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Hello Fauji Wives!

Hi to every one of you who are ‘married to the Uniform’ and happen to read this post.

This is actually a dream come true. Since ages, I have been wondering as to how all of us can be part of a single platform where we can express ourselves in the manner that we wish to, and not that the hierarchy wishes us to.

We all have so much potential to make things happen for us, for our families, for the society and also for our Men in Uniform. The scope is endless.

All we need is women who can take the first few steps and make others follow. Do you believe that you have it in you to make a difference in both your lives and the lives of those around you?

If you do, please share your views with me. If you wish to contribute to this blog as an author, that would be excellent. You may select any topic that you wish to write on. It could be your views, an article, a recipe, an events announcement. Anything that you feel will add value to others in the community. Of course, you will have to create an account with WordPress, which is not very difficult. I am sure your husbands can help you with this one!

If you think you have information that can help others, or anything that you wish to communicate for the community, and are not comfortable putting it on the blog, please feel free to write to me at harpreetrandhawa71@gmail.com .

Lets make this journey a fulfilling one!

Best Wishes,

Harpreet Randhawa

Life as an Army Officer’s Wife

My first impression was of the green lawns lined precisely by those white and red painted bricks and the unending lines of the three tonners and two tonners. This was a world alien to me. This was the OG world to which my husband belonged. Coming from an entirely civil background, I had no clue as to what I had let myself in for. And my husband had done nothing to alleviate my ignorance.

When our train reached Jammu, my husband remarked that there might not be anyone to receive us at the station. I smiled wryly. Who did he expect? With the smile of a self-conscious, newly married husband, he scurried out. I scanned the platform to breathe in the place where I was to start married life. My gaze was riveted by the sight of a group of OG uniformed jawans all lined up. A bewildered anticipation welled up in me. My husband re-entered the coach. He had changed from a self-conscious newly married husband into OC, workshop. “These jawans are from my workshop. My CO has sent them and his Jonga to receive us. You must return their greetings appropriately,” he informed and instructed me. My baptisement into army life was beginning.

As the Jonga came to a halt outside the officer’s mess, the whole unit was waiting for us; from where the ragging started. An officer posing as a jawan tried to act fresh with me. But, of course my husband’s concern for the officer gave the game away. Then I was welcomed as a new bride by ceremonies of different states by the ladies. After this there was a small game where, blindfolded, I had to identify my husband’s palm by touch. Providence was on my side that day of my initiation into army life and has been ever since.

Of course, there were the initial teething problems. But on the whole I count myself lucky for having been exposed to this kind of life. At first, I used to feel like a bird that has come in from the wild and been imprisoned. There were so many rules and regulations. All that hierarchy from a second Lt to a Gen-one had to be, oh so careful. But slowly and gradually I learnt to transform my frivolous, college girl attitude into that of an army officer’s wife. This I achieved by my husband’s acute disapproval of anything unbecoming of a lady and by sheer observation of other ladies. I learnt to mix with different kinds of people coming from different social backgrounds from different parts of India.

My major obstacle was my fleeting acquaintance of the language in the fauj-hindi. Hindi spoken in the army has it’s own personality. It carries reminiscences of the British. Besides, it has imbibed the colours and whims of the various states of India. It is a true case of fusion and is rich research material for the linguists. Here my servants came to my help as I spent a substantial part of the day with them (much more than with my family.

Using this language, I learnt to mix with people: some of who were familiar and mostly unfamiliar but friendly. In a gathering, I learnt to acknowledge the presence of everybody on entering and leaving. It may seem ridiculous to mention it, but it is ridiculously conspicuous by its absence in gatherings where people confine themselves to groups. The army is one establishment where one’s social etiquette is honed to perfection. At the base of it all is the cardinal attribute of humility, which one learns due to the system of hierarchy.

