A happy marriage, a barter or was it a compromise ? Where the concept of black and white did reside Or was it a grab of the opportunity which came through…. Less the sincerity of the promise to be followed through.
The happiness lasted in spurts For the real deal came afterwards…… The impending responsibility too much to chew Lead to differences and slew of escapades anew.
In search of some calm and peace…… Their journey diverged, augmenting the abyss …. Leaving the lesser mortals bereft … In search for comfort, solace and some grace.
This walk on dodgy ground…. In line with the idiosyncrasies of some Slowly reconditioned one in a facade Sinking whatever left, in a quicksand of sorts.
And lo!! when the sun rose and the halo ebbed Minus the sand in the glass of time….. All the thoughts of the higher echleon vapourised With one’s incorrigible nature back in line.
Though all roads may lead to Rome But not all come back home. For choices, once made, have consequences To accept or not, NOT anymore in the deserters fate.
A very good morning to all the ladies, present here. On behalf of *********, I, Deedhiti Mudliar, accord a very warm welcome to all of you. As you all know, it is because of our men in the Olive Green that we are a part of this elite organisation called the “Indian Army”.
Today, we plan to take, some of you down the memory lane while some others a.k.a (also known as) the newlyweds through a maze of army etiquettes, challenges and fun times that we experience in our journey.
But before we roll down this path, I would like to recite a poem written by one of our own, showcasing the importance of us, the army wives.
The poem is titled “Do you have it in you?”
The green beret shinning bright The stars on the uniform add to the light There, she stood beside him with a proud smile Happy for his achievement and a news to file.
Mentally & physically fit , one needs to be, to do what they did, For their life can never be in a monochrome grid Built on faith and brotherhood, not forgetting their aptitude For that is, what can save them from being barbecued.
When in a combat, it is just do or die For a split-second distraction can cost you, your life. By choice or not, one learns to survive And enjoy the thrill, the adventure and sometimes the clandestine.
The waiting, the concealment, the uncertainty, all at play Everything good till all ends well. Full blown and tired, she sits to relax… And, ‘Do you have it in you?’, the tv asks.
Am sure you all have heard this phrase many times being used in recruitment ads. But don’t you think it applies to us too?
After all, our sacrifice and support is and has always been the backbone for the success of our fraternity.
So now without any further ado, lets travel down Z’s rabbit hole into the world of how it is to be wedded to the Olive Green.
Enter Z and H…..
Z fidgeting with her saree…….
H: Z, what is wrong?
Z: Mrs H, I think my saree pleats are coming off. I had pinned them all but thanks to the fauji gypsy, mere ek ghante ki mehnat poori pani mein chali gayi.
H: Don’t worry , Z come here let me help you. In time you will get the hang of both the saree and the gypsy.
Z: Mrs H, I really wonder when I will adapt to this whole new world of mine. How was it for you?
H: I too had a roller coaster ride initially. My entry in the unit was a shock of sorts.
Z: Shock? How come?
H: I was taken for a ride in a decorated “haath gadi” with empty coke cans tied to it and my husband pushing the cart from the Cantt main gate to the unit guestroom with all pomp and show and of course the accompanying tinkering noise of the cans.
Z: Oh my! Then?
H: Then what……When we reached the guest room, I thought the fun had ended but who knew I was in for more surprises.
Z: What do you mean?
H: Yes, the guest room looked like a store room with beer bottles strewn everywhere, hens moving about and in general everything in a chaos. The officers and ladies informed me that it was my better half’s room and now that I am here, I was assigned the task to transform it into a decent room.
The ride in the Haath Gadi was already embarrassing and to top it, the noise of the tinkering cans had started a headache and now this added responsibility? I was beside myself with rage.
S: H, are you telling her your welcome story. Hmm…. Must have been an quite an experience and memorable too.
H: Yes Mrs S. now that I think of it. At that time it did not seem so.
