To The World, They Look Ordinary. They lace up just the same but it’s not the boots that matter. It’s the soldier in the boots that means the world to me.
These are the words of a dear army wife who’s also a friend. Welcome to get a glimpse of an army wife’s life through her eyes. As my friend (Riya, an army wife who I mentioned about) and I were sharing tea time one evening, I was very fascinated about her life and asked her to share her experiences. To which she asked why I was so attracted to it. I said it’s because of the glory and glitter attached to it. “Well then”, she said,”you really must listen to me”.
And here she goes- I was a proper girl next door before being wedded to my man in olives, a complete civilian. I was an absolute care free girl wearing T-shirts, shorts or pyjamas and even slippers whenever I went around in the city with my friends. And here I was, in the Army, among the best-dressed and finest ladies one can ever find. For me, army was an absolute new environment. All I knew about this place was of a ‘royal life’ that most of the girls dreamt of being in; dinner parties, ball room dances, the handsome men in uniforms. I was very excited and my excitement knew no bounds. But, at the same time, here I was, where I had to understand every bit of this life for I soon realised that army life is no ball room dancing. I was no longer a girl next door, but an army officer’s lady who had to be poised all the time. Even as you see it with all the pleasures that one lives with, its very demanding at the same time. It looks all fascinating from the outside, but has its own fears and acceptance to a life less ordinary.
1. The first lesson that I learnt as soon as I was a part of this life here was ‘humility’. Love and respect for one and other irrespective of your knowing them personally. You get to meet so many different people from different backgrounds and cultures, yet you are a big family.
2. What I learnt early was, ‘you cannot ever say no’. Army doesn’t work as per you, but you work as per the Army. The sooner you understand the better. There’s no room for negligence or arrogance.
3. You must play the best host and at the same time behave the perfect wife and mother. You must know the art of cooking, also multi-cuisine and placing the table just right. No scope for mistakes. Learn it if you don’t know any of it.
4. Be prepared to welcome guests (being the ‘bachelor’ officers here). They can land at your doorstep anytime of the night without even informing you. So there you go, host them with smile and all that you have in the kitchen. Be it coffee, dinner. Well this is quite fun though.
5. You must carry yourself with utmost grace and dress your best at all occasions. Every occasion calls for a dress code and no choice of questioning this.
6. You have to be your best everytime you are around people, look the best, behave the best and most of all put up a cheerful face even if your are gloomy inside.
7. Attending endless parties, social gatherings and organising welfare meets is expected out of you without an excuse. Arriving on time is the first and foremost norm everywhere in the army. Working women have to manage their time and sometimes skip/miss work to be present for the event. You also have the responsibility of your husband’s troops families on you. And trust me they are quiet a number of them. Right from looking after them to handling and solving their issues, it’s all on you. So you become a mentor and a leader too. But remember to do your job with sheer dedication. It’s no easy game.
8. Most of the times, your children do not get as much attention as they need from you because of the innumerable things you have to manage. You might be required to attend a meet and at the same time, prepare your kids for school or an important exam. Some ladies also have babies to look after. Well, you got to learn to deal with all of it yourself.
9. You suddenly become an all-rounder and also an artist at times. From emceeing to managing an event, being exceptionally great hosts, organising social meets, you learn to do it all with ease.
10. Respect your senior ladies. This goes without saying and must remember this at all times.
11. You have to be the best in arranging/setting up your home. Your house must be tidy and welcoming at all times. And needless to say, packing and unpacking the entire household stuff during posting in and posting out, usually once every two years is on your list. That’s how our trunks make up for the best home furniture. Well, ‘We live out of the box’. Schools and books of children change too besides learning to settle down in an entirely new place and set up can be tough.
12. There is a time in every Army wife’s life when her husband has left on either posting or on exercise. My husband’s deployments sometimes get to me and nothing seems to go right when he’s gone. I think of how wonderful it would be to have him home all the time, but that’s not why he’s in the army. Well, if you are lucky in certain fields (meaning field areas) where family is allowed to go along, then you are really lucky. Otherwise, it calls for doubling up as both father and mother for your children. You have to manage everything on your own. Even if you want to crib about your problems to your husband who’s away from you, you may not do it because you feel he shouldn’t be bogged down by your worries for he needs to give his 100% to his duties, admist difficulties and danger. He is a soldier first and only then a husband. You learn to grow patience. Army teaches you a lot indeed.
13. Trust me, there are ladies(non army background) who think it’s adventurous and a lot of fun to tag along with your husbands to the field areas because you get to see the beauty of nature and life away from the city. To all those, try living in a forest without any access to network, in extreme temperatures, living with insects you didn’t even know existed on planet earth, with difficulty in commuting for even basic necessities and constant fear of danger.
14. Many army wives have to bid farewell to their careers to live with their husbands. The only choice they have is of a school teacher and then they become the best of teachers one can have. If you are lucky to land up in a little better place where you may find a decent 9 to 5 job with not a satisfactory pay but consoles you to be engaged. For most of the times, you have to be dependent on your husband for pocket money.
My soldier fights and risks his life for people he doesn’t even know so imagine what he can do for his wife. Army throws many challenges at us while these are just a few. We become stronger every time we face one. I have the strength and courage in myself because of my man in combats. Admist all these, it’s a life full of glory, pride, love, fun too and becomes our second home. That’s why we usually say home is where army sends us.
After Riya finished herself, my eyes filled with pride. I told her how I had more respect and love for the life of these bravehearts of strong soldiers. So the next time you happen to meet an army wife, you know her worth and what it takes to be an army wife.