Besides humility and good manners, hospitality towards guests (a dying art where T.V serials gain priority over socializing) is very much interwoven in army life. One is bound to bump into an acquaintance due to different postings and because the armed fraternity is after all, a small one. What at first seemed nerve racking and impossible is now a pleasure- entertaining unexpected guests. When a new neighbour arrives and is busy unpacking or an old neighbour has sent off their luggage on being posted out, it is but good sense to ensure they get help and a meal or two. For, after all, all of us face the same situations. And thereby the chain of good samaritanism cannot but grow.

Had I not married into the armed forces, so many creative arts would have bypassed me. At every posting I love the challenge of dressing up a new quarter to suit our personalities. I have dabbled in the arts of gardening, flower arrangement, singing, choreography and public speaking. I believe every woman has an artistic niche in her personality. But how many have the fortune or opportunity to explore it, I wonder.
But most of all, what makes army life a charmed one is the abundance of good humour and good cheer (and here I mean the “spiritless” one.) Here nobody is too old to let down his/her hair if the Queen of Sheba so demands in a Mess party. It does the heart a lot of good to see CO’s and 2IC’s scrambling in the mad rush all around. Midnight raids of newly married couples are a must. And we were delighted not to be spared. Midnight picnics, a sudden outing to see a movie, shopping expeditions in groups, rain dances, beach parties, barbeque parties, dandia discos, Halloween nights, husbands’ nights are all arranged in a jiffy to take off the intense pressures of living in a secluded world.

But life can be very difficult and lonely though; like getting posted to outlandish where you have to live in “bashas”(a makeshift arrangement) with only two three families close by. The whole day is an endless wait: waiting for your husband to return, waiting for your children to return and waiting for your servant to come. There are times when you are settling in a new place and you have no servant; which means one has to double up as the “bai”, chef, gardener, et al. Then when social outings become a compulsion, you have to wear a smile to match the outfit and brave it all as others do. A teaching job with suitable hours is all right. But no woman can seriously think of a 9 to 5 career. The social commitments as an army wife are all encompassing but can be profoundly satisfying depending on which way you look at it. Then there are times when the loneliness stretches over when your husband is away on temporary duty or exercise. But then, of course all the ladies rally around each other as family. The biggest disadvantage of this kind of life is the disruption in the children’s education.

But again one has learnt to cope with it all; because the smallest and most important unit in society :- the family – gets to spend more qualitative time together. We get to see facets in our near ones, which we never would have known existed. We ourselves become enrichened personalities by learning to live in all kinds of situations: in the bush or by a warm hearth. Life is truly a ‘bed in the bush with stars to see………..
This is the life for a (wo)man like me
This is the life forever.’
For me, the pride that I feel as an army officer’s wife is worth all the sacrifices I have had to make. It is a badge of honour I shamelessly flaunt.

Published in Femina (Oct 2000)

Army wives land in a major soup

 The flood gates have been opened and the enemy is rushing in. With spears and bayonets! Dozens of mid-ranking and junior army officers and their wives are publicly accusing the wives of senior officers of wasting army funds and harassing them socially and professionally.

Retired Major Guneet Chaudhary”s blog site, www.pragmatic.nationalinterest.in, is inundated with postings alleging that senior Army wives are exploitative bullies running a “parallel hierarchy” through the Army Wives Welfare Association (AWWA).

The charges come in the wake of two other Majors” wives going public with claims of serious harassment.

Savneet Paul, the wife of Major P.S. Paul, has challenged the organisation in court, alleging her husband”s annual confidential report (ACR) was tarnished by his commanding officer because she did not take an interest in AWWA activities.

And Rosme Dubey played an MMS clip to the media recently showing a woman, claiming to be the wife of her husband”s commanding officer, ridiculing him as she could not get tea at an AWWA meet organised by Rosme.

Both Paul and Dubey claimed senior Army wives routinely insulted and exploited juniors” wives, and made their husbands mete out the same treatment to officers whose wives they were unhappy with. Now, more than 200 hate posts on the blog site bear out these charges with specific instances of misbehaviour and manipulation.

