In many ways my life post marriage was just like those of so many other girls. In new surroundings and learning to adjust. Being an army wife added the extra adventure to the experience.
Sometime after my marriage, my husband had to go to the border and families were not allowed there. I found myself living in a quaint villa at a peaceful village in Himachal Pradesh under the aegis of my mother in law.
Having grown up in New Delhi, this was my first experience of village life. I learnt how to cook on the choolah and how to tend to the cattle in the shed. Feeling lost, I was a constant shadow to my mother in law who taught me everything. To my amusement, I learnt that there are two categories of people at my sasural. As per village customs, the elders in our family were symbolically referred to as uncles and aunts or even father in law and mother in law. I had to wear my ghunghat at all times and touch everyone’s feet. I complied without complaint. This could have been a trying or frustrating time for someone from the national capital but it was all so new for me that it carried its own charm. I was absolutely fascinated with the village life and did everything that I was told to with happy enthusiasm! Perhaps when you marry at 19 you view everything with a bit of romantic adventure.
In time my husband was back in a peace station and I found myself by his side, albeit now I had to be in a different avtaar and fully prepared to shoulder a new set of responsibilities, this time for the country. Dressed formally in sarees and actively engaged in the family welfare activities of the unit, the other ladies and I dedicated ourselves to keeping the morale of the families of the troops as high as possible – as it is only then that the troops could go out there and give their best.
When it would be time to go back to Delhi, I would again be the young girl that I used to be. It was an adventure and an honour to take on the different roles that came my way through the years and I tried my best to do justice to them all. Soon I was to step into a role which I would have to play for life- that of being a mother.
The children and I spent years on end in the Separated Family Quarters as my husband and his colleagues battled both the elements and enemy aggression at the border. The loneliness and the pain of staying apart cannot be explained in words. Those days there were no mobile phones and we didn’t have a landline either. It would’ve been nice to be able to hear his voice sometimes and for him to hear the happy cackle of the children playing at home. Months would go by without speaking and it was the postal department which kept us connected through the ups and downs of life. Now, when I think back, I wonder how I managed alone for all those years. Possibly, when God gives you challenges, he also gives you the strength to cope. At the time it may seem that you are breaking down under the pressure, but one day years later you turn around and say, no I didn’t break, I came through stronger.
Years went by and now my husband and I lead a retired life. Our children are grown up and away. If I ever worried about letting my angst ever get to the children in their childhood and beyond, I don’t anymore. When I hear them speak of those years, all I hear is a happy chatter reminiscing the times I drove them to go out for ice cream or to the India International Trade Fair, or of their achievements at school… or the best one –when daddy came back home on annual leave. I feel now a calm sense of achievement.
A few months after my elder daughter’s marriage I got a panic call from her. She felt that she had mixed up the rajma recipe. I explained the recipe to her again but knew that her reservations stemmed from being in a different place. I encouragingly added, ‘you’re doing a great job beta, trust me, you have all your ingredients in the right place’. I knew she’d understand what I was really saying and she did.
She responded with a, ‘Hardly mumma, but I am learning each day…’ and then after a pause she added, ‘I know how many roles you’ve played through the years. Do you know, sometimes you played father for us too.’
I laughed and replied, ‘maybe I did… you think so?’
She replied softly, ‘yes I think so… we think so. Ma we loved you in every avtaar and in every role, but the one which gives us the most satisfaction is the one we see you play now. You being you, the person you were meant to be’.
As I heard those words from my daughter, I felt life had come full circle. I needed to find myself and finally I think I am getting there.