A Curious Army Wife

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

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!

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

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

FAQ 3

 

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

 

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

Swati and Nidhi Dubey

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

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

Today, she is Lt Nidhi Dubey!

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

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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.

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

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

A Curious Army Wife salutes them all! 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— A Fauji Girlfriend.

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

Two books by Tanushree Podder that have nailed the NDA-IMA experience

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Boots, Belts and Berets  & On The Double

I had been meaning to write about these two books earlier (months ago actually) but staring at the walls in my house and the computer in office took up most of my life’s time all this while.

Book 1: Boots Belts and Berets by Tanushree Podder traces life of a group of friends through their years at the National Defence Academy (NDA) in Pune.

Book 2: Its sequel, On The Double, is obviously the story of a Cadet’s transformation into a Gentleman Cadet at the Indian Military Academy (IMA) in Dehradun.

The latter was released just last year, and I was fortunate to be a part of its unveiling at the Pune Literature Festival, where I had the honour of meeting the author! What’s more — I even dressed for the occasion in a new camo print shirt (remember military style was in vogue at that time). I was secretly quite proud of myself for this brilliant stroke of thinking. UNTIL.

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Yeah, that’s me. I later searched for some chullu-bhar paani too.

UNTIL I saw who was seated in the audience. A few veterans, some super-smartly dressed women (who had to be Army wives, I can sniff them out from a distance now), serving officers (in civvies) and AND AND… about a 100 odd cadets from the NDA.

See it’s one thing to flaunt camo print in front of the aam junta, but a totally different ball game when in presence of people who actually wear it (or in case of NDA cadets hope to wear it) as a part of their life.

I am sure they hated my guts. I hope they don’t remember my face.

Coming back to the point, I met Mrs Podder there, and introduced myself, expressing a desire to meet her once I finish “On The Double”. She gave me her number and we parted ways.

By the time I met her months later, she was fresh off the launch of her latest book “Solo in Singapore”. On a hot summer afternoon, we met at RSI in Pune. In a wonderfully candid chat, she told me how she had written the first book as a surprise gift for her husband, a retd Col, and how everyone who’d read this one was eagerly anticipating the IMA book.

Having spent a good two years in IMA myself, I was bound to be a little biased in favour of “On The Double”. It was like having a 3D imagery in my head giving me the visual aid as I read about the matar-gashti of the Gentlemen Cadets in Dehradun.

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Tanushree Podder

I was a little surprised by the omission of the IMA ball parties, events that an army man remember as vividly as their first cross-country run! I asked Mrs Podder about it, but it seems the ball was not ‘rolling’ at that time. The books are set in 1970s, you see!

She recalled stories of her days as a Commanding Officer’s wife, various postings and of course, Ladies’ Meets — yes, two Army wives always talk about it whenever they meet, in this case it was fascinating to compare the ‘then’ and ‘now’ notes.

Get these two books ladies! Trust me, reading material on what our husbands went through in NDA and IMA is gold if you wanna know about the ragda they went through in their ‘pre-us’ years. These two books also make an awesome gift, if you are going through the what-to-gift-a-fauji phase).

In other news, do check out these latest books by fellow Army wives, Shuchi Singh Kalra and Aditi Mathur Kumar.

Solo in Singapore   i-am-big-so-what-shuchi-singh-kalra

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This one’s the story of an Army Girlfriend! 🙂

 

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?

Fauji upbhokta

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

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

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

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

How is it like being an Army wife?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

 

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