One blogger writes about his and other officers” humiliation at the opening of an AWWA beauty parlour and sales outlet because seniors” wives wanted it to be a “ladies show”. So they were ordered to be available, in case they were suddenly required, but not be “visible”. “The three officers, including me, were directed to hide. Like a bloody fool I had to hide behind a coal tar drum along with others. Passing workers were watching. I have never felt so ashamed ever before and never felt so small,” he writes.

Many women have written they were forced to dance, sing or perform skits by seniors” wives. They were even told to babysit if they wanted their husbands to get promotions or postings of choice.

One post reads: “It”s Afghan tribal law again — after a lull in the battle, the ladies traditionally take over and skin the PoW.” Says another: ” Let”s face it — AWWA in its present avatar is a pain and all middle/junior rung officers know it in their heart.

It is not corrupt per se, but it is wasteful on combat resources and has begun to proliferate into a parallel, demi-official hierarchy.” Blogger Sudeep claims AWWA uses public funds and Army vehicles even though it is not a government organisation.

It is run, he says, from government buildings and is maintained by the Army”s maintenance and electrical service. Even contributions to AWWA are not voluntary, but forced.

“There are written orders in each formation that a certain percentage of CSD (canteen) profits will compulsorily be deposited with AWWA,” he write.

“Try and miss out on organising or attending the AWWA monthly meet ” you will without any doubt get hauled up.” Asks another officer: “Go to Gopinath Bazar (Delhi Cantonment). In front of the HDFC ATM, you will find a person selling flowers on the road side to passing civilians!. He is a serving soldier. Does he have a choice? And frankly, what I do for AWWA, do I have a choice?” Army sources alleged AWWA was just a pretext for the wives of chiefs and commanders- inchief to go accompanying their husbands on tours. Their travel would be authorised by the Army for “welfare” activities.

A comptroller and auditor general report two years ago also questioned the misuse of official aircraft.

Several retired officers have also challenged the way AWWA functions. Major (Retd) P.D. Singh said the association should be revamped and it should not operate out of the Army headquarters in South Block.

Colonel (Retd) K.P. Bhatia asked why should AWWA get involved in the professional lives of officers when it was an NGO. “It influences the transfers and postings of serving officers, misusing the Army”s chain of command,” he said.

But not all the posts on his blog site support his views. One blogger writes: “God save the armed forces from people like Guneet, who spit in the same plate from where he once used to eat.”

This article has been taken from the link http://indiatoday.intoday.in/site/story?sId=51241&secid=4

Follow the wife – A good second career move for your husbands?

Please read this article from the Times of India – http://bit.ly/9UXolC

There are so many of us fauji wives, who are either working during our husbands’ careers, or have the potential to earn but have not been able to do so due to the demands of the ‘Profession of Arms’. All our lives, we have been happy to adjust, compromise our careers, put our agendas on hold, because our husbands were safeguarding the country. The enterprising lot among us are content with teaching in local schools, as it allows you to continue in your next station as well, if other conditions are met.

Generally, when our Fauji hubbies intend leaving their career, either prematurely or on superannuation, there is definitely a fear looming in their minds about the insecurities that lie ahead. Yet, very few of them give a serious thought to their wives capabilities of being a support as an earning member.

In the era when India’s economy is growing and there are endless opportunities for those who take initiative, it is high time that we consider the working wife’s options and possibilities while making this career move for the husbands.

I can give you my example. Now that my husband has taken the plunge to move out after 20 years service, he does have a number of options to take up a job. However, having been in the education sector and due to his unflinching support, I have been able to create space for me and am heading the IGCSE wing of an international school.

Under these circumstances, it would do my family a lot of good if my husband chooses to settle in my place of work, or I take up an assignment where both of us can persue our jobs, even if it means settling in an entirely new place for him.

I am sure many of you would be in the same situation. Would love to hear your comments.

