“Good evening Mrs Bhardwaj!” I continued my chat without giving a second glance. “Hello Mrs Bhardwaj, how are you?” I still didn’t look behind… And then, it dawned upon me — the truth — that I, was that ‘Mrs Bhardwaj’. My sole identity “Anamika Mahajan” for the last 2.5 decades had suddenly vanished into thin air. In the army world, I was Mrs Bhardwaj [and Anamika ONLY for senior ladies] for everyone. It took me a while to adapt to this most recent christening; but I must admit it is fun, till today!
People around me are also getting used to it now :). Mrs Bhardwaj or Mrs Mahajan and sometimes my better half [‘A’ for now] gets my surname :)!!!
It wasn’t easy for me to give up my corporate job and move with A across the length and breadth of the country. It never is! It wasn’t easy to be leading our own separate lives also. Yes, it never really is! We were stuck between the devil and deep sea. Full time Work From Home options were not the norm in those days and thus, not an option. I was in England and during that time, A was shuttling between Côte d’Ivoire and the Northern borders of our country. We decided to let it be for a while.
During my first ‘Karva Chauth’ fast [a full-day ‘no-water no-food’ fast kept by wives for the long lives of their husbands — yes I believe in this :)] in England, I was totally confused — “will it start at 0000 hrs India time or UK time?” And knowing the emotional fool that I was, I ended up fasting for almost 1.5 days — Started at India time and ended at UK time. Duh! Ask me if I would it the same way now :-)??? And that was the only ONE time, A back in India fasted on ‘Karwa Chauth’ [courtesy DDLJ] — he’s gotten wiser now.
In those 2–3 years, we met for 2–3 months every year — sometimes in England and then in India. There were a few unforgettable trips across Europe and a few remained just in our plans as either one of us couldn’t manage our leaves.
A few months down, it was time to head back to India and the closest option to J&K was Chandigarh. So, now it was Chandigarh to J&K from UK to J&K — 6700 km to 350 km only — not bad at all. This was one positive way to look at it and perhaps the only way we had at that time!
Those days it was not very common to see the officer without the lady wife — some even thought that things were not very hunky dory between us and so we were living apart. It was difficult for my colleagues also to understand how we could lead such a life. But that is how it was.
And here in India, once again it was Karwa Chauth time… and this time I planned to go to J&K. I left office requesting my friends to give me a lift till the bus station. We missed the bus by just 15 minutes and my whole world came crashing down. My friends decided to follow the bus and help me achieve my KC goal. This race was nothing less than an F1 just that apart from the two key players, there were bullock carts, Rickshaws — both auto and manual, lorries, tractors and buses and we had to actually fight our way through on the race track full of potholes. Finally, after an adventurous chase for about 45 minutes, we reached the target and I boarded the bus.
Thanks guys, I still can’t forget that excitement loaded pursuit. If it hadn’t been for ye’all, I would have never been able to make it to Jammu the next morning.
This KC was sure celebrated in brilliant grandeur [not failing to mention my super lah-di-dah shopping spree, all courtesy A].
There were times when we didn’t speak for more than 2–3 days in a row and I’m talking about the days when we had mobile phones — well yes, that’s too long isn’t it? No, not because we were fighting — but “No time is the right time to call in the Army” — these guys were always up to something or the other — defusing bombs, weeding off the mines or patrolling along the ‘you-know-where’. You could only wait for a call from the other end just wondering and praying that all was well.
In Nov 2009, I asked my boss for a week’s leave. He was a little unsure — even though I assured him that I would be available over phone and email, if required. And on 26th, unfortunately the 26/11 attacks happened. I still get goosebumps thinking about that day, who doesn’t? We were all glued to our television sets and online channels. The role of all the forces together was there for everyone to see — for my boss too! He called me to his office and approved my leave immediately and gave a message for A, “Please pass on our deepest respects and salute to A. We are really thankful for what they are doing for us!” I still remember the respectfulness in his voice and eyes.
The corporate and the Army have been wedded a zillion times now and I’m sure each of them is a great story in itself — be it the times when they are together or when they are miles apart waiting for that one phone call from the tip of a mountain peak with a small strand of signal on his mobile flirting sheepishly with their feelings every now and then or from a sand dune just waiting for the storm to blind him completely. But each time, this bond has come out a winner and nothing can ever, ever stand in its way.
And O’ Yes! I am the ‘Pink’ in his world of camouflage…