Saturday, August 30, 2014

SLEEPING BEAUTY – A “clued-up” Army Wife’s Mantra for Wining and Dining in and out of Uniform

I have just finished reading SOLDIER AND SPICE (An Army Wife’s Life) by Aditi Mathur Kumar 

It is a delightful book – witty yet insightful.

I loved the peppy writing style, which keeps you in splits, engrossed from start to finish. 

The book has great Page Turning Quality (PTQ) and once you start reading it, the book is “unputdownable”, and I read it in one sitting.

Reading this hilarious story of an army wife reminded me of an unforgettable army wife who I had nicknamed “Sleeping Beauty”.

So, let me delve into my Humour in Uniform Archives and pull out this anecdote about “Sleeping Beauty” for you:

(Of course, I can’t match Aditi’s scintillating writing style, so you will have to bear with my rather prosaic and prolix rambling...)

SLEEPING BEAUTY 
A “clued-up” Army Wife’s Mantra for Wining and Dining in and out of Uniform
Unforgettable Memories of my Navy Life
A Spoof
By
VIKRAM KARVE

There are two kinds of military wives.

The first category comprises “clued-up” military wives:

1. Ladies who are aware of life in the military – girls who come from a military background, daughters of military officers, or girls who have seen the life of a military wife from close quarters as they have a relative or friend in the military or they know someone married to a military man, or because they have lived in the proximity of a military cantonment and are acquainted with the lifestyle. 

Nowadays, with the increasing number of “marriages in uniform”, you even have military wives who are serving military officers who are “know-it-all” on matters military.

There is a second category of newly married military wives:

2. Ladies who have had absolutely no exposure to military life – and hence these young naive and innocent girls are completely oblivious of the unique military culture and are totally unaware of the kind of social life a military wife has to lead.

“Sleeping Beauty” belonged to the second category.

She did not have a clue about army life.

She was born in a family of academicians and brought up in the tranquil environment of a university campus in a small town.

Since it was not a military town, the only persons she saw in uniform were the odd NCC officers on the university campus.

Of intellectual bent of mind and possessing an academic nature herself, she was pursuing her Ph. D. when there was a marriage proposal for her from an army officer Captain “X”.

Things moved fast, and suddenly she found herself married to Captain “X” and arrived with her newly wedded husband at the SP Marg Officers Mess in New Delhi.

In fact, it was in the same week that I arrived with my newly wedded wife at the same SP Marg Officers Mess in New Delhi, where we, Captain “X” and I, were living as happy bachelors for about one year, before we got married, in the same month, almost on the same day.

In those good-old “pre-jointmanship” days, the SP Marg Officers Mess was an inter-service combined Army-Navy Officers Mess, like Kota House.

But the happy situation, of bonhomie and camaraderie, did not last forever, since a few years later, in an act of “jointmanship”, the Army evicted Naval Officers from the SP Marg Officers Mess, and, in a retaliatory gesture of “jointmanship”, the Navy evicted all Army Officers from the Kota House Officers Mess.

Even today, as I hark back, I fondly cherish my glorious days at SP Marg Officers Mess, the atmosphere of bonhomie in the evenings when we all sat together on the lawns or in the bar enjoying our drinks.

During my SP Marg days, I made friends with a number of army officers – and one of my good friends from the army was Captain “X”.

On New Year’s Eve, we sat at the DSOI, downing peg after peg of rum, and suddenly we decided that we both had endured enough of bachelorhood and it was time to get married.

Within six months, we, “X” and I, were sitting together with our newly-wedded wives on the lawns of SP Marg Officers Mess.

Soon, we shifted to Curzon Road Apartments, and we were next door neighbours.

Our erstwhile mess-mates from SP Marg would invariably “bounce” us, whenever they were in the vicinity at Connaught Place or India Gate.

These bachelor officers would suddenly land up unannounced any time of the day and night, demanding food and drink – sometimes even at the oddest of hours, like on their way back from a late night movie show.

These impromptu food and booze sessions, which lasted till the wee hours of the morning, came as a big surprise for “Sleeping Beauty” who was used to the placid social life of a small town university campus where “early to bed, early to rise” was the norm.

Having never seen even a drop of alcohol in her parents’ home, these unrestrained drinking binges, where everyone consumed enormous amounts of alcohol and many officers got high and behaved with wild abandon, caused her even greater cultural shock.

However, she adapted herself to her new life, and to compensate for the sleep deprivation due to the late nights by sleeping during the day – hence I gave her the nickname: “Sleeping Beauty”.

One evening, around 7 PM, on my way to my flat, I saw “Sleeping Beauty” eating her dinner.

(Those of you who have lived in Curzon Road Apartments will know that the Kitchenette of the one room flat was located at the entrance, which opened in a corridor – and we mostly kept the door open for cross-ventilation).

So, as I walked down the corridor to my flat, I saw “Sleeping Beauty” standing before the gas stove with a plate in her hand.

The plate was filled with generous amounts of a variety of dishes and she was merrily eating away.

“Having dinner so early?” I asked her.

“No. No. I am just tasting the food to see it is okay,” she said.

“Tasting? So much?” I asked, pointing towards her filled plate.

She laughed, and said: “Okay. I will tell you. My husband has invited his boss and all the officers in his office and their wives for dinner. By the time they finish their drinks and have dinner it will be past midnight and I will feel very hungry by then. So, I am having my dinner now itself.”

“You are eating your dinner now itself, even before the guests arrive?” I asked her, flabbergasted.

“Yes. I am going to have my full meal – even the sweet dish. Then it doesn’t matter how long they keep drinking and whatever time they eat their food. I will have a second round of food with them just to keep up appearances, or maybe I will be a bit hungry by then,” she said.

I marveled at the earthy wisdom of the young bride – it was so breathtaking in its simplicity – a useful mantra for all hostesses, especially for military wives who have to entertain a lot.

I will always thank “Sleeping Beauty” for this pointer for hostesses, which I suggested to my wife and many ladies.

In fact, I started following Sleeping Beauty’s mantra myself once I joined the ranks of teetotallers who anxiously wait for dinner to be served while the boozers keep endlessly downing drink after drink.

So, if you are “fauji” wife, whenever you invite people for dinner, you know what to do.

Happy Wining and Dining in Uniform!

VIKRAM KARVE
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All Stories in this Blog are a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the stories are a figment of my imagination. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
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About Vikram Karve

A creative person with a zest for life, Vikram Karve is a retired Naval Officer turned full time writer and blogger. Educated at IIT Delhi, IIT (BHU) Varanasi, The Lawrence School Lovedale and Bishops School Pune, Vikram has published two books: COCKTAIL a collection of fiction short stories about relationships (2011) and APPETITE FOR A STROLL a book of Foodie Adventures (2008) and is currently working on his novel and a book of vignettes and an anthology of short fiction. An avid blogger, he has written a number of fiction short stories and creative non-fiction articles on a variety of topics including food, travel, philosophy, academics, technology, management, health, pet parenting, teaching stories and self help in magazines and published a large number of professional  and academic research papers in journals and edited in-house journals and magazines for many years, before the advent of blogging. Vikram has taught at a University as a Professor for 15 years and now teaches as a visiting faculty and devotes most of his time to creative writing and blogging. Vikram Karve lives in Pune India with his family and muse - his pet dog Sherry with whom he takes long walks thinking creative thoughts.

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