Mrs S, Mrs AV and Mrs Anj too are here. They have just stepped out to check the arrangement for the upcoming meet.
S: Okay H. Z dear, but don’t you worry…. we do have a few things up our sleeves and may surprise you otherwise.
Z: Good morning, Mrs S. After listening to this story, am just glad that I had joined my husband in field after marriage and so, got saved.
Enter – Anj and AV
Anj: ye kya saving ki baatein chal rahi thi?
H: Mrs Anj, Z was talking about being saved at not having to experience the fun and frolic involved in being welcomed into the unit.
Anj: Arre …..ye to tumne miss kar diya Z. Ye to apne alag tarah ki masti hai. Ek bonding hain. But chalo koi nahi…
Av: So true Mrs Anj. It makes me remember my time. After having been welcomed in the most romantic yet pinching way….Ab aap puchoge ismein pinching kya hai….
kabhi cycle ke rod pe baith ke aye ho and that too with your better half pedalling? Nevertheless, I too landed in a similar store room.
However, we were later shifted to a proper guestroom. But I swear, I had started to wonder if I had married the right man. Meri to love marriage thi.…..kis muh se ghar jati aur kehti ki galat insaan se shadi kar li.
H: Good one AV….. I too had the same train of thoughts…… Anyways, once we shifted to a proper guest room my husband told me that there was a dine in party in the mess and I should get ready accordingly. But to my better half’s horror I dressed up in jeans, tops and sneakers…..isnt that what we wear to a party, I asked him ……..
And then I saw someone turning into a Hulk with all the mushy, gushy and puppy love flying out the window.
Anj: Fauj mei tumhara swagat hain!!! Welcome to husband commando training school.
H: Mrs Anj, I really did not know what befell me for my so called cdo instructor barked orders and I ended up wrapping myself in saree n heels in just under 10 min and ended up transforming into a prim and proper Army wife of sorts.
S: Z, since you are comparatively new to the fraternity, always remember whenever there is a formal gathering like dine in, dine out, some other formal party, pipping in etc always wear a saree.
Anj: Yes…. Yaad rakhna, fauj mein kehte hain- whenever in doubt …….(everyone in unison) WEAR A SAREE.
Z: But Mrs S, why do we have dress codes for the mess functions?
S: Z, the Indian Army Officers Mess represents the history of the Battalion. Its trophies depict the saga of valour, blood and the courage of the previous generations. It’s a place for a formal and semi formal interactions.
Z: Understood Mrs S. Thank you.
Av: Pipping se yaad aaya. One time, an officer’s pipping was scheduled. Being a newlywed and from, a fauji background, I knew it was an official function so wore a saree for the same. I got into the gypsy and when I got down at the location, I was jolted out of the blue.
Z: Aisa kyun?
Av: To my horror, the location was not the mess, but a kind of field firing area near our cantt. I looked like a fool with all the others in suits and trousers and they wondering as to why I was dressed in a saree.
Z: Yes Mrs Av why were u?
Av: Actually because of our hectic schedules, our CO had decided to shake things up a bit and hold a pipping cum picnic for us.
Z: That was so nice of him.
Av: Yes Indeed. But my better half sure was in trouble.
Z: Mrs Av par kyun….unki to koi galti nahi thi..
Av: Galti?…..He was in the Adjutant’s chair then and it was he who had informed everyone about the location barring me. After all, biwi ko hi to taken for granted liya ja sakta hain?
Z: Goodness gracious / Oh dear….
Av: I still remember the incident till date though with fondness now. Imagine your CO wife, 2ic wife and all other senior ladies at your feet, helping you remove the barbs of dried grass from your expensive saree. It was so sweet and kind of them.
So u see, sometimes do ask for added info Z……or check with someone.
Z: That is good advice Mrs Av.
Coming back, Mrs H, please continue your story about the dine in.
H: Oh yes! Wobbling in my saree and with my husband’s instructions playing in my head, I stood up to wish everybody who came in and caved in!!