New Age Army wives take aim at old mindset

Is it time for change in the hierarchy-conscious Indian Army? Some Army wives are gunning for it. Alleging harassment because they refused to work for the Army Wives Welfare Association (AWWA), the wives of two officers say they have been forced to kowtow to the same hierarchical rules as their spouses.

Savneet Paul, who has sent a legal notice to the Army and is waiting for a response, alleges that her husband (a Major) was given below-average ratings in the annual confidential report based on the couple’s social interaction at AWWA activities. In other words, it’s not merit but what the wife does that counts. Rosme Chaube, also the wife of a Major, has written to the Army chief expressing similar grievances.

The Indian Army is an institution that dates back to the Raj and some commands – such as the Eastern Command set up in 1920 – originated long before Independence. Its mindset, some say, is a hangover from colonial times and modern-day wives are rebelling.

“If I had known how old-fashioned it was, I would never have married an Armyman,” says Chaube, who insists she did her best to adjust.

But the blind adherence to hierarchy got to her. “When I was newly married, I was told by one of my husband’s seniors at one of those mandatory AWWA parties that if I wanted my husband to become a General or Brigadier, then I would have to do well in AWWA,” she says.

Retired Brigadier Anil Kumar admits the Army is a tradition-bound institution, but reasons that wives become part of the ‘family’. He says,“Soldiering is a hard task, so it’s only natural that a defence job is not just a job, but like joining a family.” He says it is understandable “this can be difficult for the younger generation. We now have more wives who are MBAs, doctors and architects. Even if they were to understand the defence culture, it’s practically impossible to live by it.”

The problem, explains Paul, is not working with AWWA, but the kind of work they are expected to do. “Welfare for the jawan’s wives should not mean forcing them to sing and dance. In this day and age, instead of training them in software and other professional skills that they can actually put to use, AWWA teaches them to make sandals, stuffed toys, bangles etc. Which woman can get by with only these skills?” she asks. Paul now plans to approach the National Commission for Women.

The tensions are evident from the dwindling number of families living together on campus because many wives now have full-time civilian jobs.

Another noticeable change, says Guneet Chaudhary, Supreme Court advocate and ex-Army official, is the rising divorce rate in the Army. For every 10 married couples, there are four divorce applications pending. Separations are more common too. “Most women complain that their major problems are because of AWWA dictating their lives,” says the lawyer who is fighting Paul’s case.

The voices of discontent are getting louder online. The blog pragmatic.nationalinterest.in started by an anonymous blogger is flooded with complaints about AWWA and the wives of senior officers. The association’s functioning had come under scrutiny about two years ago when a Comptroller and Auditor General report questioned unauthorized expenditure of Rs 75 crore by the presidents of AWWA and AFWWA, who are the spouses of the Air Force and Army chiefs. The report also indicted the Army for irregularities in the hiring of light vehicles and their misuse by AWWA.

But all is not lost. Chaudhary cautions that AWWA is not all bad. It has done some great work in the past. All it needs is an overhaul to be in tune with changing times.

Wives tale

  • AWWA was founded on July 1, 1966 by the wife of the then Chief of Army, G N Chaudhary, for the welfare of wives and widows of jawans
  • What began with one centre in Delhi has become an independent organization with eight `commands’ in the country
  • Though it is widely believed to be funded by the Army, in response to an RTI filed by Supreme Court advocate Guneet Chaudhary, Information Officers of Army said that AWWA is a non-governmental organisation
  • As part of its work, AWWA claims to be helping over 10,000 widows in the country

The making of an Army wife

An article by Gurvinder Sohi
TEN years ago, I got married to a young army Captain and as such wedded the ideals, traditions and norms of this vast and prestigious organisation that is an institution of life in itself. My experience are perhaps that of every second lady in the army but the very similarity of our circumstances is what binds us together in shared kinship. We become part of one big fraternity of the Indian Army wives.

Indeed, the wife of an Indian Army officer is strong and dynamic. She keeps an enviable house, runs an efficient household, often singlehandedly brings up children, copes with frequent separations, and is always on the move physically and intellectually facing new challenges each day.

