Friday, May 5, 2017

Humor in Uniform – A “Military” Love Story

A “MILITARY” LOVE STORY
A Fictional Spoof
By
VIKRAM KARVE

The Lady Army Officer puts on her evening mess uniform – black trousers, white full sleeved shirt tucked in with the regimental cummerbund.

She looks at herself in the full length mirror.

She starts from her polished black shoes  and moves her eyes up  till her shining shoulder tabs.

This is probably the last time she would be wearing the three stars of a Captain.

Tomorrow  after 6 years of service  she would be promoted to the rank of Major  and would be wearing the rank badge of the Three Lions National Emblem of a Major.

She looks at her face in the mirror.

She likes what she sees.

She looks smart and tidy, well-groomed, with her hair trimmed neatly – well turned out – just like an army officer should be.

But as she looks a bit closer  she feels a tremor of anxiety.

She sees those first signs of the process of ageing – infinitesimal  almost indiscernible  but indisputable – two minute furrows on her forehead, a slight coarsening of the skin below her eyes, a strand of grey hair, just one, a slight one, but it is there.

Is time running out for her...?

Will she have to live the rest of her life all alone  loveless and lonely...?

She remembers the time she spent at home, with her parents  on her annual leave  from which she has just returned.

Keen to get her married  her mother had lined up three suitable boys for her.

Sadly  nothing had worked out and she had drawn a blank.

Three boys  three rejections  total disaster.

In fact  in the first case  the boy hadn’t even bothered to see her.

The boy’s mother had rejected her outright the moment she came to know that the girl was in the army.

“I don’t want a gun-toting daughter-in-law...” the snooty woman said.

And then the mother of the prospective groom admonished the lady army officer’s mother: “Why did you waste our time...? You should have written in the matrimonial advertisement that your daughter was in the army.”

In the matrimonial ads  and in the marriage bureau forms  the lady army officer’s mother had discreetly avoided mentioning that the bride was an Army Officer.

She just said that her daughter was a Computer Engineer.

Maybe – the lady army officer’s mother did not want to scare away prospective grooms in the very first instance.

Once they liked her daughter  maybe then it was the appropriate time to tell them that she was an army officer.

But even that hadn’t worked.

The “Techie” Boy from Bangalore had liked her.

“I am sure you can manage a transfer to Bangalore so we can live together...” he had asked.

“I don’t think so,” she had said, “I have just been posted to the North-East and I will have to serve for at least 2-3 years over there.”

“Then why don’t you quit the army...? I am sure that with your qualifications you will get a good job in Bangalore – maybe I can help you out  and you can join my company itself...” he had said.

“I cannot quit the army right now...” she had said, “I have just finished 6 years service and I have to complete my tenure of 10 years.”

“That’s 4 years more – I can’t wait for 4 years for marriage...” he had said.

“Why wait – we can get married now…” she had said.

“What is the point of getting married now and living separately for the first 4 years of our marriage...?” he had remarked, “well I don’t want to do that – I want to live together with my wife – at least for the first few years of marriage. Why marry if you have to live separately...?”

The 3rd boy was an MBA – an NRI investment banker living in New York.

He was okay with a long distance marriage – at least for 4 years till she quit the army.

“I’ll try for an assignment somewhere nearby in the east – in the Gulf, or Hong Kong, or Singapore, or maybe even in India, so we can meet more often...” he had said.

But there was one big hitch – the boy was an American Citizen.

And – she knew  that being in the army  she could not marry a foreigner.

Obviously  the boy wasn’t going to give up his coveted American citizenship.

“Maybe we can work something out...” her father had said, “she can apply for permission or maybe they will allow her to quit on these grounds.”

But  it was too late.

The NRI boy’s mother had lined up a bevy of girls for him to see during his two week Christmas Vacation in India.

With so many girls dying to go to America  the NRI boy was hot-property  affluent, handsome – a most eligible bachelor – and that very evening the boy’s mother had called to inform them that her son’s marriage had been fixed.

