A thorough bred- that’s what I call myself! Being a part of the Olive Greens for three generations, I am one of the few chosen ones who has seen military family as a granddaughter, daughter and now as a wife and can’t envisage a life other than this. Each stage has been different, each experience memorable in this three decade long (and counting) journey as part of the Olive Green fraternity.
With both my grandfathers being in the forces - my paternal grandfather was in the ASC (or the Royal ASC as it was called in the pre independence era) and the other in the Indian Navy – I imbibed the essence of military life very soon. Many a summer afternoon was spent sifting through photo albums, and the evenings spent listening to endless anecdotes of the wars and their encounters. We, as grandchildren sat in rapt attention and complete awe, as our grandfather - who at 60 looked all of 40 years, smart and immaculate at all times regaled us with stories of a life far more than ordinary in his slightly clipped British accent (something he had picked up along the way). They were the stuff of books and legends and imprinted themselves strongly in my childhood memories.
My grandmother’s snippets of army life also touched a chord. It told me of a world where relationships were based on a common bonding and genuineness. Her struggles and strife as a young mother while her husband was posted in remote field areas were quite akin to what I would go through many years later. The only thing is we had our mobiles and internet to keep us in touch. In an era of letters and telegrams the sense of distance, the enormous time lag between each communication would have made it ten times worse.
Every night I would sit up late in bed reliving their stories and wondering if I be able to lead a life like this.
The Fauji Brat
It seemed but natural that my father would join the army as well. It was an unsaid but a pre decided thing, having seen his father and his uncles in the forces.
Growing up I saw the typical army life, posted in far flung places with poor connectivity, no phones and cable TV, but boundless greenery, vast empty spaces to play in, great friends and meaningful relationships. I grew up traveling in the venerable Shaktiman three tonners to school, spending over an hour in the rickety bus over bumpy roads to small towns like Tenga Valley in Arunachal Pradesh or Dharangdhara in Gujarat. The drives to school and back, were outings in themselves and helped form some of my deepest and longest lasting friendships. Here we decided when the next social evening was being held, what time to meet in the evening, and whose house would we get together in when there was a formal party in the Officer’s Mess. We moved every two years, to another placed, made new friends, adjusted to a new school and lived a life of kings and vagabonds. It was a life unknown and unheard of to the people outside the army- a happy and carefree existence, protected from the vagaries of life.
Wedded to the Olive Greens
When the time came to choose my life partner, I was automatically attracted towards the man in Olive Greens. It was not a conscious decision, but it seemed natural for me to fall in love with the image of the Fauji. And as a fauji wife, I saw another facet of this life.
I had seen my mother going through the rigors of the army life attending Ladies Meet, Welfares, organizing events and hosting gala dinners with ease and panache and I thought it would be a cake walk for me. However, when I came in as a wife of a young Captain, everything seemed different. In spite of the help that came in from all quarters, adapting and fitting in to my new role meant that I had to be shaken out of my happy and protected cocoon.
The charms were there, as they always have been. But now I realized that the fun and excitement of moving on postings were more work now, having to do all the packing myself as most of the times my husband would be in a field posting or on temporary duty. From buying the packing material to getting the truck loaded and handing over the house, I was now a Jack of all trades. A new place always had an intriguing charm with excitement at its peak of meeting new people, setting up a new home and creating new memories but it also involved a lot of work. Getting my daughter’s admissions, waiting for months to get a house and thereafter, getting after the MES to get the house in order- it wasn’t easy always.
It took me a while to settle into this new phase of the Olive Green life but it was a learning experience all along. It made me independent and confident to take on any challenge that life throws at me. I met some of the most admirable people whilst on this journey, made lifelong friends and shared myriad experiences. Sometimes I look back and then gaze into the future and wonder if my daughter would become part of a fourth generation that walks alongside the olive greens. I don’t really know, but I for one am glad to have shared the experience for over 35 years in different roles and facets. Each phase has made me the person I am today. I cherish and relish every bit of the army and would not want to trade my life for anything in the world.