travel adventure of an army wife


Have been an army wife for many years now!! 32 to be precise. even though my husband is retired, one is still holds the title of a “retired army wife” I suppose.

The most frequently asked and most difficult to answer, is the question where do I belong/where do I come from? Every time I am asked this, it gets me thinking – is it where I live now, where I lived earlier, where I studied, where my parents live- they are endless- without an answer- actually maybe I would say Ambala, a small town in North India where I did the maximum in one place- more than 5 and less than 6 – last years of my schooling!

Being an army officers daughter, constantly moving, it was not difficult fitting the shoe by marrying an army cavalry officer. Let me start with our first posting. We got married in Ambala in January 1978 and in a couple of weeks had to leave for Siliguri- you would be lucky to spot that on a map. Up north and east somewhere!

 We took a train from Delhi via Lucknow- where we had to change into a metre gauge train- do they still exist I wonder- got a first class booking- this was a separate compartment – a coupe- with its own attached toilet and two bunk beds and a reclining cane chair!!. It was amazing. Our own personal little home for a few days! Platforms came and went, people of different states shouting in different languages- selling all kinds of food – a riot of colour and noise.

After a couple of days of travel, the scenery outside changed slowly, it became more green, open spaces, platforms far and few between. And finally on the third day  the shake and roll of the train stopped  and we descended onto a tiny, dirty strip called Siliguri. The first thing that struck me was the poverty and dirt that seemed to emanate from everywhere. The city itself was no better, small shack like shops, very, very different from North India.

My first home was a small, one room makeshift temporary structure covered with a green tarpaulin! How strange does it sound to children nowadays who are used to such lavish forms of travel and five star hotels!! I think we made up with stars in our eyes!

Our honeymoon was a bus journey to Darjeeling. It was January- I had no idea how cold snow was- a pair of Bata PT shoes is what I owned and as soon as I hopped off the bus I stepped into a puddle- that was the end of dry shoes- the entire honeymoon I had an option- either wear the wet PT shoes or chappals!! Slush is not the most fun thing to happen to your feet!! One learns.

The room was an army holiday home. The voltage of the electricity was 5 volts at the most. With all the lights on in the evening one could barely discern the other person! Himmi would warm the bed by ironing the sheet with an iron that never got hot, he even tried to put a tablelamp under the blanket!!

To cut the story short- we cut our honeymoon short- and bused it down to the comparative warmth of our “basha” – that is what those kind of houses are called!!

Just to give you an idea of what can happen in these bashas- our ‘bathroom’ had a large barrel filled with water and a mug! Thank god there was a WC!! And when it rained, which it frequently did, the tarpaulin or canvas which was our rooftop  would fill up and hang so low over our heads- one had to duck to go in or out!! Its so funny- astonishing- how I never thought about it any differently- that’s how life was. One laughed about it, enjoyed every moment we stayed there.

We were strictly told never to drink water anywhere outside the Mess those days- of course Bisleri bottles were unheard of! One night our orderly forgot to put drinking water next to our beds. I woke up looking for some water-  couldn’t find it- woke my newly married devoted husband- who was so sleepy and disinclined to go looking for water in the middle of the night – he told me to fill a mug and drink from the rusted barrel!!

 I survive to tell the tale!

Comments 16 comments

sabu singh profile image

sabu singh 6 years ago

Hi Bils. Welcome to Hubpages and congratulations on your first Hub. Wish you many hours of happy writing. Love.

billy sidhu profile image

billy sidhu 6 years ago Author

thanks nanbhai

Prachi 6 years ago

What fun... i hope the son learns some valuable lessons from his parents:)

billy sidhu profile image

billy sidhu 6 years ago Author

yup those were easy days sweetie!!

Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

Another delightful tale, billy...what a way to start a marriage! I'm guessing you have many stories about life as an army wife, and I'm looking forward to reading any and all.

Your question, "Where do I come from?" struck a chord with me about places. I think of my "home town" as a tiny farming village in the middle of Ohio, even though I never lived there, although I do take the journey nearly every year now. It's where my father was raised; his sister is still there. I think it's home to me because of what I learned, and continue to learn there, about community, togetherness, people looking out after each other.

Just realized you've given me an idea for a Hub. :)

billy 6 years ago

thanks sally- i've been reading your article on BT too- excellent- mine are very amateurish- but trying nonetheless... how cute - a tiny farming village- do write about it!

minhminh 6 years ago

Hi Billy,

I found the questions, Where do I belong/ where do I come from extremely interesting. This is something that I have asked myself many times. I have had a very similar childhood, with parents moving from one state to another in India. In my case, I went a step further, as I studied abroad and married a foreigner. I live in a foreign country with a very strong and ancient culture and civilisation like India.

I would like to say that I have found an answer to these questions in Pico Iyer's book, 'The Lady and the Monk'.When questioned about his roots he says, "I am not rooted to a place, I think ,so much as values and affiliations and friendships that I carry everywhere I go.' That is exactly how I feel myself. I would add ,that even if we live in the country where we were born and grew up, changes occur in the mentality of the people and even in the landscape. What remains ,are the values we carry within us and cherish. We can share these with like minded people all over the world. These people, then, become our friends.

billy sidhu profile image

billy sidhu 6 years ago Author

absolutely true minhminh! will try and get hold of this book. thanks for your comments. it definitely is the values we carry and not at all any one place!

aps 5 years ago

One of my coursemate forwarded your article of more than a year old. Are you still there to corresspond. Regards

billy sidhu profile image

billy sidhu 5 years ago Author

hi aps- yup very much here!!

anita kadian 5 years ago

This article made me remember those days. I am proud of Army. I wish every individual gets this opportunity.

billy sidhu profile image

billy sidhu 5 years ago Author

yes anita- i think what the army gave us was invaluable!

tanveerbadyari profile image

tanveerbadyari 3 years ago

very good description of the places you have visited & enjoyed, people these days have forgotten Bata PT shoes.

billy sidhu profile image

billy sidhu 3 years ago Author

Thank you Tanveer for your comment! I am amazed at the beautiful n exotic locations the young ones travel to nowadays.

billy sidhu profile image

billy sidhu 3 years ago Author

Thank you Tanveer for your comment! I am amazed at the beautiful n exotic locations the young ones travel to nowadays.

billy sidhu profile image

billy sidhu 3 years ago Author

you didnt correspond??lol

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