Looking back

A day like none other

I have recently noticed that nostalgia is becoming a big thing with me these days. A friend mentioned staff college the other day and a thousand memories came flooding! As I look back, I can’t help retreating into one such memory that turned into a milestone.

At that time, my son was 3 yr plus and had started going to his second school. It was that phase when going to my production unit wasn’t easy for obvious reasons; kiddo was too small, support system was zero and zero was my future plan for my work. But plan or no plan, creative itch is a real thing! It doesn’t let you sit easy. So, I would sit with my box of stones, beads and findings and string away happily! Did I tell you about our house there? It was nowhere near fancy but it was the last one in the lane and offered a seamless view of the tea estates. A lone house with green slanting roof always caught my eye. I was told it was Honey Irani’s. Not that it mattered. It was a beautiful setting where clouds would come in uninvited and leave without pausing.. like trespassers. Cold mornings, hot tea with Ani Choying Drolma’s soulful music- an ideal setting for a painter to paint, a writer to write, a walker to walk and for me to string, as that’s all I could do then. A particular incense stick that I bought from the green shop at upper Coonoor used to work its magic and I could be sitting and working for flat two hours without a care in the world. The only thing that would bring me back to reality was the alarm that was set to remind me that mini version of Mr Singh had to be picked up from school.

The mornings I didn’t want to work, I would just drive down to college for a coffee date with Mr. Singh(then WG CDR N. SINGH) at the café in the college as they used to get a 15 minutes break in between their classes.  A quick date with the spouse is sometimes just the thing one needs.

So one day I got the most unexpected call from Mr Singh in the afternoon that made me fall off my chair. He said we were expecting a very important guest at home in the evening and that I should not discuss it with anyone because of protocols but have a spread ready for the guest. As luck would have it, the maid had gone off to Chennai and I was losing my senses. There was no way I could cook, get the house in order and also decide what clothes to wear (now that was some pressure!) .. all at such short notice. Almost in panic, I decided to call Ramachandran, the chef who was famous in staff college for his exotic cooking. Now he happens to be an important person there, so when I told him I wanted him to reach my house in half an hour to cook as I had some guests coming over, he was offended and made no efforts to hide it. “Madam. I take bookings at least 15 days in advance. I don’t have time this month and I am now going to WGC for my duty. Please check for my availability next month “.  I humbly replied, “Please cancel your duty and come over. I cannot force you but I can tell you that you will be happy your entire life that you did this.” “Who is coming madam?” prompt came the question. “I am not at the liberty to disclose but you will thank me, I promise”. “I will call you back in 5 mins madam”, he hung up.

He called short of 5 mins and confirmed that he had cancelled his duty and then asked, almost whispering,” Madam, is Dr Kalam coming to your house?” I said as I smiled into the phone,” 9/5 Gurkha hills”.

I don’t know what came over me but I decided to prepare South Indian tamatar chutney that day. I wanted to give a personal touch in whatever way possible.  I googled the recipe and plunged into my first attempt before Ramachandran took over my kitchen and most authoritatively told me to leave him alone there. The commotion in the kitchen and my thumping heart almost drowned the siren blowing at a shrinking distance. The hill was cordoned off and soon, I heard the guards who appeared outside my house in quite a number. Ani Drolma, the incense stick, the soft lighting, the spread on the dining table, everything had been ‘stringed’ together into a harmonious and serene ambiance. Mr Singh reached home just in time, a few minutes ahead of the guest.

I had had the good fortune of meeting Dr Kalam many times, but hosting him in my humble abode was altogether an unparalleled experience. A man of simple living and simple tastes, all he picked was Idli and chutney out of the entire spread and to my delight, he took quite a few helpings of the chutney. I couldn’t be happier. Ramachandran came out of the kitchen for two minutes, requested for a picture with Dr Kalam and then left after wiping away the chaos that was there just a few hours back- leaving my kitchen was sparkling. The man was not famous for nothing.

As we settled I apologised to Dr Kalam for having missed his lecture earlier that evening because kids were not allowed in the college lectures and there was no one at home to take care of mine.  He then told me the gist of the lecture. We spoke about many things and then in the course of the conversation he asked about how my work was going, I said something to the effect that I am just a small entrepreneur. His response was something I shall never forget. He said, “Don’t say small. Entrepreneurs are very important as they generate employment for others”. Until then, I had always seen my work merely as an expression of me and my creativity. I had not given much thought to this aspect of my small venture- the support it lent to my small team of artisans.

That evening, a great mind in all its humility, gave me a fresh and inspiring perspective, energizing me for the journey that I was to undertake soon. When I look back now, how it has all manifested for me and my team of artisans- the impact of a small entrepreneur- it sure feels good!

The Journey

What happens when a fauji wife has a dream of her own and sets her mind to fulfilling it, while accompanying the husband on postings? She does makes life complicated for herself! But the rewards are worth it. I could certainly say that about myself.

My husband took voluntary retirement from the IAF in 2019. He flew the fighters. Fancy stuff. In Halwara, which was our first station after marriage, every time the windows of my modest house would rattle, I knew the boys, mine included, were dropping bombs, doing target practice miles away. It was thrilling. The ways of this life were so different than anything I had known. From Dining in nights to squadron breakfasts to men making way for the ladies to have their dinner first to always being called Ma’am…the chivalry…it was all so refreshing that for a while I forgot all about the creative bug in me. I was perfectly happy, being a wife and then a mom. While the creative bug in me was only dormant for a while and I didn’t know it would kick back with vengeance.

