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by Rashmi Kaushik
(Noida, India)

Like every girl I dreamt of a wedding in a red lehenga and sparkling jewellery, so when this dashing man in a white uniform came into my life, it was indeed a dream come true.

My civilian upbringing hadn't prepared me what the surprises in store that living in a base brings. I came with visions of coffee mornings in chiffon and formal evening outdoors on the arm of a husband in evening uniform. That's what I learnt from neighboring aunties and Bollywood films. The first few months were indeed a dream run, unfolding exactly as I anticipated.

Then reality struck. My husband went on a three-week sailing, leaving me, rather lonely, to my resources on land. I learnt from enough that a wife has to be tougher than her man. She needs to imbibe all his officer line qualities, and more, if she needs to understand him and help him. And to herself survive and enjoy her role as a military wife.

I had never stayed alone even for a day and here I was, alone in a new city for three weeks with no friends or family. Somehow, I managed to survive those three weeks by enrolling myself in cooking classes, joined a library and started getting comfortable in my own company.

Over time, I cultivated long lasting friendships, learnt to be fiercely independent and adept at handling any situation with ease.

Today long after we've left the services, those friendships and memories are lasting treasures.

I still remember the first Navy Ball. I remember every minute of that magical evening, the men in smart uniforms, a perfect foil for the women in their arms, each dazzling line a jewel. Now it's another thing that if I had to describe it the very next day, I couldn't have. Cinderella lost a slipper at her first ball; I lost my voice on that cold December night.

The navy ball is a function to celebrate the victory of Indian Navy at the Indo- Pak war of 1971. It’s a fun filled event which symbolizes the tradition and modernity of the Indian Navy.

I also can’t forget my first ‘mess night’. Mess night is a formal dinner with a several course meals, to be eaten with variety of forks, knives and spoons, keeping time with the others at the table. To my utter surprise, I found that the dinner plate is different from starters plate, which is different from the dessert plate and the soup plate. So were the knives and forks different for starters, main course and the desserts. The struggle with spoon and forks led me to go vegetarian at all future mess nights. Julia Roberts can surf to have her chicken flying, I thought it was best to deal with a piece of plant paneer instead.

Parties, coffee mornings, celebrations become a part and parcel of your life when you get married to a man in uniform. At the same time, we have to deal with adversities of all sorts. Life in the forces is not as simple. Discipline, patience and courage become our greatest strength.

Behind all the glamour one cannot deny the grit, the pain and the sacrifices that are made with the head held high…. the reason why we are known as 'Veerangana'


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