The Forces Behind the Forces

We all want our family members to be safe and happy. For people who have family members in the defence forces, this feeling is a constant feeling and concern. We explored this perspective with some parents, spouses, and kids from army families. Read to know how the conversations panned out. 

The father of an officer who has already served 18 years in the Air Force clearly remembers his son’s training days. He was the first one in his family to join the services and the early days of intense training kept him busy. He could only call them and talk to them once a week. The worries and uneasiness of parents who are not aware if their son is doing okay is surely perceptible. Nevertheless the journey went on, and today, he is only proud. On asking if the concerns for his son stopped him from sending him off to the Air Force world, he just said a big NO: “Jisko jana hai vo jaye.” His wife, who is a professional doctor and currently posted in Nigeria, has also grown up to support and adjust to her husband’s demanding job. 

However, not all parents are easily able to send their kids off. An Air Force officer belonging to a big Gujarati family had a difficult time convincing his parents, who did not want their only son to quit his stable job and be a fighter pilot instead. Being the first one to join the Forces, the officer calls his mother after every night flight to let her know that he is safe. After a stunning list of achievements, his father regularly asks him whether he wants to get out of the service. Now that he has been selected for RAFALE, and congratulations have been pouring in, they cannot be more proud.  

His wife has seen the drill since childhood. Her father was posted in Kargil War and she was a witness to the intense atmosphere in her neighbourhood. She reminisces that she “never had a childhood buddy”. For her, it was a regular practice to move from one place to another and make new friends. As a result, they became more adjustable and flexible. As an Air Force officer’s wife, she says that it has been an everyday struggle to deal with the fact that his job isn’t the safest, that it is just a machine he’s flying. That said, he would always have her unconditional support. 

Another proud wife of an army personnel also shared some of her struggles. “The frequent moves almost every other year makes me feel like a nomad! We have packed, moved and unpacked our entire household five times in the six years of married life! More than that, the change of place and environment gets really daunting at times especially for the kids. We have to make new friends, adjust to new schools, new problems, but also new opportunities. Even the daily routine of an army man is tough to keep up with. The day starts at 5 in the morning and ends at 10, maybe 11 at night everyday.” 

She also added, “As time goes by, it hurts to see when your husband is not around during your kids’ growing years, missing out on important milestones. Our baby learnt to say ‘papa’ during video calls with him. A huge part of our life is being witnessed by him on WhatsApp, but thanks to technology, at least we can connect virtually. Our parents didn’t even have these luxuries.” she remarks. 

(Contributed by Ayushee Chaudhary. This article originally appeared in the ‘Indian Defence’ edition of The Plus magazine.

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