The Army Officer’s mother was upset and said gloomily: “I told you not to join the Army. You topped in Computer Engineering. You had such a good job in the best software company. They were even going to send you abroad to work onsite. You had such a bright future in IT. And you suddenly give up a bright career in IT and join the army. You are almost 29 now – all your classmates are married, most have become mothers too. It is so difficult to find a boy who wants to marry an army officer – that’s not the image they have of a wife. I think the only option for you is to find some army officer who is ready to marry you.”

Maybe her mother was right – women army officers are simply not “marriage material” in the civilian marriage market.

Her brother-in-law Aditya had said the same thing too.

Yes – Aditya  her school and college buddy  who had married her younger sister.

“I feel it would be best for you to find a husband in uniform...” he had said.

“What do you mean...?”

“When civilian boys come to know that you are an army officer  it conjures up an image of a macho woman – and most boys get put off. After all  men want a feminine woman as a wife.”

“Don’t I look feminine...?”

“You used to – before you joined the army.”

“What do you mean...? Have I changed...?”

“Of course you have changed – it is inevitable – after all  you are a woman in a man’s profession.”

The Woman Army Officer was stunned  dumbstruck  and they stared at each other for some time.

Then  after a while  Aditya said: “I want to tell you something I have not told anyone – not even you.”

“What...?”

“I was in love with you. I wanted to marry you. I was going to propose to you...”

“Then why didn’t you...?”

“You suddenly went and joined the army. And then you changed…”

“So – you married my younger sister…?”

The woman army officer felt terrible.

Being rejected by three boys was bad enough – and now this – Aditya – the boy who was in love with her had married her younger sister. 

All this had happened just because she had joined the army. 

Quitting her promising job in IT and joining the army was the biggest mistake of her life.

She regretted her spur-of-the-moment decision.

Everything was going on fine.

She had a well paying job in the best software company where her talents were valued and her career prospects were bright.

Life was comfortable.

She took the company bus to work from her home in Aundh to her workplace in Hinjewadi.

And on weekends  she and her friends enjoyed the delights that a lovely cosmopolitan metro like Pune had to offer – movies in multiplexes, shopping in malls, eating out in restaurants, or just loafing around town.

Then  one day  she had seen that army recruitment advertisement.

And  in a sudden burst of jingoism  fuelled by a spurt of adventurism  she had made the worst decision of her life.

She quit her excellent job in the best software company  and she joined the army.

Everyone had advised her against it – her parents, her friends, her bosses, her colleagues  even her best friend Aditya who was her school and college buddy and now her work-colleague in the software firm where she worked.

But she was in no mood to listen.

Women IT Techies were treated on par with men. 

Men and women had equal opportunity. 

In the Software Industry  there was no glass ceiling  and she would be able to work for as long as she wanted.

But here in the army it was a feudal patriarchal culture.

In the military  women were treated with kid gloves, as if they were sissies  and for women  career opportunities were limited.

For male officers  the army offered a lifetime career – they could become Generals.

But women officers could only serve for 10 years  at most 14  and then they were left high-and-dry.

Time was running out.

6 years were over – 4 more – maybe another 4 – and she would be left to fend for herself all alone.

Even work-wise  she would be neither here or there.

10 years of “jack of all trades” experience in the army was nowhere as good as 10 years specialized domain experience in IT.

If she were lucky – at most  she would land up a run-of-the-mill job in HR  and be content to watch her erstwhile civilian colleagues zoom up the ladder.

She dreaded the worst case scenario – she would be a spinster in her 30’s  unmarriageable  unemployable  and destined to spend the rest of her life as a lonely maid.

She did not want that to happen to her.

She had to get married.

And  if she wanted to get married  it seemed that there was only one option left – she would have to find a “military” husband in uniform.

The few of her batch-mates who were married had got married to fellow army officers.

It was quite easy for a lady army officer to get a male officer to fall in love with her.

Starved of female companionship in the insular world of military cantonments  male army officers were quite vulnerable.

