A Curious Army Wife

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

Archive for the month “April, 2015”

Attack of the Saree Brigade

Yesterday, I came across an article in Hindustan Times about two women in Bangalore starting off a saree revolution of sorts by pledging to wear at least 100 sarees this year. After reading it, I felt happy and optimistic — so there are people like me who love wearing sarees! So there are people who appreciate a good weave! So there are women who feel special in a good drape! Yippie!

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

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

I personally love wearing sarees and am astounded at the response the #100sareepact has received. So many sarees ‘coming out of the closet’ (pun 100% intended) and becoming a part of the graceful-selfie club was nice. From the way I see it, those are the tales of women who have no obligation of wearing a saree (mostly in urban India), but do it willing for whatever reason.

It took me years to master the art of draping it properly, but I was a pro by the time I got married to Major Sa’ab. And then my putti-parade* started.

I used to wear saree to office on all major festivals (regardless of whether I celebrate it or was even remotely associated with it) and my colleagues would ask me, “Kya baat hai, shaadi ka rishta aya hai kya?” Duh!

But when I joined my husband at his Unit, I realised that it’s not just the men who wear the uniform, but their wives have to wear sarees to all functions and parties as the unofficial uniform. And the frequency of those parties was maddening.

The day I entered the Army as a new bride, I was told that there is a big reunion function after two weeks. It was a 3-4 day celebration of all past and present officers of Major Sa’ab’s Unit and there were at least 2 functions daily. Dress code — saree.

I was new to the Army culture and I rather liked the idea of getting this opportunity to flaunt my collection of sarees that I had been buying for 4-5 years. But the putti-parade* part began when almost every time I would have to change into a new saree in just 15 minutes. It seemed an impossible task at that time, and I gradually resented wearing saree at all.

My love for cotton and silk sarees has not faded though. But now I can drape a saree in flat 5 minutes, and need just one safety-pin (on the shoulder) to hold it together. I have attended so many fauji functions and parties in a saree, that I must have surpassed the #100sareepact – as have thousands of other Army wives.

But the sad part is that not many wear it happily. Some Army wives crib a lot about having to drape a saree, and I would sometimes join them in this anti-saree rant.

It dawned on me that the joy of wearing a saree loses its charm the moment it is made mandatory.

Is saree really the only appropriate outfit for women, or are we just playing safe? Photo Credit: ChasingPixels.in

Is saree really the only appropriate outfit for women, or are we just playing safe? Photo Credit: ChasingPixels.in

Women who live in conservative sasurals would agree. When there is this ‘wear a saree all the time’ dagger hanging over your head, then the six-yard fabric too suffers along with the woman.

Similarly Army’s unsaid rule of wearing a saree at ALL FUNCTIONS is taken in a sasural-diktat manner by the ladies. I get it if a lady has to wear a saree to a formal dinner party, Family Welfare function, or in the Officer’s Mess. It is a smart formal attire that looks good on every shape and age. But insistence on wearing it to a Ball party or a Polo/Golf match is dragging it a bit too far.

Some of us like to flaunt a well-tailored Salwar-Kameez, a stylish pair of trousers with a shirt/kurti or some nice western dresses. Hamari guhaar suno!

I find some stations have a relaxed approach to the way ladies dress up, so that’s a positive sign I guess. I know it will take a long time for the Army to open up to the spirit of an independent woman, and leave the choice of dress to her. Whenever it happens, I am sure the girls would eagerly wait for the ‘saree-wala’ function and happily drape this Indian outfit.

Having said that, let me boast about the incredibly stylish Army wives and their stash of sarees…but all that in the next post.

Meanwhile Fauji biwiyon, show some love to the awesome #100sareepact krantikaris (Krantisaris?) Anju Kadam and Ally Matthan on their website, Facebook page and twitter to share your own saree stories.

*Patti Parade is a kind of punishment Army officers go through during their training in which they have to wear all their uniforms one after the other in a small time bracket.

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The curious symdrome of vanishing careers

In love with an Army man? Badhaiyaan ji badhaiyaan!

In love with your career too? Good for you.

Until.

Until the time comes for you to bid one of the two a tearful goodbye, hopefully temporarily.

Two of the blog readers asked me what to do of their lucrative careers when they marry their fauji boyfriends. A very valid concern for a modern woman who has been brought up to excel professionally and is suddenly faced with this dilemma. What do you focus on, being with the guy you love, or earning that fat paycheque?

Photo credit: outsidethebeltway.com

Photo credit: outsidethebeltway.com

The reason we have to make this hard decision is because … er… okay lemme break it down into 10 points (like we used to for writing long answer to questions in school).

1. You love an Army man.

2. An Army man’s career is a cycle of field posting (border areas or sensitive areas) and peace postings.

3. They are allowed to stay with their families only during peace postings.

4. About 2-3 years separates a field from peace from field from peace…..

5. Marrying an Army man means a happy reunion at peace station.

6. “Where are the peace stations located?” you ask, well, the peace station might be in small city or in smaller town or in tinier village or it might be in the middle of nowhere and last but not the least – it might be in a place that makes you go …’Alright! where the FUCK are we??’ Unless you are super lucky to get good-city postings.

7. Now it so happens that in all of the above scenarios, the only viable career option for women is teaching. Because there are schools everywhere. And hospitals… so yes, its safe even if you are a doc or a nurse.

8. If you are anything other than a teacher or are in the medical profession, chances are you will find it extremely difficult to land a decent job.

9. If you do get a job, it will probably come with a 50-70 per cent pay cut.

10. Or you can just get a B.Ed degree and start teaching…just a suggestion.

There, in the simplest possible language, I have summed up the battle which we girls fight before making the choice. And when I had to make this decision, I chose to be with my man.

I chose to be with my man because (and I take special pride in it) I knew that I had found the right guy. However clichéd that might sound. I chose to put my 6-year-old journalism career on hold to stay with him for 3 precious years before he goes off on a field posting. And I did all this in spite having full knowledge of what lay ahead of me or didn’t – that there won’t be a stable career or an enviable CTC from now on.

I took solace from the fact that my husband would have adjusted his career choices to suit my needs had he not been in the Army. That it is something he can’t do, simply because it is not in his hands, is a different story. Now that’s one way to ‘look up’, isn’t it. I did not stop working though. Internet became my best friend and I took to freelancing and content writing. And it gave me time to blog — something that my regular job would have left no scope/time/energy for.

I meet women who were bankers, IT professionals, HR executives, lawyers, musicians, PR honchos, scientists, chartered accountants, air hostesses, doctors  and real estate professionals, all of whom had to put their blooming career graph in the freezer when their husbands got posted to smaller military stations. And they all did it happily.

Then again, there are women who choose to stay in bigger cities to keep their jobs and travel frequently to meet their husbands. They try to balance work and married life quite well (and are deaf as well, specially to all those who say to them, “fir shaadi hi kyon ki”). I have special respect for all those women only because I know how difficult this choice is. Hats off to them!

So all those women out there who are still not sure what to choose, I have just one thing to say. Choose what you would miss terribly if you let go of. Choose what is dearer to you and won’t give you sleepless nights for not being a part of your life.

Do not feel guilty for choosing your career, you did nothing wrong. Don’t cry about loosing you career either, should you choose to be with your soldier. But since I chose to be with Major Sa’ab, I’ve already told you what the thought process behind it was. Now it’s your turn.

Good luck superwoman.

This post was written to satiate an urge to write when Housing prompted me to.

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