A Curious Army Wife

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

Confessions of an Army Wife

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

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

We are a typical tribe

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

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This piece was first published in Complete Wellbeing magazine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chivalry isn’t extinct

“Don’t call me Ma’am, please.”

“Ok Ma’am.”

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

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

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

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

wp-1458592578482.jpgDress up!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interacting with soldiers’ families

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

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

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

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

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

Interacting with them was an eye-opener.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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23 thoughts on “Confessions of an Army Wife

  1. i mentally said… “its like reading what ive seen over the years “….. grinning ear to ear having seen my own mum and both grannies into similar lives in the Navy, Army and AirForce respectively !

  2. Shefali on said:

    Worth reading👌👌…I really appreciate the effort of sharing ur experiences with us ma’am..its really helping ,as m going to be a part of ur chivalrous family very soon.👍👍👍

  3. Shefali on said:

    Yupp sure anamika ma’am.😛
    Thanku so mch fr ds warm welcome😊😊

  4. Sanit Grewal on said:

    Believe me one if THE BEST READ. GOD BLESS

  5. Shobha on said:

    Very well written. My husband would be retiring shortly,my heart sinks just by the thought of it.

  6. all the more helps in mentally preparing myself for the kind of life that awaits … splendidly written Ma’am 🙂

  7. Amruta Joshi on said:

    Have been following your blog for months now. You, by your blog have really managed to paint a real picture of the army life and mostly the army wife..I have been married for 7 months and stay away from my own Major Sa’ab for my job and it is just so difficult to make my non-army friends understand how my life is polar opposite once I go to visit him. All the best and keep writing. This is the best part of my afternoon when I have my chai and connect with my marital life through you !

    • Thank you for writing to me Amruta… I hope your Major Sa’ab and you get to stay together as soon as possible. It takes a little effort to make our friends understand there is more to our life other than CSD discounts, isn’t it? 🙂

      • Oh yes! CSD and the liquor quota. So basically they think we shop and then get sozzled. Hehehe. A typical conversation bwn my friend and me would be like this:
        Me: I am missing major sa’ab, it’s been 4 months since I last saw him..
        Friend : let’s get together and have the wine u picked from csd.
        Me: so basically u think m a devdas with liquor quota.
        Friend: aren’t u all like that?!
        Me : !??

  8. shashank shekhar on said:

    what if you are experiencing this army life/activities and suddenly hear a news that Major Neeraj Kumar Pandey died a martyrs death (33Years,martyred on 17th March2016,) and now everything seems finished and no more such activities …no more army life.
    She((Sushmita Pandey,32Y,3.5Yson) . ) really liked the army life ..its very difficult to describe the pain of transition from an Army life to civil life (or being any army officer’s wife-to – widow)
    sorry to be harsh Maa’m..

    • Life is definitely not fair! More than Army to Civil, it’s the transition of living without your life partner is what is most painful. We live in that constant fear, but don’t forget to live in the moment!

  9. Sapna on said:

    Haha .. I can relate to almost every thing… Till the day you are single, no one calls you aunty. The moment you are introduced as someone’s wife you become an aunty !! What a logic!!😏

  10. This makes me not want to read your blog. It’s like you’re undermining families of a police officer for example. My husband’s in the Army as well, but I’m not delusional enough to think that no one else knows the “value of life like no one else”.

    • The article is purely based on personal experiences! Since I can only write from the perspective of the family that I belong to, so it’s but natural that I would do that. I wish this write-up was like that blue jeans that fits with everything — family of policeman, a nuclear scientist, a mountainclimber, a doctor, or potentially anyone who faces dangerous situation everyday. Maybe I am delusional, but then, I am not perfect. No offence meant to anyone else.

      • So this is based on bias opinions wrapped in thoughts based on secluding that 1/10 of reality that isn’t perspective? I guess it would be interesting to read for the psychology of it. To see how you, and only you, see the world as an “Army Wife” without interjections of other things.

  11. In the Navy – most wives are working women who pursue their careers seriously and have independent identities – and – I am sure – the same is happening in the Army and Air Force as well – s0 – in these modern times – the stereotype of a quintessential “Military Wife” will soon disappear.
    Well – that is what I feel and I observe when I meet young officers and their better halves.
    Another increasing trend is “in-service” marriages between male and female officers.

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