Anj: H fir kya kiya tumne?
H: I was so tongue tied that my CO’s wife made an extra effort to make me comfortable and patiently guided me through the entire evening.
S: Yes. Within the unit whenever you meet a senior lady, you are supposed to stand and wish them. Once they sit, do take your seat. However, if your CO wife is sitting and any other lady enters, even though she is senior to you, you do not stand to greet her.
Av: When you meet a lady from a different unit, do introduce yourself first after greeting them. For ex : I am …………….w/o ……. And from which unit. Always call your senior by Mrs So and So unless she is your junior. Even if a senior lady asks you to call her by her first name, try and refrain.
H: Yes, I did smart up over time. Now I know, whenever in doubt, follow the senior.
S: Also remember, just like in your own home you respect your elders, follow the same principle with a dash of army etiquette thrown in between.
Z: But now that we go to Bde, how does it work there?
S: There the Cdr wife is the senior most. Same protocol as in unit. Like you see me standing for the Cdr’s wife, do the same as the hierarchy rises.
Z: Thank you so much. It’s been a lot of learning today.
H: Oh, I so wish I had been guided like this in my initial years. But then it’s never too late to learn either.
Anj: Picture to abhi baki hain H…..dress rehearsal bhi to karna hain….but chalo isse pehle ki hum shuru kare….kuch chai snacks ho jaaye.
(while sipping tea)
Accha Z, ye to batao tumhare hobbies kya kya hain?
Z: I can sing……compere……I sketch…..love cooking …that’s about it…..Mrs Anj
S: Okay Z, hum something for us……
S: Y not…..
Z: Okay…I will try…..
Av: Mrs S …….we have found our singer….Next ladies meet….song fixed.
Z: Mrs AV Ladies meet?
H: In the Army we have two types of meets – One for the officers’ wives and the other for the soldier wives which we generally call as “welfare”
Z: Why so?
Anj: Z, ek unit ek family hoti hain. Aur family ke sabhi sadasyo ki dekhbhaal karna hamari responsibility hoti hain. We sab chote chote shehero se aate hai….aur fauj ke tarike unke liye naye hote hain. Unhe is fauj ke mahol mein dhaaalna hamari zimmedari hain.
Jaise humare husband jawano ki dekhbhal karte hain, waise hi humari bhi responsibility hain ki hum apni families ka dhyan rakhe, kyunki families khush, to husband khush …..aur husband khush to Paltan khush.
Z: In bondings aur itne dekhbhal ki zarurat kya hai….hamare husbands to ye sab handle karte hi hain?
Anj: Z, aap mujhe batao, agar aapki CO wife approachable nahi hain, to kya tum unse jakar apni problems share karoge?
Anj: Then same goes for our families too. Agar hum parwah nahi karenge unki to wo bhi kyun apni zindagi share karenge? Bonding takes time. Humse bond karenge, humein respect karenge, tabhi to we humhari baaton ko ehmiyat denge. Hain na?
Fauj mei kahawat hain- mushkil waqt cdo sakt. Fauji to sakt ho jayega but koi bhi apni family ko pareshani mei nahi dekh sakta. So hamara kaam hai unhe sahara dena taki hamare fauji bhai ko himmat mile….
Ye ek chain reaction ya kehlo domino effect hain….iska aakhir hamare husbands pe hi asar hota hain. Ladai, insurgency aur counter insurgency mein Jahan do or die wala scene hota hain, kya aap ye risk uthana chahoge?
Z: bilkul nahi Mrs Anj. Aisa to kabhi socha hi nahi tha maine. Thank you so much mujhe is cheez ka importance batane ke liye.
Av: But it’s not all work and no play either.
We have competitions and other fun activities too scheduled for them so that their stay with their husbands in peace station for whatever time possible is a happy one. We look after empowering them too.
Z: But what do we gain out of this?
