Coming from a 'civilian' background, I had no clue that faujis speak a completely different language. So, I was surprised at my husband's surprise over my addressing my boss by her first name. "That's how we address colleagues, don't we?" I said, at which his eyes almost popped out. "She is your boss--super-boss--isn't she? Isn't it considered disrespectful to address her by her first name?"I couldn't help but burst into hysterical laughter.
That was my first ever insight into how faujis think. Having been married for only a year and with my husband on a 'field posting' I know I have a lot more to learn and can happily claim to be ignorant of fauji manners for some more time. I have goofed up a number of times and I am still learning to fit in with the tribe. I have bid people adieu with a "bye bye" rather than the acceptable "good evening" while departing 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 'sahib' was in an important meeting.
As soon as you realize there are no 'exceptions' in the army, your attempt to blend in begins.
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.
The first few months as an army spouse can be quite intimidating, especially if you're a civilian who prefers to live in pyjamas, grey t-shirts and nerdy glasses. You do learn to blend in, but it doesn't happen overnight. For me, acceptance came in four stages:
Finding everything funny
I initially found many of my husband's observations utterly weird and funny, such as on the matter of calling my boss by name. Then I heard him addressing his boss and the 'sirring' did not stop for more than 30 seconds in half an hour of the conversation. "That's why, that's why, you are jealous, husband," I exclaimed. He smiled, but disapprovingly.
Learning that rules are rules
One of my husband's course-mates, who I happily addressed by his first name made a point to address me as "ma'am" even when I insisted that I was 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 I'd better just get used to being addressed as ma'am.
It helps to have a husband who kindly circles the 1930 hours written in the invitation card and scribbles 7.30pm over it.
You fake it...
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 pyjamas (I have my own theory about comfort and 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! Maybe one more time!"--that's how it begins. Then you realize it's not that difficult to blend in.
...till you make it
Over a period of time you 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 seen the sincerity with which people try to make a new army wife feel in place. So, though old habits die hard, I make small efforts to fit in. It helps to have a husband who kindly circles the 1930 hours written in the invitation card and scribbles 7.30pm over it before handing it over to me.
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