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Army wife or a woman married to a man who is in the army? The difference is nuanced, and I am more than just that ‘wife’ who will focus on her husband.
This happened in the same year that I got married. We were in Agra and were at a dining out party of a unit officer. The evening ended with the signature jumping of all the officers in a pile with the one dining out right at the bottom of it.
I was standing watching the fun but somehow, wasn’t enjoying anything.
I had this sudden realisation that the world I am in, if I dont do something to change it, would forever be about my husband. His achievements, his dreams, and his career.
The problem wasn’t in having these aspects in my life. The problem was having ONLY these aspects chalking out my identity in life.
That was the time the need to tap my own potential set in. That moment. It was a moment of clarity. It was as if the fog had cleared.
Another incident that happened was, in the same year, I wanted to gift my husband something special for his birthday and I used his money to buy his birthday gift.
That day, I was kind of ashamed. This was not how I had imagined myself to be.
By the time the year changed, I had started freelancing, writing, and doing little things that would give me the happiness and satisfaction that I longed for. These were also the things that helped me in figuring out my own self.
I had realised this fairly early in my marriage: that I could enjoy army life only if I had my own identity and my own standing independent of my other half.
In whatever decisions I then made, two people were always by my side. My husband and Ma. My mother knew long before I expressed these feelings to her that it wasn’t an option for me to not be independent and chase my dreams. When I finally told her, she was happy that I had at last started figuring myself out and supported me in whatever I wanted to do henceforth.
As for my husband, he somewhere knew I cannot ignore who I am. He encouraged me and supported me, and took some of his career decisions to support my PhD, even though others called it his ‘stupidity’. But, we make a good team and didn’t care for anything.
Then came the stage where I understood how making career choices after marriage effects other people around more as compared to the person you are married to. In case of a woman, that is.
No one ever questioned or questions when my husband has to go for field postings, but everyone would have an opinion if I need to chase my dreams and follow my career.
Being an army wife means 99% people suggest you to have a career as a teacher. In army school. After B.Ed. A record number of people have given me this advice. Some well meaning, some who couldn’t understand why an army wife needs to chase her own career and dreams.
When I went to Wellington after my delivery, so many people told me I had missed the fun and how this was the best thing in life to have happened.
The problem with me is, I can’t sugar coat things. I am either silent or blunt. The fact was, I did not miss out on anything. I did miss during the time I wasn’t in Wellington the things I do best and that is, my work. The smiles and happiness that I felt is what makes a huge part of my being. And my work gives me that. I visited Wellington for about 1.5 months, attended a ladies’ meet, met a few amazing people and came back. I could enjoy the ladies’ meet, enjoy people’s company there because today I am me. I have a life and circle that I have built. On my own.
I was always an aware person, had opinions and was headstrong. Marrying young means you still are in the process of figuring out who you really are and I figured out a huge part of myself after my marriage.
Completing PhD, starting work, sticking to my ideas, becoming a person. All this came to me after I was married.
I have been lucky that both my husband and I have the compatibility and the understanding to grow up together and finally become the individuals we are.
Being married to someone who is in the army is tough. The separation is tough. Emotionally it’s taxing. And, being a wife is toughest. Not because of the husband or the in laws, but because of the unnecessary entitlement people think they have to give advice and suggestions when they see two individuals working out and enjoying their journey together not confirming to other people’s opinions and ideas. Also, the advice and the ideas that are given keep the husband as the focal point, and keep the wife as someone who by nature of her gender and relationship, has to just adjust.
I don’t think I have ever limited my identity to being an army wife. I have looked at myself as being married to the man I love who is in the army. The separation, missing out on anniversaries and birthdays, calling from satellite phones once in a week and being tense for his wellbeing, all these things are a part of my marriage because the man I love does something for this country that also happens to be risky.
All this doesn’t define me as a person. Neither do they define our complete relationship. They define a part of our relationship. Definitely. But not complete because our complete relationship is between two individuals, having their own identities and choosing to make the journey of life together.
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