In fact  some of the shrewd women officers had even meticulously planned contrived romances  and specifically targeted fellow army officers in uniform  culminating in successful matrimony with “prized catches”.

But somehow she had not thought it proper to marry a colleague in uniform – she liked to keep her work relationships strictly professional  and considered these liaisons in uniform as fraternization.

But now – maybe it was time for her to take a reality check  and change her views.

But then  there were hardly any suitable male officers out here in this Godforsaken place.

She regretted that she had unnecessarily opened her mouth in the party when that male chauvinist General was criticizing female officers.

After downing a few drinks  the General had loudly commented that allowing women to join the army was a big mistake – and he made demeaning comments about the capabilities of women army officers and remarked that all women officers wanted soft jobs in comfortable stations while their male counterparts had to slog it out in tough remote places.

She had protested  and she said that women were as tough as men  and she boasted that she was ready to serve anywhere and undergo the same hardship as her male counterparts.

Maybe her outburst had annoyed the General and the Top Brass.

Within a week she was posted to this remote and desolate place in the back of beyond.

At least in her previous station  there were a number of eligible bachelor male officers who could be considered as prospective husbands.

But out here  in this remote and isolated far-flung place  there is no one.

There is just one male unmarried officer in the unit around her age – the Adjutant – but then he is already engaged to his childhood sweetheart.

The two subalterns are immature kids  just 22 or 23  and they seem to be engrossed with each other.

And all the other officers are married.

The lady army officer feels lonely for she has no friends in this desolate place.

She scrupulously avoids socializing with her married male colleagues.

Some have a “glad eye”  and you can never tell the proclivities of anyone  plus there is always a danger that their jealous wives get unnecessarily suspicious and complain to higher-ups.

Besides the lady army officer  there are three single officers in the unit  living in the officers’ mess – the Adjutant and two subalterns.

The “Darby and Joan” subaltern couple seem to be obsessed with each other and keep to themselves, preoccupied in a world of their own, most of the time. 

They give her smiles of forced geniality and call her Ma’am – but they hardly talk to her  except for the customary salutes and “good morning” “good evening” greetings whenever they cross paths.

The love-smitten Adjutant is in his own world forever thinking of his fiancée.

He has gone to his hometown on leave to get engaged to his fiancée.

That is all she knows about him  since the adjutant is quite an introvert who does not talk much beyond pleasantries and shop-talk.

All this train of thought makes her feel gloomy about her future.

The Lady Army Officer looks at her watch.

It is 7:30 PM – or 1930 Hours – as they say in Army parlance.

The mess hall will open at 8 for dinner  so there is time for a drink in the bar.

Yes  tonight she definitely needs a stiff drink to soothe her downcast spirits.

She locks her room and walks towards the bar of the officers’ mess.

She opens the glass door, enters the bar room, and walks towards the bar counter.

“Back from leave...?” she hears a familiar voice.

Taken aback  the lady army officer turns  and she sees the Adjutant sitting on a sofa in the corner of the bar-room.

“Good Evening, Sir...” she wishes the Adjutant.

“Good Evening...” he says to her.

“Sir  back from leave so early...?” she asks him.

“Come, sit with me...” the Adjutant says.

He rises and gestures for her to sit on the sofa opposite him.

The lady army officer sits on the sofa.

“What’s your poison...?” the Adjutant asks her.

The Adjutant seems to be behaving quite strangely.

She has never seen him in such a gregarious mood before.

“I’ll have Rum and Coke, Sir...” she says.

“Rum and Coke...? That’s great...!!! You too seem to be in a drinking mood. I normally drink Rum-Pani – but I’ll have Rum and Coke too...” the Adjutant says – and he gestures to the barman to get the drinks.

The barman places their Rum-and-Coke drinks before them.

They sit opposite each other in silence, sip from their glasses.

“Sir  you’ve come back early from leave...?” the lady army officer asks the Adjutant, trying to break the silence.

“Yes – I had 15 days leave left  but I have reported back early...” he says.

“Sir – how was your engagement...?” she asks.

“What bloody engagement...? There was no engagement...” he says.

