I got married when I was just 21 years old to my Army Officer [AO] husband and thus joined the huge stream of Army Officer’s Wives. [AOW] Now after so many years when I look back I feel overwhelmed with varied emotions.
I was from a total civilian background except for my Air Force officer uncle who had retired and settled down by the time of my marriage. In the mid eighties not many South Indians were sending their children to join the Defense Services. People were very apprehensive about the whole thing and had a different opinion about it. On the other hand I think the North Indians took pride in sending their children to fauj and in general, almost every third family would have somebody or the other in the services. Of course now the number of officers from South is also on the increase.
I remember many of our relatives were wonderstruck when they came to know about my marriage to a military officer. I think it didn’t even matter to them whether he was an officer or not. They were just surprised as to why military man of all the people? My father and eldest brother both being engineers, people thought an engineer boy would be the obvious choice… the most suitable boy. But my father took an instant liking for my husband and declared ‘he’s the one for my daughter’. Today when I look back I cannot thank my father enough for choosing such a good life partner for me. I was too young to take a decision and I’m happy my father did it for me, a decision I’ve not had to repent for a second also, in all these years. Nowadays things are different and we should be happy if the children tell us before they get married!
So, from a total civilian background and just out of college, I landed up in Ranchi in a total military environment. Everything from language to lifestyle was so different that initially there were small little hiccups which got sorted out easily, thanks to my hubby dear. Like every newly married AO even my husband used to brief me before going to a party which helped a lot. He taught me the basic essentials like how to place the fork and spoon in the plate when I was not using them or how to close the plate and much more; basic things but very important if attending a formal dinner and here life is full of formalities. People [seniors] keep saying ‘oh don’t be so formal’ and surely mind it if you are not!
Language problem also got sorted out thanks to my fondness for Hindi songs. In fact most people in the Regiment were surprised that my Hindi was quite manageable. Thanks to Hindi movies and songs I knew the language but had not got the opportunity to speak so far. I was happy to see that even my husband was floored because I had told him that I didn’t know the language.
In the Army ladies are respected a lot. Ladies get to take the food first and no officer, even the senior most, will go near the table till all the ladies fill their plates, which is exactly the opposite in a civilian party. When a lady enters a room all officers stand up as a mark of respect. I used to find a little embarrassing in the beginning. Now I’ve got so used to it that I find it strange if somebody doesn’t. Most of the time the officers are heard joking that if there’s a next life they would want to be born as an.AOW. Yes, there’s no doubt that we do get to lead a very good life with all perks and privileges but what about the times when our husbands are deployed here and there, who knows about the mental tensions the family undergoes… I think all the AOWS earn the reward points during hard times to enjoy later which they deserve.
I’ve often wondered if I would be what I’m IF I were not an AOW. Getting married to an AO has brought in such a lot of difference to my personality as a whole. When I meet my college friends now I can see what Army life has given me; so much of exposure and confidence that I can adapt myself to any situation or environment without any problem. I can cook a ‘sabudana khichdi’or a ‘gatte ki sabzi’ with as much élan as I can, a dosa or a sambar. Being a kannadiga if I can tell you all about Dussehra of Mysore, I can also tell you equally well about Punjabi Lohri or Bihari Chhat Puja., though I don’t belong to these places.
That’s the beautiful thing about the Army life. You become a part of every state of India may be because you had a posting there, may be because your unit officer is from that place or may be, because one of your prized possessions is from that place…could be anything to remind you that in the end you are an Indian whichever state you may belong to.