S: Not everything is about gain always..this is where we stand apart. Our husbands follow the Chetwode credo.
And we as their better halves too share the same responsibility. “Service before self” is not just a line, but our LIFELINE.
This is what sets army wives apart. All for one and one for all.
H: Most of our gains are intangibles.
Z: Never thought of it in this way.
H: Yes, completely depends on your perspective. Remember we are a voice for them and sometimes we end up learning from them too.
Z: This seems interesting and serious business too.
H: Yes dear, it is. This organization is ours and if we do not work towards it, who will?
Anj: Army is a way of life. You cannot say that my husband is in the Army but I am not.
H: True Mrs Anj. Army wives are respected because along with our professions we manage to serve the fraternity we belong to. We stand apart from the civvy street because of this strength of ours. We help each other grow together and build each other up for United we stand, Divided we fall. And always remember, with privilege comes responsibilities.
Anj: Bilkul sahi.
Av: I have a friend who is an MNS officer. She had a very busy work schedule. So, she of her own cognizance and sense of duty informed her CO wife that every month whenever she has her day off, she would meet the families of her coy and brief her about the same. The CO wife too was aware of her commitments so they came to a mutual consensus that she would also take care of the families who got admitted in MH with critical ailments. This way, the lady officer could do her bit and contributed in the unit’s welfare too.
And this is how she showed me the way to handle my work and also be of service to my unit.
Z: Indeed fascinating. Mrs AV aap ladies meet ke baare mein bhi kuch bol rahe the tab…….What was that?
Av: Oh yes….dont worry…sab kuch itna serious bhi nahi hain…..We have our fun times too……. Like ladies meets/coffee mornings etc. It is a place where we meet as a community like we have gathered here today. We get to showcase our talent, have fun, learn and share our lives. (jaise aaj tumse gana gava liya)
Z: Is it a sort of kitty party?
H: No No pls…. We are creators and can give the Bollywood bigwigs a run for their money in terms of our script, décor, menu, acting skills as well as managing everything on our own. And to top it all, we do it with panache as well as with a sense of belonging and happiness.
Z: What if someone has no talent?
H: Don’t worry Z. Fauj sab kuch sikha deti hain aur wo bhi haste khelte hue.
Anj: Kehte hain na jab sar pe aata hain, insaan apne aap seekh jata hain.
Z: All of your stories seem so interesting. I have a question for all of you. What would you say is your biggest achievement as army wife? Mrs H?
H: Fauj mein ek kahawat hain jo man hi man sab kehte hain…….kaam karoge to aur kaam milega…..sometimes thodi unwanted focus bhi milegi….. but I realised that the best part in all this is……I get to learn a lot of new things every time and add on to my arsenal of knowledge thus helping me grow in confidence.
Z: That’s a nice way of looking at things Mrs H. What about you Mrs Anj?
Anj: Mujhe families ke saath interact karne mein bahut accha lagta hain. Unke baare mein jaane bina to hum unhe help karne ka dawa nahi kar sakte.
Har ek unit ki strength aur weaknesses alag hoti hain. Strength ko badhawa dete hue unme aatmawishwas bharne mein ek alag hi Khushi milti hain.
Unke bacche bhi apko dekhte hain. Jab aap kisi insaan ke liye thoda time nikalte ho, wo bhi khush hote hain, aapke taraf receptive hote hain.
Aur aaj, jab mein unit ke bahar hun, tab bhi mujhe apne unit ke bacche ya families khud kabhi kabhi phone karke puchte hai – guidance mangte hain, apni koi acchi khabar bhi share karte hain. Trust me, it is worth every bit.
Z: I am sure, Mrs Anj. This gives a new insight into things for me.
Av: Z since you come from the civil background, you may find it difficult to understand the relevance of these welfares and ladies meets and other rules and regulations but with time you will realise the importance of these. Though I come from an Army background myself but seeing your mother do things doesn’t gear you up for life as an Army wife. As daughters, we hardly pay attention to our parents. So, initially I too had a hard time getting ready for welfares.
