One black tin box and you have furniture; a roof, even that of a tent, makes up for home and friends and colleagues become family. What more do you need to celebrate Diwali? The ethos of the army percolate down to the families of our soldiers- nothing is impossible, not even celebrating a festival that demands grandeur.
The celebrity amongst the festivals, Diwali, bows down to the indomitable spirit of the soldier. Whether it is the Himalayan heights of Siachen, the desert of Rajasthan or the vibrant jungles of North East, nothing will stop a soldier from reveling in the festivities. The wives are not far behind.
A blushing bride of my soldier, I was looking forward to celebrating my first Diwali with him. Cometh the day and not cometh the man! Exigencies of his profession ensured that while being in the same station, he was absent from the celebrations. He came home only next morning. In that experience, was an important message that most wives of soldiers understand sooner than later. You gotta keep the flag flying high- with or without the man.
The fauji wives share their stories
“You get used to it. It is tougher on the kids. To my daughter, I draw the corollary between her school holidays and my husband’s leave plans. She understands that papa will come home when he gets his holidays from ‘his school’. But I ensure we celebrate,” says Shelly Saxena.
Sunayana Rath quit her corporate career to marry a soldier. She agrees, “Definitely, the kids bear the brunt. I involve both my kids in getting the house prepped for the evening. Between making the rangoli, drawing the cards and getting ready for the festivities, the edge of their father’s absence gets taken off.”
It is not just the seasoned wives who gracefully deal with the curveball thrown at them. Shalu Chauhan, a young wife of an army officer quips, “We celebrated our first Diwali in the guest room but we decorated it like home with flowers, lights etc. It was our home away from home.”
Priya Patel is currently staying alone with her son as her husband is posted in the field (A field posting is one in which the officer has to brave harsher conditions than usual and his family cannot accompany him there. These are usually Indian borders). She says, “While I wish my husband could be present for Diwali, I fully comprehend the demands of his profession. With my son, I prefer to celebrate anyway. He thinks his father is staying in a hostel and gets to come home only on vacations.”
Happiness is a state of mind and who internalizes this better than the woman who stays behind to take care of home, kids, family. The absence may be felt most on birthdays, anniversaries and festivals but you take it in your stride. You blow the candles, cut the cake and light the crackers. Like with everything else in life, you wing it.
Diwali is my Christmas and I will be ushering in the Gods alone, this year too. Instead of sobbing about the empty seat, I will celebrate on behalf of two. I will blow up double the crackers. I will live it up twice.
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