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 Indian Army and 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:
“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.
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.