A young cousin of mine by marriage got engaged today. An Army officer’s daughter, she is getting married to an Army officer too. Needless to say (wonder why I am saying it then…..but there it is), the event had a definite “fauji”presence in the organising part of it all.
The party was spread over three sections of the same venue. The festivities in one, the bar in another and the food outdoors. The nostalgia hit when I entered the bar. By the virtue of just their presence, the staff from the Army had transformed the otherwise run-of the mill room into an exact replica of a bar in ANY defence officers club or Mess. Any minute I expected bowls of peanuts to appear on the tables, while stern looking upright gentlemen filled the wood panelled room with smoke, adding to the existing unmistakable smell of beer. The lights would be dim, there would be no children in sight and there would a buzz of conversation all around from the packed room. Bearers in white would be serving the tables. Officers grouped around the bar counter, while their wives – in elegant chiffon and pearls would be conversing animatedly. The next Ladies Club Meeting or they could also be gossiping you know….human nature is pretty constant that way! Stiff young men, pulling out chairs, holding open doors and standing up for the ladies in a different brand of chivalry altogether.
Passing through that room, was much like suddenly going back in time briefly and then hitting the present in 2 minutes. In a movie, the scene would go Eastman colour or black and white while I walked through and back to reality Technicolor.
The wave of nostalgia evoked a rush of memories from the past. You see, I grew up in the Indian Air Force. And for that I will be thankful for ever.
For it was a good life. And educated me with the best learnt lessons for living. Miles away from main cities, celebrating all festivals as a community, walking to school, scores of friends, moving cities, towns , houses every 2 years or so. Packing, unpacking, setting up. Trunks covered with bright cloth as seating. Cherished pieces cushioned with newspaper in huge tea-chests and trunks stencilled with Papa’s name and rank. A curious permanence in our transitory existence. Taking change in our stride….for it was constant. Writing letters to friends across the country, making new ones with ease in the new school. Adjustability. Maintaining relationships. The charm of living in converted barracks with the rattling of the Calcutta Rajdhani as it whizzed by in Bamrauli to the joys of swimming at The Secunderabad Club. From chaste Hindi to the Hyderabadi lilt. Sharing-Oranges from Nagpur, Mawa Kachauri from Jodhpur. Drift wood from the East and the most mouth-watering boondi laddoos from Lovely Sweets-Jalandhar. Learning, observing and enjoying the diversity in people-without prejudice. Celebrating Holi, Christmas and Id with equal fervour, the differences in religions being an alien concept. Growing with it. Living as community in our joys and sorrows.
Calling –on in the evenings, parties at home…there was no better learning ground in which to learn event management! Till date, the best organised parties I have attended have had a fauji kid somewhere in the background! Even my chosen field of hospitality is bursting with us possibly for it gives us the change we are used to and the avenues to systematise and arrange.
I speak of Bamrauli and Begumpet….but put in Tezpur, Shillong, Jodhpur, Hakimpet, Bareily, Bakshi-Ka-Taalab, Adampur, Yelahanka, Lohegaon, AFA, Gandhinagar and scores of other names-but there are sure to be other memories of growing up. Of other Air Force Kids…some of them my friends. Still.
I have been a “civilian” for a long time now. In my mind and heart however, I will always be an Air Force child for I spent my formative years with it. And a presence that formed me , is thus part of me so it cannot then be apart from me….
(This post was published as “Roots and Wings” by Unboxed Writers http://unboxedwriters.com on October 13, 2012)