was sitting there. What the hell, I made that noise.
One of my unit ladies glared at me to stop! I instantly put on my poker face and resorted to man-hi-man hasna. Years later, I remembered that woman while listening to an absolutely brilliant emcee performance by an Army wife at the IMA passing out parade (POP). Talent ki kami nai hai, it’s just not every unit gets an equal distribution of it.
I am not a great fan of Tambola. Never was, never will be. But that day, it was the best game in the world. I won Rs 75 in it and proudly told my husband,”Aaj teri biwi Rs25 rupaye jeet ke aayi hai! Chal tujhe treat deti hoon.” I dreamt of Tambola being recognised as an Olympic sport that year and me on the podium.
Status quo was restored the very next day.
I’m waiting for your stories… pen it down (one word, one line, one para, one big story… your choice) in the comment section below.
Sharing a beautiful post written by a blogger whom I immensely admire for her varied skill-set. Gunjan Upadhyay Mishra, a fellow Army wife and writer, has knocked it out of the park for a six with this piece….
THE UNSUNG HEROS: INDIAN ARMY WIVES
Once, Yama, the ruler of hell, heard a large group of women laughing and talking, enjoying a party in hell. He asked his assistant to find out who these women were, and how were they so happy even in hell! Yama’s assistant instantly answered his query, ‘Sir, these are Indian Army Wives. They enjoy wherever they go.’
The force behind the forces — Army wives! Photo by Gunjan Upadhyay Mishra.
That might sound like a joke to many. But to my ears and eyes, it is the absolute truth. I walk among hundreds of heroes as a part of my daily routine. Someone might come across an inspiring story once in a while. I have hundreds of such stories happening around me, which I witness, feel and live. I see my heroes, I am proud to be in their company, we smile at each other and nod a ‘good evening’ or ‘good morning’, even when we don’t know each other’s names. We know that it does not matter much, we are friends anyways. Such is the spirit of our Army, our officers, and naturally, their better halves. Yes, my heroes are none other than Indian Army Wives!
Indian Army wives constitute a little army by themselves. This little army is a storehouse of talent and fun, a cache of songs and laughter and a beacon of hope in dark times of loss and turmoil. Among this group, one can meet women from all walks of life. Doctors, engineers, army officers, civil servants, lawyers, journalists, air hostesses, teachers, entrepreneurs, authors, poets, actors, classical dancers, corporate trainers, singers, artistes, you name it, we have her! How they manage to be everything that they are is nothing short of magic! At times, they leave me star-struck with their wit, their beauty, their panache, their elegance, their rich taste and class. But these qualities can be easily seen by anyone.
Indian Army wives are much more than that. They are an ocean of beautiful hearts and minds, come together drop by drop, handpicked by destiny, to be paired with the bravest on earth.
I read somewhere, that we should not judge others, as we do not know their story. But I have seen people judging army wives many times. You see them partying daily, but you do not see the uncertainty of tomorrow clawing at their nerves. You see their glamour and style, you do not see the struggle that they go through in moving between one mossy old house to another, every alternate year, or even before that. You think that they do not lift a finger, but actually, the amount of back-breaking work that they do goes unnoticed, well hidden behind their charm. You can spot her driving away in a sedan, but you are conveniently unaware of the fact that she is running from pillar to post, to keep everything in place in the absence of her husband. You think that they enjoy too many ‘freebies’, you never try to understand their pain that is darker than those 30 odd black boxes in which they carry their entire life.
Staying away from her husband for a while is a part of any army wife’s life. During these tough times, while the officer is braving the challenges of glaciers and super low temperatures, the wife has her own glaciers to climb.
In that duration, she doubles up as a father to her kids, a son to her in laws, and does everything that the man of the house is supposed to do, that too with elan. Did you know that army wives compare their separation length with each other and someone who has been away ‘only’ for three years in a marriage of seven years feels luckier than the one who had to spend three years and one month away. Isn’t that a fancy yardstick?
Life, in itself is not easy. Life as a woman is more difficult. Women have the fighter’s instinct and they are tough from within. Army wives are a lot tougher. They live in the present and enjoy thoroughly while keeping in mind that tomorrow might be different. The past year went like a slideshow, leaving me scared and saddened many times. Every now and then, an unfortunate news comes and wakes me up from my sweet dreams to the harsh truth. The reason of my not writing much this September and October was not sheer laziness or any kind of fancy army-wife-partying spree, it was a rather low and heartbroken phase for me.
We lost Maj Dhruv Yadav, an officer who I met very briefly, and had the chance to find out how much he loved kids. He used to ask Coco, ‘Who am I?’, and when Coco replied ‘Dhu uncle’ in recognition, his face beamed with joy. Proud to be in Coco’s good book, he did this again and again, just for the fun of it.
When his news came, all I could remember was Coco’s beloved ‘Dhu uncle’ and his radiant smile and cried at the sheer injustice of fate. I have never spoken to his wife, but all I could think of was her, and their unborn child. I bless his son with all my might, and wish him all the happiness of the world. Even today, not a day goes without remembering Maj Yadav, though I barely knew him. I do not know anyone stronger than his wife, and salute her for being so brave. She, and many others like her have proved time and again, that as long as we have such iron willed women, our frontiers will stay safe.
I must let you in on a little secret now. I am an army wife myself, and consider myself quite strong. A senior officer once jokingly said that I should be awarded ‘Paramveer Chakra’ for my bravery of staying alone in this ‘forest resort’ like house for a few months. But I think my bravery ends there. Inside, I am scared. When I was about to get married, my colleagues sometimes played ‘ae jaate huye lamhon’ for me, not knowing that inside I died a thousand deaths.
Can you believe, I run away whenever the movie Border is being aired on tv? I haven’t watched it, and do not have the courage to watch it ever either. My bucket list has bungee jumping though!
I pray to God for peace and harmony, because no one else’s life depends on it but my own. Whereas, my magnanimous heroes promise to stand by each other, come rain or sunshine. They do not know defeat, and quitting is not an option for them. They stand proudly by their faujis and that my friends is all the more reason why I worship my heroes, these soldiers without uniforms, the Indian Army Wives.
Check out some more ‘Army wife life’ and DIY posts on Gunjan’s blog Bringing Up Coco!