Coming from a ‘civilian’ background, I had no clue that faujis speak a completely different language. So, to my utter surprise, when my husband asked me why I address my boss by her first name, I was like, “that’s how we address colleagues, don’t we?”. His eyes almost popped out. “She is your boss – super boss – isn’t she? Is not addressing her by her first name considered disrespectful?”, he asked as a matter of fact. I couldn’t help but burst into hysterical laughter. That was my first ever insight into how fauji’s think.
Though, before I get into details, I must tell you that my experience in fauj is very limited. It’s only been an year since we have been married and my husband’s ‘field posting’ has ensured that I can happily claim to be ignorant of the fauji manners for some more time. I have goofed up a number of times and I am still learning to fit in the tribe. I have said “bye, bye” to people instead of “Good evening” while leaving from the officers’ mess. I have called up my husband’s phone and complained endlessly about power failure at home until interrupted by his “buddy” on the other side of the line informing me that “sahab” was in an important meeting.
So, I am definitely not the best person to give any lessons on how to behave in the army. However, I can talk about my journey and the lessons I have learnt in the last few months.
First few months in the army can be quite intimidating for you if you are a civilian of my kind, who prefers Pajamas, Grey T-shirts and Nerdy glasses practically for all good or bad occasions in life. But then you learn to blend in. However, it doesn’t happen overnight. For me acceptance came in four stages and I am sure I am not the only one to have crossed these stages before I came to terms with my life in the army:
I found my husband’s observations like “how do you address your boss by her first name?” utterly weird and funny until I heard him addressing his boss and the ‘sir-ing’ did not stop for more than 30 seconds in an half an hour of the conversation. “That’s why, That’s why, you are jealous, husband.”, I exclaimed. He smiled in ‘disapproval’.
One of my husband’s ‘course-mates’, who I happily addressed by his first name made a point to address me as ‘ma’m’ even when I insisted that I am perfectly fine with everyone calling me by my first name. Then I met a few more officers and I realized none of them were going to bend this rule or, for that matter, any rule for anyone in this world, so, its better I get used to being ‘ma’am’.
As soon as you realize, there are no ‘exceptions’ in the army, your attempt to blend in begins. Your husband will dress impeccably in crisp combats leaving you no option but to ditch the idea of wearing pajamas (I have my own theory about comfort versus common sense. But let’s skip that for now). So, you decide to look like a lady for a change. “Fine – just this time! Ah! may be one more time.” That’s how it begins. Then you realize it’s not that difficult to blend in.
Over a period of time you realize that it’s fine. You start start seeing the logic behind the never-dare-to-break rules. There always are and will always be occasions when you feel out of place but you will also be overwhelmed by the dedication with which people will try to help you adjust.
I have heard and read stories about how families in the army have stood by each other in difficult times. I have seen the amount of dedication with which people follow orders. I have felt thankful for the amount of effort people put in to make me feel in place. So, though old-habits-die-hard, I make small efforts to fit in especially when my husband encircles the 1930 hours written in the invitation card and writes 7:30 P.M. before handing it over to me.