Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Glamour and Style Unplugged

Faujis work hard and party hard with the perfect doses of glamour, style and decorum. In a peace posting, parties and social dos form an intrinsic part of an army life. Army is a close knit family and these functions help make the bonds stronger. They serve as a great platform to know each other and socialize. Friendships are formed quickly. While some of the parties are formal and are set in the Officers' Mess, where the ambience is dignified and formal, others are informal get-togethers at each others' houses. Hosting and attending formal parties, informal get-togethers and impromptu festivities are an inherent part of a fauji life, especially during a peace posting, away from the pressures of a field posting and separated family life. And Faujis surely know how to party in style. There is shimmering cutlery, lip smacking cuisine, a lively band, chic and neat waiters, exclusive drinks, a joke here and a tittle-tattle there, all set in an ideal ambience.
Each party has its own appeal there are impromptu parties where the lady of the house receives guests at the middle of the night, (bachelors, who insist on having dinner!). There are formal parties like dinning in and dinning outs, regimental guest’s dinner, raising day dinners which are organized with such meticulousness, grandiosity and finery that they would give even five-star banquets a run for their money. Then we have theme parties like Husband’s night, Hippy Night, Halloween Night where the whole idea is to have interaction notwithstanding the fun and the glamour part. The company is great and so is the atmosphere and food. What more does one need to enjoy? In Army, co-operative effort and courtesy are of paramount importance hence these parties work as a unifying and driving force amongst the services. They are a deeply binding anchor and tradition in the peripatetic Army life. Its raison d'ĂȘtre, however, goes much deeper than its surface appearance of being one of the most frivolous, though certainly attractive facets of social life in the Army.
Children also learn the finer nuances of socializing from a very young age. By the time they are 4-5 years old they look forward to the tambola evenings, club functions, social evenings and of course the dance parties. For them its time for unlimited supply of soft drinks, juices and chips with their own exclusive group. Ask any retired officer and his family what they miss the most in their post-Army life they reply in unison, "Parties and Parties, ofcourse.” Civilian friends often quip, what is the difference? Well, I would say a LOT! Although, receptions, dinners, dances, teas, etc are held essentially in the same manner as in the civilian communities but the cordiality, unity and community interest of service officers and their families and above all punctuality are the most striking features. Long live the celebrations!!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A Tiger Never Cries

When was the last time you witnessed a male army officer cry his heart out in front of the full media glare? Never! True! For them it is erroneous and sinful to pronounce the stress and strain faced infront of anyone, let alone the media. It’s just that our men don’t snivel and sob or let public their troubles, just as a tiger never cries. They are a breed apart, positive to the core even in the most downbeat circumstances. Its only when you do a peek-a-boo you realize that our army is plagued by something commonly known as PAS i.e. Pressure, Anxiety and Stress syndrome. It’s not only about the pays, perks and promotions; there are a number of issues which on a day- today basis take a heavy toll on an army officer and his family mentally as well as emotionally.

Indian army boasts of giving the country maximum number of beauty queens but what about the boys? Just how many Karan Thapars can you think of?
  • Majority of stations do not have good schools and one is left with only two choices- either the family stays separated or compromises on the child’s school. A third option would be of sending the child to a boarding school. But!! Think boarding school, think money, where again an army officers’ child takes a beating. Children are given high-class exposure right from the beginning like horse riding, swimming, tennis, basketball golf etc. Hence, an extremely good schooling is just a natural extension which sadly is not in many cases. A better salary might help to some extent.

  • There are instances of couples staying together only for 3-4 years in their 11-12 years of marriage. Rest goes into the field tenures. An oft repeated incident is of children calling their dads, Uncles, who come home after a long period. By the time they get used to their brand new papas its time to say goodbye again. Field tenures should not be very often.

  • When an army officer goes on a posting he along with his family has to stay for 3-4 months in a room provided by the officer mess, since a temporary accommodation is allotted only after a waiting period of 3-4 months. The temporary accommodations though comfortable stay can be nightmarish if stay over guests land up. By the time a nice and spacious permanent accommodation is allotted the posting is due again. Marriage Accommodation Project(MAP) should be started in all the stations

  • A lot of army officers are these days facing rejection in marriage proposals since girls are becoming more and more career oriented and the only job possible for an army wife is that of teaching which not many opt for.

These things though ostensibly trivial do become core issues in a soldier’s life. Something needs to be done immediately rather than merely politicising the issue or else this tribe of jubilant jolly good fellows will be an endangered one.