A Curious Army Wife

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

Archive for the month “August, 2014”

Ladies’ Meet – what’s fun and what’s not

Casino theme in all its glory

Casino theme in all its glory

Ladies’ Meet is the Military equivalent of a kitty party. There! That is the only way in which I can explain what a Ladies’ Meet (or Ladies’ Club) is in the simplest possible way. Those who have had the privilege of hosting it will agree with me when I say it becomes a matter of life and death — it becomes a stage where a Unit’s or Battalion’s event management skills, efficiency and ladies’ creativity are tested under extreme conditions.

Ladies’ Meets are mostly held in peace stations, where officers live with their families. It is an unsaid rule that every lady must attend this “fun-filled evening” if she is in station. She can be excused if her husband is on leave/not in station, if she is terminally ill (sarcasm intended), if she is an expecting mother, or if she is a working woman (being a teacher doesn’t count).

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Retro Bollywood theme-based decoration with old movies’ posters

In a particular brigade, Ladies’ Meets are a monthly affair and are hosted by Unit’s ladies in rotation. A typical Ladies Meet consists of group games, paper games, songs, fashion shows, demos of recipes, innovative craft ideas, Tambola (Housie) and some delicious snacks to munch on later. The senior-most lady in the station is usually the chief guest.

It so happens that wives of officers in Capt Sa’ab’s (my husband) battalion, along with yours truly, hosted a Ladies’ Meet this month. We had a healthy team of 12-14 ladies and so the work load was evenly distributed. In stark contrast, in some Unit’s I have seen 3-4 ladies doing all the work (since there are no other ladies) and feeling extremely stressed.

Every Ladies’ Meet is usually a theme party, a vey formal party to say the least inspite of it being tagged as an informal fun event. Our theme was “Retro Bollywood” and it was indeed fun hosting it since we used to gather every alternate evening to brainstorm about what we were going to present. Every group will have some typical characters — the ones who are over-enthusiastic, the ones who are full of creative ideas, ones who are full of impractical ideas, ones who rejects all these ideas, ones who are army daughters and would begin each sentence with, “during my mom’s time…”, and then the quiet ones who just watch the show from far but always help out in each task. Oh did I leave out the kind who are absolutely not interested but are there just because the first lady summoned everyone? 😉

Apart from the usual ghise pite themes like Monsoon, Valentines, Summer Cool, Bridal, Mangoes, and Festive themes (Holi, Diwali), I came to know of some pretty interesting themes, like Roadies, Hats n Heels, Kitchen theme etc.

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Snacks based on Independence Day theme. Now that is what is called going the extra mile.

During my interaction with many Army wives, I have realised that there are certain contributing factors to what makes hosting a ladies meet a less stressful job.

It is fun when:

1. Your first lady, the CO’s wife, is a chilled out person who knows that the sole purpose of having a Ladies’ Meet is so that those attending it have a good time.

2. You are working on a pre-decided budget. This limits the ideas and the pain it takes to execute them. With limited money, decorations will be bare minimum and emphasis will be only on food and prizes.

3. Your team is a very co-operative lot, and everyone is voluntarily willing (bold italics and underlined for maximum effect) to contribute in the best possible way.

4. When the outcome of Ladies’ Meet is not directly proportional to your husband’s ACR.

5. When there is enough food left for the hosts even after the guests have had their fill, and you feel a sense of accomplishment once the party is over.

The fun is ruined and all hell breaks loose when:

1. You always have to keep the ego of the chief guest as the focal point.

2. You are given direct orders, “do this”, “say that”, “sing along”, instead of listening to your ideas.

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Envelopes in which Tambola prize money was doled out. Again, based on Retro Bollywood theme.

3.  Everyone works in a robotic fashion and refuses to think out of the box. For example, it would be nice if the “saree only” dress code is relaxed and ladies are allowed to sex-it-up a bit. (No offence, though saree is a sexy outfit, we do have some fancy dresses rotting in our almirah).

4. When nobody asks you whether your are comfortable with the work assigned to you and simply take you for granted. There have been women who have absolutely no say on what is being done and whether it is looking good or lame.

5. There is a certain charm which only a spontaneous show pulls off. Meeting everyday to practice for it ten thousand times makes no sense. More than practice, women are worried about kids they left at home, what to make for dinner and whether their work clothes for the next day are ironed. So keep practice short and sweet.

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Letter written by Major’s wife about the AWWA fashion show fiasco

Here is a copy of the letter which Vidhya A Karajagi wrote to the Army Commander of South Western Command, raising some tough questions when she was lectured by her Husband’s CO and the Brigade Commander for not attending a fashion show rehearsal. All because she didn’t want to leave her kids alone at home for 2-3 hours.

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AWWA Atyachaar

Fashion This report in Hindustan Times’ Chandigarh edition, dated Aug 06, 2014, was a disturbing one to say the least. The report was widely circulated on all fauji whatsapp groups, especially the ones in which Army wives are there.

It was about a Major’s wife in Faridkot military station being reprimanded for missing a fashion show rehearsal because she decided not to leave her kids unattended at home. She was told in strong words that she should give priority to such AWWA (Army Wives Welfare Association) programs as it is a part of Army’s tradition.

The lady in question, Vidhya A Karajagi,  shot off a letter to the Army Commander, South-Western Command, naming her husband’s CO and the Brigade Commander along with their respective wives. (Will be posting a copy of the letter soon.)

Vidhya, you might not know it yet, but you have just become an icon for so many Army wives in India who have to go through AWWA and FWO (Family Welfare Organisation) activities every day/week/month reluctantly, wondering who is at the receiving end of this welfare. Women in hushed tones are congratulating you for the courage you have shown to stand up to such irrational pressure tactics.

The report has also brought out a grey side of Army wives’ life, which is usually associated with lot of glamour and style. Civilians often think of us Fauji wives as having all the time in the world to attend parties — sometimes five to six  in a week. Do they really think it is something we enjoy?

They have no idea how tiring it becomes to attend such formal social functions (sometimes held for the silliest of reasons). Of these, 90% parties are those which require us to wear sarees, hold a glass in hand and indulge in boring small talk (keeping an eye out for protocols all the time). Does that sound like a fun party to you?

Functions organised by AWWA (an NGO, and a big joke) and FWO should at least follow one simple rule — live and let live. You want to organise a coffee morning or a games night, go ahead. But please don’t force anyone to work for you, especially if they are not interested.

Bravo Vidhya!

PS: A note to the sub-editor at Hindustan Times who edited the copy — the headline gives a false impression. Major’s wife refusing to participate is not news, they refuse all the time. The wife shooting a letter to the Army Commander, complaining about being lectured over it is the actual news. Sorry, but couldn’t resist pointing it out.

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