Balancing myself in my 6 yards, with a toddler tailgating me is no mean task.
I realised then, that, only “khichdi” can save the day for me now.
And just as I was done and about to step out of the house and into the waiting gypsy……I get a waft of that dreaded smell….
And I just knew it. My kid had found the most opportune moment to do the “big job” and derail me completely.
Coming back, I also observed that my families too sailed in the similar boat. Atleast I had some privileges and this made me contemplate……rethink…..
Was the Army, slowly teaching us how to handle things under pressure?
H: So true Mrs Av…. No one likes to talk about misfortunes but they do happen in the line of work our husbands are in and one does need to be prepared.
Av: Yes, this thought changed my outlook towards fauj and I started taking things in my stride. These things may be trivial to see in totality but it slowly goes on to build ourselves to handle big things, empathise and stand like a rock when necessary.
S: Very aptly put AV.
Av: Thank you Mrs S. What about you Mrs S? I think you are the only one here with more experience than either one of us.
S: Yes dears…I do have a few entertaining stories up my sleeve. My entry into my unit was not that eventful but who knew, it was just the calm before the storm.
Z: Storm….Mrs S?
S: Yes dear…… One day all the bachelors landed at our door with a chicken in hand and said they wanted to have aloo ka parathas and chicken. Chicken I could cook….but aloo paratha was a challenge…. But I thought how difficult could it be….. and thus started my trial. My aloo parathas did not turn out that well but the hungry lot that I had to cater to…..were not even close to being satiated. With my limited cooking skills then, I was at my wits end. But then that broke the ice for me for after that whenever these bachelors turned up, I made them do the cutting and chopping too. U see after all we are a family so kuch to mehnat sabko hi karni padegi…..what say girls?
Av: Yes Mrs S. I do remember my better half telling me this story but I did not know it was you, at the receiving end. No wonder his chopping skills are good.
S: haha…..Yes, that is how I ended up bonding with the youngsters of our unit and their better halves later on. All one needs is a pinch of magic and dollops of warmth and love.
But at the same time, tough love too is required. With love comes care and when you care sometimes you have to have a big heart too to give people the benefit of the doubt.
But this does not absolve us of our responsibility as seniors to groom these youngsters into fine young men and women of the world.
It is also necessary to admonish them at times even if it hurts. After all, this is to help them be a better person. They are our own after all.
Anj: You have hit the nail right on the head Mrs S. Hum kyun bure bane ye soch kar, hum jo chal raha hain wo hone dete hain…… par isme aage jaakar, hum, apna hi nuksan kar lete hain.
S: Yes Anj. For it is said, as you sow so shall you reap.
Z: Thank you so much for sharing all your stories. Now I see …that’s it is an absolute privilege to be a part of this distinguished fraternity.
H: Yes Z, we owe this to our nation and to our men in uniform.
Z: True. It now feels as if I have arrived at last. I realise that here words like bravery, camaraderie, responsibility is much, much more and that it is not just a show.
Am proud to be Wedded to the Olive Green as am sure you all are too!!
H: It has been a real pleasure reminiscing about our early days. Brought back a deluge of memories. ….Memories se yaad aaya….there was this Maroon 5 song na….
Here’s to the love of our lives
And cheers to our happy times
But now, I have a different picture in my eyes
Of the pending kitchen work, the dirty dishes on the other side.
Z: Oh Mrs H …you are really funny.
H: Arre but it’s the truth, aint it?
S: Thank you Z. It is because of you that we ended up having this refreshing yet stimulating discussion but now as H mentioned our home front demands attention.