This multi-faceted personality of the army wife was unveiled to me phase-by-phase as I personally experienced it. The first year of marriage was dream-like I was welcomed as a bride in the unit. There was a wonderful round of dinner parties at the unit officers’ houses. I set up home for the first time and started returning the dinners — a nervous cook and hostess the first couple of times but improving in confidence with every meal I hosted, thanks to the example of housewives around whom I tried to emulate. I watched and learnt from the ladies of the unit and tried to mould myself accordingly. Everybody was encouraging and appreciative and as eager to share tips and information as I was to learn from them. I learnt the perfect art of entertaining, from adorning tables with flower arrangements to exotic cuisine.

Then life took a turn and after a year of togetherness, my husband got along his posting to the newly raised Rashtriya Rifles. He moved to the Valley and I packed and moved back to Chandigarh, the home of my parents and in-laws. Now I experienced what life meant to an officer’s wife during a field posting. I spent a few months adjusting once again to living in a joint family. Being in the family way, I went for my routine check-ups to the Command Hospital with my father or father-in-law. I met a lot of young ladies sailing in the same boat as me.

Then tragedy struck and I had a miscarriage. The world seemed to collapse around me as shock, distress and disbelief set in. My husband’s leave got extended to full two months. I saw my immediate family share our sorrow and even my bigger family joined in. Letters poured in from all unit officers and ladies — both, from the parent unit and the RR unit and they grieved with us. Clearly, the out-of-sight-and-out-of-mind maxim is unheard of in the Army.

When my husband’s leave ended, he returned to his unit and all of a sudden, I was left to cope with life on my own. Still raw with the loss of our first one, I picked up a job. I learnt driving, volunteered to run errands for the family and began to pick up the threads of life again. I realised that there must be such times in all army wives lives when they were left to face good things and bad on their own and I am no exception. Everything the army taught us was for such a day — to stand strong and upright in the face of adversity and not be a weak person, a liability, a source of worry for a husband far away, performing his duty in difficult and dangerous circumstances. Isn’t that what we motivated our soldiers’ wives to be?

Today, I am the mother of two wonderful children, have seen togetherness and separation; coped with the second field posting with greater confidence and competence than the first and am mentally prepared for a third one when it comes. In the meantime, I have taken a few years off from teaching to bring up my kids during their first few formative years and imbibe in them the values so essential to our role as responsible parents, very often having to be the mother and father both!

Life in the Army has revealed to me my strength as a woman, has taught me to overcome my weaknesses and not just exist but live life meaningfully.

Each day is a challenge as I try to become everything an army wife aims to be — a strong person, a caring human being, a good mother, a supportive wife, a gracious hostess, an efficient housewife, all of it leading ultimately to becoming a complete woman. In fact, being a complete woman is what the Indian Army wife is all about.

This article has appeared in The Tribune on 02 July 2002

Hello Fauji Wives!

Hi to every one of you who are ‘married to the Uniform’ and happen to read this post.

This is actually a dream come true. Since ages, I have been wondering as to how all of us can be part of a single platform where we can express ourselves in the manner that we wish to, and not that the hierarchy wishes us to.

We all have so much potential to make things happen for us, for our families, for the society and also for our Men in Uniform. The scope is endless.

All we need is women who can take the first few steps and make others follow. Do you believe that you have it in you to make a difference in both your lives and the lives of those around you?

If you do, please share your views with me. If you wish to contribute to this blog as an author, that would be excellent. You may select any topic that you wish to write on. It could be your views, an article, a recipe, an events announcement. Anything that you feel will add value to others in the community. Of course, you will have to create an account with WordPress, which is not very difficult. I am sure your husbands can help you with this one!

If you think you have information that can help others, or anything that you wish to communicate for the community, and are not comfortable putting it on the blog, please feel free to write to me at harpreetrandhawa71@gmail.com .

Lets make this journey a fulfilling one!

Best Wishes,

Harpreet Randhawa