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The making of an Army wife

March 25, 2010

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

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