The ‘Paramveer Chakra’ series on national television was my first window to the life in the Olive Greens. It gave me a glimpse of the sacrifices endured while serving the nation. Later on, during my graduation and the ongoing Kargil war, I came across another facet of life from the point of view of an Army wife when I heard the words of a war widow from a remote village in Rajasthan. With sorrow and grit written large over her face, she conveyed to the entire world that she is proud of her husband’s sacrifice and intends to send her two sons to follow in their father’s footsteps in the service of the motherland. These video clippings and stories of Maj Padmapani Acharya and other officers fighting with their bayonets sent shivers down my spine, broke the dam in my eyes and touched a chord in me.
I was on my own merry way of life when suddenly out of the blue things took a different turn. Paulo Coehlo in his book ‘The Alchemist’ quotes ‘When you want something desperately, the entire universe conspires in helping you achieve it’. And maybe this sentimental chord of mine, led the Almighty to conspire for me, to fall in love with a man in OGs and later, go on to marry him.
Happy to be wedded to the Olive Green, it slowly dawned on me that behind the glamour of the uniform lay a lot of hard work and that it was not restricted to the husband but we, together as a couple, were one entity. Army, I learnt, is not only a professional but a social organization too. The professional part, I left my better half to deal with, and the social part was where we had the chance to walk together. Once bitten twice shy (read blindsided by love), my fauji strictly made me realize the tangibles and the intangibles of the institutional support our organization gives us and how it is our duty to repay back with the same fervor.
As a newlywed, I was introduced to the concept of welfares. A completely new idea for me but I was happy. It made me remember the war widow. I slowly learnt to interact with the soldiers’ wives, got to know about their lifestyle, got a feel about how they looked at life, and enquire about their health and other problems, if any. To build on, one has to know the background and I was doing my groundwork. It was an eye opener of sorts and gave me a different perspective towards life and also helped forge a positive symbiotic relationship between us.
I do not know whether they helped me more or me them, but with continuous interaction as life progressed, I developed the hang of how best to convey things to help them understand their benefits, learnt to handle all kinds of people and gauge their strengths and to enjoy with them. Not only did my knowledge increase but slowly and surely I was on my way to be a good talent hunter, writer, speaker and manager not to mention my routine art of juggling other hats of being a wife and later, mother. Most importantly, it taught me how to share my love with them and earn their respect.
I also learnt that we were a voice for them and this mattered. It is with our help that people who are in the position of power can deliberate and help draft policies to help them. Observing seniors, I learnt to provide moral support during tragedies and understand the importance of empowerment. That is when I realized, the value of welfare activities and why it remains a continuous affair.
However, this is just one aspect of our life in the greens. You see, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy and so, we need to charge our batteries too. And here too, we learnt to give the Bollywood bigwigs a run for their money in terms of our scripts, decor and acting skills when it came to carving a grand evening out of a random theme. You name it and we are adept at it. Logistics, Operations (read planning and executing flawlessly), manufacturing (read decor), human resources, marketing (circular, folders and invitation cards) and selling our project is no big deal for us. Not to forget, our most talked about, the food and beverage department. We are fast learners and learn on the job. Here, introverts learn to do small talk, entertain guests, learn to step up when required and be graceful hosts. We were not always error free either but when in trouble our seniors calmly extricate us with such poise and presence of mind that it all seems like a part of play.
We learn to make the best of what is available and innovate, hide each other’s drawbacks and project the best. One does not need anything more than this precious gift of unity and strength. All for one and one for all. On the home front too, the bachelors take the onus to help turn us into Master chefs and train us to be charming and patient hosts.
Where else will you find such a lovely organization which nurtures us, families, recognizes our talents and pushes us to make the best of it and at times make a career of it. In return, we feel obliged to help uphold the standards of this organization, to help make it better, for our own fraternity and for our country.
This is what my beautiful journey of 16 years has made me. And with immense pride, I now truly understand what it means to be ‘Married to the Olive Green’.
– Deedhiti Mudliar
(Had written it sometime back for a journal. Publishing it now on my WordPress account)