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I opted for marrying an army man in an arranged marriage all those decades ago when such a thing was unheard of in my family – but it has given me my best memories!
I still can’t give a reason why I said I wanted to marry an army man, when I was asked by my parents what kind of man I would like to marry! Was it the charm of the uniform, or the famed disciplined lifestyle of the army man? I am not sure! But pat came the reply from me, when asked. I have always been anti-establishment, I still am; maybe that too had something to do with it.
I was pursuing my Chartered Accountancy course at that point in time, and all my friends aspired to marry boys from the same profession so that there would be a continuity, while I had never given a thought to what I would do with a CA degree in the army.
Probably I had a romantic view about men in OGs (Olive Greens); my man in a silver armour, sweeping me off my feet! Or was it watching Shah Rukh Khan in the popular serial ‘Fauji’ the culprit? Whatever the reason, there it was.
My grandfather, a military veteran himself having fought in the second world war, was firmly against my decision. I remember he had spoken at length with me about how difficult the life in army is, that life in the army was not a bed of roses as I seemed to perceive, and insisted that I marry a civilian ‘boy’ and settle down in Mumbai where I belonged.
My parents faced a bigger dilemma as hardly any boys from our community preferred to join the army. Most of those we knew had gone into engineering, preferably from an IIT, and then had gone abroad. So finding an army officer for an arranged marriage where one would look at the same community was like searching for a needle in a haystack. I had truly made life difficult for them!
I was advised me to be more pragmatic and think what a waste my education would be if I am going to be sitting at home in a God forsaken place waiting all day long for my man to return home!
And my mother was terribly apprehensive for me. As I was her only daughter, she didn’t want me to be too far away from her. She also had this idea that the army had all gun toting men, smoking and drinking for most part of the day, and having a non vegetarian diet; she couldn’t come to terms with me cooking a non-vegetarian meal. It was her ultimate nightmare! The image of Dev Anand with his cigarette dangling, and a drink in hand as picturised in the popular Bollywood flick ‘Hum Dono’ had taken its toll; Bollywood certainly manages to create images and stereotypes in the minds of people.
I got a taste of this when I was returning after my engagement ceremony.
We were returning by the Madras Mail, the only late night train that left Madras those days. Those were the days when people used to interact with co-passengers in the train, and many would build lasting friendships too, unlike now where we are totally oblivious or least interested in interacting with people around us. Well, the point I am trying to make here is that as we were returning from my engagement ceremony, an elderly gentleman got talking with us. And when he finally learned that I had just gotten engaged to a man in olive greens, his reaction was one of utter disbelief and shock. He immediately came and sat next to me, shook my hands, and stopped short of saluting me. He said that I was indeed a brave girl!
All my aunts were sure that I was marrying a man with all the ‘bad’ habits which were considered anathema. There is one very conservative aunt, who I remember had called up my mother after my engagement, and had asked her why on earth couldn’t she have found me someone from an acceptable profession? Was there such a drought of good boys in civil careers that she had to settle down for an army man?
That got my mother all the more in a dither, and as the day of my wedding drew close, her apprehensions and anxieties only grew!
Looking back in time, I have spent more than two decades with my man in olive greens, traveling across the country and living in different types of homes, usually with beautiful gardens, and in hill stations with a salubrious climate, meeting and interacting with people from diverse cultures, enjoying the army life to the hilt, creating memories and cherishing every moment spent. These have been truly the best days of my life.
Now it all seems a distant dream, as if it happened to someone else, for the person who gave me the best memories has become a memory now!
Image source: Smileysnaps chennai [CC BY-SA 4.0], from Wikimedia Commons
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