travel adventure of an army wife
LIFE AND ADVENTURES 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!