Being an Army Brat, till I reached class 10, I had studied in seven different schools in different parts of the country. Generally our postings and in effect my friendships lasted for 2-3 years and then it was always “Pack&Move”. But by the time we reached those senior school years, my parents thought, they had had enough and should now, settle down. Having done my tenth, twelfth and then Graduation from one city, I made some very close friends. But said my good byes again when I got married to an army officer and started the same journey, but in a very different manner, now as an Army Wife.
Luckily after a few years, we got posted near my home town, and my excitement knew no bounds. The first thing I wanted to do after setting up my Army accommodation was to call my civilian friends all over to my place.We got together and after shaking the whole block with our laughter, I took them out for a stroll in the cantonment. It was that day, when it hit me, that the things we have, we so easily take them for granted. As I showed them around the various parts of the Army Cantonment, I realized it myself “how lucky I was to be living in an Army cantonment”. Indian Army cantonments are established with a motto to be self sustaining residential complexes for Army families and there is nothing like a life in an Army cantonment. It is not because of Army facilities in an Army cantonment but also because of Army Culture.
The impeccable layout
As my friends entered the cantonment they were truly mesmerized by the highest standards of cleanliness and maintenance. The well mowed lawns, wide and neat roads with pavements on sides, walking plaza, well marked sign-boards left them thinking, “Are we in India”?
The green surroundings
Every Army cantt, be it big or small, open or closed, is always a treat to the eyes. The tall, towering lush green trees are so soothing. They make the air so much better to breathe. My friends couldn’t imagine that air could be so clean and fresh. With every city throwing out smoke like a chimney, it came upon me that I was actually living in a ‘Pollution-Free’ zone.
Safe Haven for Children
All of them were so surprised that I let my kids go to play in the park all by themselves. The fact that the place was safer for kids to move around on their own, was something they just couldn’t comprehend. Army Park and gardens are regularly maintained too. Also, the availability of Army Schools (including a pre-school), swimming pool, horse writing, skating-rink etc. are such a blessing for the Army Kids or any fauji Family. We even have ASHA Schools for special kids with special requirements.
One more thing that really surprised them was that as we passed by someone, I wished them and they wished me. I told them that greeting people come very naturally to us. Even with people we don’t know, a smile is the least any fauji would share. It’s just not that, we also believe in celebrating all festivals together irrespective of individual caste,creed or religion. This is the bare essence of Indian Army culture.
I then took them to the Army Officers’ Institute and then the unit Mess, and told them about our Party places where we love celebrating birthdays,anniversary or other formal ceremonies. Each Army cantt has such Army clubs as small as a Unit Mess or as huge as clubs like DSOI or Army officers Institute at various stations. It was then that they understood, why Army people don’t really cherish going to civilian parties and events. I felt so proud when they said that the Mess was way better than the Resorts and Clubs they go to.
The Sports Complex
The gymnasium, spa, badminton, squash, lawn tennis and basket ball courts, were like the cherry on the cake.there would be several sports complexes around in an army cantonment dedicated to fitness. ‘A soldier has to be fit’, I told them. It’s just not only the Army Officer and soldiers indulge themselves into various sports and fitness regimes but also the Army families.
I told them how we encourage our soldier’s families to learn and master new things. Courses on Driving, Computers, English Speaking, NTT, B.Ed, Beautician are not just giving the wives of soldiers, the much needed confidence but also help them contribute financially. Such programs are run under Army Wives Welfare Association initiative with an objective of empowering Army families and their kids. The welfare is integral part of Indian Army life.
The AWWA Complex can embarrass any shopping arcade in civil. We can buy our groceries,vegetables,get our clothes stitched by the tailor,buy boots and shoes,stationery and what not? We can even relish the delicious food in the Army cafeteria. AWWA complexes are our very own shopping complexes where various amenities are established within a hands reach of Army families at reasonable price.
Every Army cantonment has an Army canteen also known as CSD which cater for our daily needs and groceries at discounted price. They can easily be compared as Army Big Baazar. An Army family can easily cater it’s daily needs and run its house from within the Army premises without going out.
We have our own hospitals too where best of AFMC doctors and nursing officers are 24/7 ready to serve the Army patients. Also the medical facilities are available at a very reasonable price or no price where everyone from a soldier or his kin to an Army officer to his kin gets best of facilities. We have famous military hospitals like RR too. Smaller cantonments have at least an MI room which cater to immediate medical needs.
Sarv Dharm Stahl
Army believes in unity in diversity and doesn’t distinguish between the Gods inspite of freedom of practicing our religious beliefs individually Faujis do celebrate all festivals together irrespective of their individual caste,creed and religion. In-fact most of the times our religious prayer places, be it temple,mosque or church are constructed into the same building. It warmed up my civilian friends hearts and they wished they could have something like this in their society too which is divided over caste and religion so badly.
Soon, we were on our way back, I just couldn’t stop smiling. I felt so happy and content. At home, while we sipped our tea, they just couldn’t stop talking about what a great experience they had. They were very impressed.
But in all this what made me happiest was that they all believed that the amount of hard-work, sacrifice and dedication a soldier puts in serving the country, looking after his and his family’s basic needs is the least the society can do. I was so happy that they understood the reality that no doubt we have all these facilities, but the hardships that we face are no less. They very well understood that the field postings, the difficult terrain, the risk involved, the separation are not easy. But when the soldier is away, at least he has the satisfaction in his heart, that his family back home is being well looked after. One of my friend said, “You know I was feeling a little jealous all the facilities you guys get, but honestly, if anyone deserves it, its you guys”!
Just then the door bell rang, and entered my soldier, I was elated and feeling so proud of him. I welcomed him with a tight hug, a little surprised he asked me what had happened. “I’ll tell you later”, I replied!
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