Once upon a time, Yamraj (the God of death) during one of his rounds in the celestial universe, came across a group of women laughing, dancing, and playing Tambola right in the middle of HELL! Yes, you read that right. Not used to such sight, he was shocked to see these beautiful ladies dressed in spectacular sarees, having a ball right amidst the blazing torture of hell. He hurried to ask Chitragupta, his friend-cum-secretary to figure out who these women were as he was astonished to see them having a time of their (after)lives amidst such pain. That is when Chitragupta nonchalantly replied, and I quote, “These are the wives of Indian Faujis! They have seen worse and yet emerged out smiling! Hell doesn’t scare them!”
Yes, dear readers, Indian Fauji Wives, a tribe of women known for their gorgeous sarees and souls made of steel are famous for their fashion statements. They say that you can recognize a Fauji Wife only by observing the grace with which she walks in her heels on rocky roads. If she doesn’t trip or have to raise her pleats, she is a certified Military Bride who has made immeasurable trips to the Officers’ Mess parties through rocky roads wearing a stunning silk saree.
Jui, an ordinary girl from the extraordinary city, was oblivious to the myriad ways in which her life was going to change when she accepted the proposal of a Fauji. The short span that she had on her hand to have her entire wedding planned within less than a fortnight is the story for another day. In short, Jui barely had any time to consider the drastically different life that lay before her – a life embellished with sarees, ranks, bullets, berets, and fancy mess dinners!
It was exactly in a week’s time after her wedding she realized what was in store for her. Jui smiles fondly as she recounts those memories, ” We had just entered the campus after an exhausting bumpy drive of 8 long hours from Amritsar and were waiting to crash on the bed while the Mess Commander was actively preparing our room in the Officers’ Mess. Tapan, my husband, had his quarter assigned to him, but it’s a Fauj thing to welcome Lady Wives on campus by hosting them in the VIP room of the mess. So there I was sitting patiently when suddenly a large group of middle-aged but absolutely fit and handsome looking men marched through the mess door. It took me a moment to realize that my husband stood up as soon as they entered in full attention!”
“Namaste ma’am“, they said in unison with a humble head bow and their hands joined together. “We welcome you to the 77 Battalion Veer Chakra Paltan family.” And that was what turned, Jui, AC/MO Dr. Tapan’s timid new bride, into an Afsar’s Lady Wife! There has been no looking back since then. Dr. Tapan left for his temporary detailment to another town on the very next day of Jui’s arrival on the campus. Jui, hence, had to spend some 25-odd days all by herself on the alien campus – a time she likes to call her training period.
From learning about the rank systems to the dressing style on campus to how to greet people there to backyard farming to welfare association meetings to now becoming a homogeneous part of The Lady Wife league, Jui has come a long way, one day at a time! Jui also shared valuable insights with us about the types of sarees, a Fauji bride must pack for herself when she enters the life of berets and pistols.
Before we begin, let’s acknowledge the fact that being a Fauji Wife almost immediately translates to flaunting a trousseau full of sarees. From Mess parties to welfare association meetings to Ladies Club parties, almost all social functions on the campus require you to wear a saree. So if you are a beginner, you can start watching YouTube tutorials to learn the basics of draping one. If those too are of no help, then just resort to doing what a lot of other ladies do – simply get the pleats stitched!
From Kanjivarams, Benarasis, Kotas, and Tussars – try including as many silks as you can in your post-bridal trousseau. This is because these sarees are going to be of great use for all big and small parties that begin right with your welcome dinner. You might need to wear your bridal saree or an equally heavy one for the reception you’ll be required to host for all the fellow Officers and their families, post your welcome dinner. You can wear the lighter ones for inspection seasons, festival celebrations, and welfare association cultural events.
Handloom cotton and linen sarees undoubtedly are graceful to the core. As Jui quotes, “My father has always appreciated me wearing linen and cotton sarees. We believe that even the light creases on a cotton ensemble carry sophistication!” These simple cotton sarees will be of use to you for lunch parties and welfare meetings, especially in the summers. A quick tip would be to have a hair straightener handy to keep those notorious pleats in place and to avoid puffing.
From Paithanis, Phulkaris, Pashminas, Patolas to Mekhla Chadors, ensure that your trousseau is a vibrant mix of fabrics sourced from different parts of the country. You don’t necessarily have to have all of these from the beginning. But, do make it a point of building your collection slowly while you travel with your big black trunks! Fauji campuses are an eclectic amalgam of cultures. These sarees will help you be prepared for all festivals from Lohri to Onam.
Keep pretty georgettes and chiffons with chic blouses ready for those informal parties. Don’t forget to balance them with smokey eyes and open hair to look every inch of the diva that you are.
Color-blocked sarees and sarees in solid colors too are absolutely necessary for themed ladies club parties. They can be mixed and matched with different blouses to create any desired look according to the theme given to you.
If you are lucky (or not) to have your husband posted in Kashmir anytime soon after the wedding, definitely do try to get your hands on a Pashmina saree. Woolen sarees are a boon during chilled winter nights and they definitely look way prettier than normal sarees loaded with winter coats!