Friday, March 11, 2005

The life in the army, they say is very fine...

Feb 27th:

The first 24 hour train journey of my trip, on Dakshin Express. I decided to use trains for all my traveling on this trip to keep down costs and because they are generally quite convenient. At any rate, it is the only way to reach Babina, where my brother-in-law, his wife and kid live - Dwiji's brother is a major in the army and is stationed in a cantonment there.

Dakshin Express is a 'Janata' train, with people getting on and off at all the little stations along the way. This is one of the few trains that stops at Babina, a small village near Jhansi, so I guess I made a good choice taking it. At Nagpur, another passenger going to Babina boarded the train. This lady was to stay with her pregnant daughter-in-law. Both her son and daughter-in-law are in the military – 'aunty' happily informed me that theirs' is a love marriage. She also gave me full details about her daughters, one of who married a Maharashtrian (they are from Bhopal). This has to be the solution to caste-based divisions in India – more inter-caste marriages! Other passengers included a newly minted TCS employee who talked about how hard it was to get leave - “They (managers) grumble for days even after granting it” and a junior college principal enjoying her last days of freedom before the 'imprisonment' imposed during the approaching public exams.

Feb 28th – Mar 1st:

These 2 days were supposed to be a peaceful interlude in my hectic trip and would have been, except for one tiny factor – my nephew Ammu (Amarthya)! The kid is not yet 7 months, but is crawling, standing up with assistance and already experiencing insomnia. Plus of course everything ends up in his mouth. His parents are sleep deprived and are hoping he'll grow up and sleep normal hours. But then he'll start to talk...

I also attended a party hosted by the unit in honor of a former commander-in-charge and got to view the unit's history displayed in their mess. It's complicated, since most of it was under the British, against rulers like Tipu Sultan and surely against the Indian people. On the positive side, atleast the artefacts from that era are in India and not in some European or American museum...

I was told that the army is not as formal today as it was in decades past and can only say that I was glad of that. The career choice for Army wives is just one, teaching, if they want to stay in the cantonment and this was the topic of discussion for a long time. The lifestyle reminded me of other cloistered communities, such as immigrant ones, and the unique societal politics at play there. Thankfully Rekha, my sister-in-law, is goodhearted and generally likes the army life. And wants to be a teacher eventually!

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