The harsh reality of Fauji life hit me in the form of our first posting when my son was barely 2 months. I could not have dreamt back then that this boy would be going to his 6th school by his 2nd grade!  Yes, that happened. Rather, that happened too. From Halwara to Bhuj and tambaram to Kalaikunda and many more in between and after. In Fauj we have a common joke that the most suitable business for us is that of Packers and movers.  It’s hardly a joke, it’s the story of our lives.

We live nomadic lives with a bigger sense of purpose, with all our material possessions downsized to fit 3 feet X 2 feet wooden/metal trunks more often than what we would like.  When those trunks are loaded and fitted snuggly into a truck, our only wish is that everything reaches safely and we readily get status accommodation as we reach the station…well it doesn’t always happen, I was going to discover.

In Bhuj, leave alone a status house, we didn’t even get accommodation inside the station. The other wish that everything should reach safely…well there was no way of telling as the trunks, except for the three with basic survival essentials, were going to stay locked for over a year, who knew!!!  Now like I didn’t already have challenges enough, the creative itch started in Bhuj again. The boys left the families back due to some situation and flew off to some distant place for an unknown duration and I, with a 2.3-month-old boy in a baby carrier bag, set out to find artisans in the by-lanes of the old town.  Luckily, I found one. Skilled but absolutely reluctant to trying anything new. I didn’t give up. Now that I had a functional unit close by and squadron was away and with the most wonderful CO’s wife I have ever had, there wasn’t much work to do with in the station. The creative bug in me rejoiced. It was alive again. The simple dream of being able to let loose, being able to create…. but the day dreaming had started too early for another posting came with in 2 months! Someone somewhere had a wicked sense of humour.  The artisan had just started aligning and my first three products had just got ready. Not that there was a way to sell them in the scenario and the online markets of today did not exist back then, but when was my dream ever about money? It was about the process, the journey. Have you ever been on a road trip where the journey is so beautiful that it slows you down? And you stop to smell the roses and admire the sights along the way.. As if there is no rush to reach the destination? Like one of those leisurely breathtaking drives on east coast road in Tamil Nadu. It was like that.

But in all practicality, where was the logic of doing the kind of work I wanted to do? And worse, where was peace without it? As Dr. Kalam used to say “Dreams is not what you see in your sleep, dream is something that does not let you sleep”. Now that I look back, I hadn’t slept in years.

What happens when a fauji wife has a dream of her own and sets her mind to fulfilling it, while accompanying the husband on postings? She does makes life complicated for herself! But the rewards are worth it. I could certainly say that about myself.

My husband took voluntary retirement from the IAF in 2019. He flew the fighters. Fancy stuff. In Halwara, which was our first station after marriage, every time the windows of my modest house would rattle, I knew the boys, mine included, were dropping bombs, doing target practice miles away. It was thrilling. The ways of this life were so different than anything I had known. From Dining in nights to squadron breakfasts to men making way for the ladies to have their dinner first to always being called Ma’am…the chivalry…it was all so refreshing that for a while I forgot all about the creative bug in me. I was perfectly happy, being a wife and then a mom. While the creative bug in me was only dormant for a while and I didn’t know it would kick back with vengeance.

The harsh reality of Fauji life hit me in the form of our first posting when my son was barely 2 months. I could not have dreamt back then that this boy would be going to his 6th school by his 2nd grade!  Yes, that happened. Rather, that happened too. From Halwara to Bhuj and tambaram to Kalaikunda and many more in between and after. In Fauj we have a common joke that the most suitable business for us is that of Packers and movers.  It’s hardly a joke, it’s the story of our lives.

We live nomadic lives with a bigger sense of purpose, with all our material possessions downsized to fit 3 feet X 2 feet wooden/metal trunks more often than what we would like.  When those trunks are loaded and fitted snuggly into a truck, our only wish is that everything reaches safely and we readily get status accommodation as we reach the station…well it doesn’t always happen, I was going to discover.

In Bhuj, leave alone a status house, we didn’t even get accommodation inside the station. The other wish that everything should reach safely…well there was no way of telling as the trunks, except for the three with basic survival essentials, were going to stay locked for over a year, who knew!!!  Now like I didn’t already have challenges enough, the creative itch started in Bhuj again. The boys left the families back due to some situation and flew off to some distant place for an unknown duration and I, with a 2.3-month-old boy in a baby carrier bag, set out to find artisans in the by-lanes of the old town.  Luckily, I found one. Skilled but absolutely reluctant to trying anything new. I didn’t give up. Now that I had a functional unit close by and squadron was away and with the most wonderful CO’s wife I have ever had, there wasn’t much work to do with in the station. The creative bug in me rejoiced. It was alive again. The simple dream of being able to let loose, being able to create…. but the day dreaming had started too early for another posting came with in 2 months! Someone somewhere had a wicked sense of humour.  The artisan had just started aligning and my first three products had just got ready. Not that there was a way to sell them in the scenario and the online markets of today did not exist back then, but when was my dream ever about money? It was about the process, the journey. Have you ever been on a road trip where the journey is so beautiful that it slows you down? And you stop to smell the roses and admire the sights along the way.. As if there is no rush to reach the destination? Like one of those leisurely breathtaking drives on east coast road in Tamil Nadu. It was like that.

But in all practicality, where was the logic of doing the kind of work I wanted to do? And worse, where was peace without it? As Dr. Kalam used to say “Dreams is not what you see in your sleep, dream is something that does not let you sleep”. Now that I look back, I hadn’t slept in years.


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4 thoughts on “Looking back

  1. Prerna,

    You have summed up a very strenuous part of your life so well, that it would motivate the fauji wives to enjoy their packing & moving actions..

    You could do well to address the fauji wives thru your blogs or by webinars, to find happiness in their gypsy like living.

    Wish you well in your endeavours.

    Sincerely,

    Ravi Nath

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