A new station! Time again for another Husband’s Nite!
Husbands’ Nites are a quintessential part of life in the armed forces. One wonders, however, why a ‘Wife’s Nite’ has never been accorded the same recognition in the social agenda, considering that women, to a large extent, comprise the backbone of bonhomie and bonding.
An announcement was made at the regular monthly ladies meet. These events are attended by the ladies of different units. In this particular instance, it was attended by a full house.
The finer details of the event were supposedly meant to be kept a secret, but as you have probably guessed, it was a badly kept one. It was clear the husbands were in the know of the of the forthcoming special occasion.
The selection process began in full earnest
The ball was set rolling and a ‘selection committee’ of four ‘impartial’ ladies was constituted, with the explicit task of choosing around 25 to 30 of the most attractive, charming and comely lasses, who would put up a Fashion Show, which would be the centerpiece of the evening.
Those desirous of participating were asked to stand, and the wannabes were informed that the selection round would begin shortly. The exhilaration was palpable. Hurriedly and as covertly as possible, combs were run through one’s hair, pallus were adjusted, bellies were sucked in and body postures were perfected.
As instructed, the aspirants rose, row by row and the committee of four, conveyed its choices, by a nod here and silence there, indicating who should step out and who should not. The overall scenario was replete with both signs of elation as well as dejection, notwithstanding the efforts of some attempting to cloak their responses with stoic calm.
Team spirit at its very best
The selected ones were shepherded to an earmarked area and the rejected ones were bypassed with sympathetic smiles. An animated discussion began at the initiation of the relatively more seasoned ladies as to the theme, the costumes and accessories, the background music, compering and other related issues, with the proposed participants and senior ladies of the respective units paying close attention, to what their responsibilities entailed.
The theme decided upon was – ‘Festive Ethnic Wear’. An impromptu parade was held, in which the ‘chosen few’ sashayed down a makeshift ramp, striking various poses and show-casing captivating postures, to which the others responded with varying reactions of amusement, resentment, envy as well as uncalled for remarks in undertones.
The remaining ladies were divided into groups who would manage the making and dispatch of invitation cards, the menu for cocktails and dinner, the decorations, the welcome for the ‘honoured’ guests. They would also organise games and a host of other tasks, making the entire programme an inclusive one.
Excitement abounded as the Husband’s Nite approached
Preparations, planning and practice began in full swing. Most ladies fished out the attire they would be donning, from their closets, while the more ambitious ones, rushed to the best tailors in town, with the hope of stealing the thunder. The result was stunning costumes; the confidentiality surrounding their proposed ensembles being accorded top priority.
To add to the competitive spirit, and to bring out the participants best performance, it was also mentioned that the three best participants would be chosen, by a special team of notables. They would be awarded recognitions such as Fashion Queen, the first runners-up and the second runners-up.
The ladies had a thoroughly enjoyable time despite the squabbles over who would wear what, the sequence of the parade and other minor matters. The overall camaraderie, interspersed with pettiness of many flavours, smirks, smothered giggles and digs at targeted individuals, over cups of tea and snacks, added to the ‘fun quotient’.
Time for the rehearsal, two days before the event
On the scheduled date, just minutes before the rehearsal was due to begin, raised voices could be heard from the green-room.
Four ladies were locked in an argument over what appeared to be a hair-dryer. During those days–40 years ago–not many people owned hair-dryers and beauty parlours were at some distance from the cantonments.
It transpired that a hair-dryer, belonging to one of the ladies of a particular unit, had circulated from one lady to another, getting back to the rightful owner, just before she had to leave for the rehearsal venue. While her hair looked a trifle unruly and unkempt, the beneficiaries stood out with immaculately styled hairdos.
The rehearsal had another unexpected fallout. The ‘leading lady’ of the fashion show, who was tall by all standards, but keen to look even taller in high pencil heels, tripped and fell. Her right shoe got caught between two planks and the heel came off.
She cried out more in embarrassment, than in pain, as everybody rushed to her rescue. Hats off to her dauntless determination, for doing her bit in bare feet, with a hardly discernible limp, despite the rather untoward beginning.
The rest of the rehearsal went off smoothly with no hiccups. Thank God for rehearsals! The two unfortunate episodes proved to be a great learning experiences.
The much-awaited fashion show
The final evening arrived amid much excitement, high expectations and a minor degree of understandable trepidation. The compere became nervous and wished everybody a Happy ‘Sakar Makranti’ instead of Makar Sankranti, which happened to fall on the day of the event, causing a few raised eyebrows, some indulgent half-smiles, but no giggles for a change.
One of the participants appeared with only one long earring and a badly fixed hair ornament that came off on stage. One of the strings of marigolds, which hung precariously in front of the top of the stage suddenly snapped as if in a state of uncontrollable excitement.
Barring these minor issues, the show went off immaculately and with clockwork precision. Hugs and back-slapping were witnessed backstage and the Fashion Queen was crowned, amid much fanfare. The two runners- up awardees were applauded by one and all. The bar was then thrown open and a feeling of delight prevailed among the gentlemen.
The event was a grand success. Team spirit and camaraderie had triumphed. At the end of it, a feeling of geniality prevailed. No doubt a few friendships waned and some new alliances were forged. But with time, the dust settled and all was well.
In due course the ladies dispersed to new stations, with their husbands’ postings and this became a part of the many memories to be recalled and cherished.
The fauji way of life
Life in an isolated military station comes with its own challenges. Ladies are left for prolonged periods of time to fend for themselves, when the men are away on courses and trainings.
To keep their spirits afloat, a sense of belonging is very important. Young newly-married women, in particular, who come from diverse backgrounds, are groomed into becoming a part of the culture of being mutually supportive and helpful. This led to a feeling of being cared for and protected.
The ‘Happiness Quotient’ of the family has a direct bearing on the well-being of the husband. Social interactions are, therefore, a necessary ingredient an army wife’s life and strengthens the feeling of being part of a community.
The armed forces also play a crucial role in the process of national integration, as families coming from varied parts of the country, enjoy the rare experience of living in different parts of India. In the process, they imbibr the local culture and make it a part of their world-view.
If one looks into the deeper aspect of what appears to be trivia, with regard to social activities, one realises that social activities and interaction go a long way in promoting camaraderie and goodwill. These aspects are absolutely essential in order to foster the feeling of oneness.