“No engagement...? But I remember you telling me that you were going to get engaged to your fiancée during this leave.”

“She dumped me. They cancelled the engagement. Me  my family  everyone  we all became a laughing stock. I felt so bad that I just couldn’t stand it anymore – so I came back.”

“Oh My God – I am sorry, Sir...”

“Do you know – we were going steady since my NDA days. I was in my Fifth Term when I met her at the NDA ball. She was in her first year of Engineering. I wanted to join the Arms, the Infantry or Armoured Corps  but I opted for the Technical Services  so that I could be with her in Pune while I was doing my Degree Engineering Course – that is how much I was in love with her – even more than my career.”

The Adjutant pauses – and he has a big gulp from his glass – and he signals the barman for another round of drinks.

“And then, Sir, what happened...?” the lady army officer asks.

“After finishing her engineering she got a job in IT  in a top software company in Pune. We wanted to get married but her parents kept on postponing it on some pretext or the other – let her settle down, let her go abroad for onsite assignment – then, this time she remained in America for more than a year, and now she’s switched jobs, she’s got a really good job and has decided to remain there – I think forever – that’s what it looks like – the last time we spoke she asked me if it is possible for me to quit the army and join her in America.”

“Sir, if you love her that much – why don’t you try...?”

“Are you crazy...? You are a short service commission officer and they won’t even leave you till you complete 10 years – you think they will let an ex-NDA permanent commission officer quit the army so easily...? And why should I leave the army anyway – this is my chosen career and I like it.”

“Sir, someone has to compromise...”

“It’s too late now. Do you know what her father said...? He said that his daughter was out of my league – that she was earning much more than me and had much better career prospects than me and he did not want her to quit her job and waste her life by becoming a full-time army officer’s homemaker wife dutifully following her husband like an appendage on postings to Godforsaken places like this one.”

“But you could have managed…”

“The fact is that while her father was saying all this  she just remained quiet. I think she too was having second thoughts now that her career had taken off so well and that too in the US. I think ambition prevailed over love.”

“Yes, Sir, I think many girls are like that nowadays – they put career above marriage...” the lady army officer says, “but it is the same problem for lady officers as well – civilians don’t want to marry army officers, male or female.”

“Is it so...? Then it looks like the best place where I can find a wife is within the army. I think I better begin searching for some eligible lady officers…”

“You don’t need to search very far, Sir...” the lady army officer says.

The Adjutant keeps down his glass on the table  and he looks intently at the lady army officer.

Then  he says to her: “Am I thinking correctly – what you are saying – are you proposing marriage to me – I hope you are serious…?”

“Yes, Sir  I am in the same boat too. Why not we give it a try...? You and me – let’s get married. Maybe it will be a marriage of convenience – but then…” the lady army officer says.

“Yes  why not we give it a try...? Let’s get married. And do you know – the Army is encouraging such marriages in uniform nowadays – they want Army Officers to marry each other – okay  let’s get married  maybe they will give us spouse postings and post us at the same stations so we can be together…” the adjutant says.

They look at each other  into each other’s eyes.

“I am feeling good...” the lady army officer says.

“Me too...” the Adjutant says.

“That calls for a drink...!!!” they both say in unison.

They clink their glasses and start laughing together.

And soon – the Lady Officer and the Gentleman Officer get married.

They become husband and wife – a “military” couple in uniform.


EPILOGUE

If you look around in the 3 Defence Services – Army, Navy and Air Force – you will see that most women officers marry their male counterparts in uniform.

You may have wondered why so many Lady Officers prefer to marry Gentleman Officers – but now  you know the reason why – most women “fauji” officers marry their erstwhile “brother” officers.

Of course – the services encourage such “marriages in uniform” by giving various incentives like spouse posting etc – and – these “couples in uniform” live happily ever after.

VIKRAM KARVE
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Disclaimer:
1. This story is a fictional spoof, satire, pure fiction, just for fun and humor, no offence is meant to anyone, so take it with a pinch of salt and have a laugh.
2. 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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