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How do you cope with frequent relocation? Here is an account by a military wife of what it means to be moving homes in the military.
We live in boxes…I am not being philosophical here; my family lives out of trunks and boxes like nomads. Every two years I convert a house into our home and then duty calls and I pack all our books and bags, crockery and curtains, mementos and memories in cartons and crates, load them in truck and travel across the country to set up a home again and again and again…I have been doing this since past sixteen years…Why? Well, because I am the wife of a military man…and wherever he is posted, I tag along.
Over the years, it has almost become a habit. As two years near an end, boredom of staying in one place sets in and I prepare myself mentally to pack up my world, demarcating stuff to be discarded or preserved.
Life as a military wife is quite adventurous. We get an opportunity to travel to different states and cities all over the country. We experience a variety of cultures, cuisines and learn to cook a few special recipes in the bargain. We get to shop a lot and collect curios. In last few years, I have made an enviable collection of many such things that are specific to different parts of the country but with lesser amount of money spent than my ‘civilian’ friends!
With Kashmiri embroidered furnishings, woodwork, papier-mâché to Rajasthani block-prints, paintings, Bidri craft from Andhra and bamboo items from North-East, to name a few, my house is more like a mini-India at one place. The best part is that all that variety somehow just blends in. All military wives, in fact after years of service life, develop a unique sense of interior designing which no one else can imitate.
Exciting, carefree and glamorous as it may sound, the life spent relocating frequently, is however not a cake walk. While the man works, practices and hones his skills to go into a war with enemy, shifting home as a military wife, she too has her own battles to combat at home front.
With every new place comes a fresh dilemma. While in North East we dealt with seepage, dampness and fungus in clothes, shoes, books and everything, in western parts its sand storms, dry heat, sun burns and heat strokes. Getting posted to northern parts of country means facing extreme cold and chilblains while in southern parts it comes to fending off termites that ruin the wooden boxes and books.
But the most basic problem that arises due to this frequent relocating is that we need to carry everything from blowers, heaters, warm clothes and quilts to air-coolers, air conditioners, gumboots and raincoats in our boxes and trunks because we don’t know where we would relocate next!
Our men join their duties soon after reaching the new place. Once the house is allotted, they shift all the boxes to the house and then it is the job of the wife to open all boxes, set up the kitchen and cupboards, put up the paintings, curtains and other knick-knacks to organise the house into a home again… And she does all that with élan, single-handedly. Within a week the house is ready to welcome new friends at all times of day.
Post marriage, when the woman for the first time shifts home as a military wife, she knows that the frequent relocation would be the story of rest of her married life. She learns to take it in her stride then and there and comes up with tricks to cope with challenges of a moving home.
When I shifted from Srinagar to Pune for first time as an Air Force Officer’s wife, I packed the things without giving much thought. It resulted in some cracked crockery, displaced television remote and some stained clothes. By the time of second posting I had learned to pack items specific to a particular room. It still takes ample effort to carefully pack everything, make a list of items in each trunk and prioritise the items for immediate access at new place but I can safely say I am a pro at packing. In fact I am better than the packers and movers guys…no jokes!
The frequent relocation takes its toll more on kids. With every shift they have to start all over again in making new friends at school and base. Even their schooling is disrupted mid-session. But strangely kids adapt easily.
Moving home as a military wife, exhausting and stressful as it is, however, becomes easier to cope because of a simple reason – the defence officers are a like a close knit family. The moment we land up at a new place, there is always someone who will offer a packed lunch while house is being set up, there is always somebody who will offer to babysit the kids till the trunks are still scattered in the new house and there is always someone with whom you could unwind at the end of the day with that glass of chilled wine.
The challenges of these frequent relocations make the military wife what she is…smart, resilient and brave. Clichéd as it may sound, I for one would never exchange my life that needs shifting homes so often with a dull stuck-at-one-place living.
For they say that home is where heart is and as long as the man who stole my heart serves the country; there I will tag along and create a home for him to return and relax.
Image source: house against Indian flag by Shutterstock.
I graduated as an architect and after working for three years decided to be a
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