I have been a military spouse for almost six years, too short you might say. But believe it or not, it takes a stronger, braver person to be one. We are a special breed. We are Silent Ranks.
A week ago, I got a call from one of the leading travel agencies of India to discuss a collaboration opportunity. It was a FAM trip and in my sane mind, I would never say no. But I did. As much as I wanted to travel to an exotic place and also meet some popular travel bloggers, there was something that held me back. Who knows what would have happened if I had accepted the offer! It would have taken my blogging career to a whole new level. And maybe, I would never get such an opportunity again.
The soldier husband had to leave on duty on the New Year’s day. While it was supposed it be a two-day inspection/visit, he hasn’t returned home even after two weeks. He is at a high-risk landslide-prone area, day and night, there are no mobile networks and he has only twice sent a brief text to me in all these days – one on the anniversary of his comrade-in-arms Lt. Col. Niranjan’s death and one when he got a chance by sheer dumb luck.
While we fondly remember Lt. Col. Niranjan as the cheerful, young, dynamic officer, that constant fear of terror, fear and alarm do not go away from me even after all these years. Because in Fauj we say, ‘Love your spouse with the opportunity you have because no one is guaranteed a tomorrow.‘
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But does that mean the soldier wouldn’t do what is right? He most definitely would. I remember my husband going for a similar inspection a week after we got posted to this valley. It turned out to be a rescue operation with him trekking down the hill with two of his soldiers to rescue the careless bikers who had the nerve to cross a nasty landslide and instead brutally succumbed to the wrath of nature. Mind you, there was no equipment for the ops because it was a regular visit he was on, in the first place.
Then there was this cloudburst incident last year which washed off an entire village and a bridge that collapsed this year where he was walking on it only ten minutes before.
As much as I want to hold my tears back, put on a brave face and smile warmly to his Sahayak ‘bhaiyya’ who checks up on me every day, just to know if I am doing alright, I also try my best to not let loneliness drive my mind crazy or fear creep me off.
So, there you see, I couldn’t take up that one opportunity that I had been longing for since the day I started blogging because my heart wouldn’t be at it. No, he doesn’t till date knows about this because I do not want him to be bogged down by my worries.
As I lay on the bed this night, I cannot help but ponder over some harsh realities of my life.
As a young girl, I used to watch my Dad who served in the Territorial Army wear his uniform with a certain pride and twinkle in his eyes. I used to ride in the backseat of his Army Jeep, while he received and returned salutes from all the soldiers as the vehicle strutted by. Oh yeah, the Indian Army was a magical world in the eyes of a thirteen-year-old which made her swear that she would get married only to a Military Officer. In my late teens, I wanted to be like one of those beautiful Army Wives who were always prim and proper flaunting a gorgeous chiffon saree on a coffee morning or sip a glass of wine and partied hard at night.
But, little did I know that life in the Army is no ballroom dancing!
While I do not regret my decision to be a military spouse even after all these years, I had to make a lot of sacrifices along the way, just like other Army Wives. For starters, I sacrificed our ‘honeymoon’ because he had to report on duty within a week. Did I hear the song ‘Toh Chalun’ from the movie ‘Border’ in the background? Hell yes!
I had to leave my dream job in an MNC after a decade of working because I was given an opportunity to go abroad for a two-year project. And now, like the fate of many of the Military Wives, I am contemplating to teach in a school nearby for I have a B.Ed degree after a Professional Postgraduate degree. Because it just sucks to ask your husband for pocket money every single time.
However, there are hardly a handful of months left for us here and no school or company will hire me for this duration. Yes, before we know it, we will be packing and unpacking our ‘trunks’ at a new location. And rest assured, will be on the lookout for all different varieties of creepy insects and crawly creatures if it is at a modified field area which is mostly amidst a forest or desert, or atop a hill. Sometimes, it would be a temporary ‘quarter’ for six months by which most of your stuff would be out of the ‘trunks’ because God knows you have to live a normal life. Then you could move to a permanent quarter which requires further packing and unpacking.
When the soldier isn’t around we don many hats including that of a plumber or an electrician and of course a driver, getting our kids’ admission in school at the middle of a term. Ah, I am yet to experience that phase of my life, but you can imagine having to do the responsibilities of a Dad too.
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Separation anxiety is a harsh reality of our lives and we cope up with that by making new friends at every station we are posted to and doing our bit by supporting and encouraging all the families. I can’t be any more proud of the man for, even after all these years, every morning when I see him polish his stars and stripes that adorn his shoulders, I still have a smile on my face and a sense of joy.
I know what I signed up for when I decided to get married to an Olive Green. Yes, I do. I moved across the country, left my family and friends all to be left far from home, alone. When I hug him before he leaves for a deployment, I know I wouldn’t get another one for months. There is a tight knot in my chest always but I still wear rose-colored glasses and always be my cheerful self.
So, you see, I serve too – maybe not elegantly as the soldier, but for sure, as a Silent Rank!
I wear no uniforms, no blues or greens
But I am in the Army of the Ranks rarely seen
I have no rank upon my shoulders- salutes I do not give
But the military world is the place where I live
I’m not in the chain of command, orders I do not give or get
But my husband is the one who does, and this I can’t forget
I’m not the one who fires the weapon, who puts my life on the line
But my job is just as tough, I’m the one that’s left behind
My husband is a patriot, a brave and prideful man
And the call to serve his country not all can understand
Behind the lines I see the things needed to keep this country free
My husband makes the sacrifice, but so do the kids and me
I love the man I married, military is his life
So I pledge to support my hero
And stand among the silent ranks known as the MilitaryWife… – Unknown
That’s all for now, folks!
January 15, we celebrate the Indian Army Day and I knew I had to write this post.
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