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The Army (or armed forces) is perhaps the only organization where the spouses play a fundamental role in smooth discharge of social obligations and responsibilities. When a ‘lady’ joins the extended Olive Green family, she is expected to shoulder certain responsibilities – welfare meets organized for the troops’ families, ladies meets, mess functions, raising days and so on. Add to that a nomadic lifestyle and postings to the remotest of areas, and the prospect of making a career of her own can seem like a daunting task. New-age army wives are breaking the moulds of being the shadow spouse and pursuing their professional aspirations despite the odds.
Feministaa brings you the stories of four such women:
Shuchi Singh Kalra, Author and Freelance Writer
Despite having completed her higher education in the medical field, with a degree in Optometry, Shuchi Singh Kalra was convinced that writing was her true calling. In a bid to earn a living from her passion, she set up the Pixie Dust Writing Studio in 2011. She published her debut novel ‘Done With Men’ in 2014 and her second book ‘I’m Big. So What!?’ hit the stands in 2016.
“I am deeply passionate about what I do and my identity as a writer. It is important for me to have something to call my own and that sense of achievement at the end of a job well done. I thrive on that. Managing one’s professional commitments and playing the role of an Army spouse isn’t always easy and for multiple reasons.
Army personnel are usually posted at remote, far-flung locations, where employment prospects aren’t many. Even a decent internet connection is a luxury, if you plan to work from home.
In addition to that, you have the usual organizational and social commitments that may come in the way of your work. It’s all about prioritizing and time management. I do not shun my responsibilities as a military spouse but at the same time, I’m fairly ambitious about my work. If I am required to be present somewhere during the day, I catch up on work at night or if I have a deadline to meet, I finish off my bit quickly and excuse myself from the scene. It isn’t always easy but not impossible either.”
Lakshmi Rana, Ramp Model
Lakshmi Rana is a leading super model and former Miss India contestant. She started her modelling career with the 2000 Miss India contest, where she was among the top five contenders, alongside Lara Dutta, Priyanka Chopra and Dia Mirza. She has since ruled the ramp in the domestic fashion world, walking for ace designers including Manish Malhotra, Sabyasachi, Ritu Kumar, Tarun Tahiliani, Aki Narula, Rocky S, J J Vallaya and Monisha Bajaj.
“My experience as an army wife pursuing an active career has been amazing. I have always willingly contributed to what the organization occasionally asked out of me, be it family welfare or ladies meets or organizing events that needed my expertise. They, in return, understood my compulsions in terms of commitment to dates for my work. Hence, it’s a two-way street, like any other relationship.
The army way of life is somewhat akin to living in a big joint family, you show your love and contribute to its members and they will extend their unflinching support to what you want to achieve.
I must admit that it’s definitely easier to be working out of home or be a freelancer because of all the transfers one has to go through. For me, being a freelancer helps greatly, as even after all the travelling for fashion shows in different parts of the country, I still have time, days at length in fact, for my family and the extended Olive Green family. Besides, the main strength of a working lady comes from her family. I find myself extremely fortunate to have a husband who believes in me and manages to keep a good working home in my absence. Our mothers too pitch in when required and that gives me the peace of mind to concentrate on my work without worrying about what’s going on back at home. “
Dr Amita Paliwal, Assistant Professor, Jesus and Mary College, Delhi University
Apart from a career in teaching, Dr Amita Paliwal is also the convenor of Architecture Society of JMC that organizes heritage walks in and around Delhi. She has published seven papers in the Indian History Congress on Zafar Mahal and Mughal Sind. She was recently invited by Symbiosis International Centre for a talk on Use of Geospatial Techniques for Identifying Monuments.
“A whole lot of social commitments come with the package of being wedded to the olive green. I was already working when I got married to an army officer, and I remember using my leaves and vacations in a manner that I could fulfill the responsibilities expected of me as an army spouse.
Marrying an army person can mean having to compromise with your ambition to some extent. I have changed four jobs in the 13 years of marriage.
I’ve given up the opportunity to work at the prestigious Hindu college because my husband was going for a course to England and we thought it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that we should not miss out on as a family. Even during the brief sabbaticals from work, I have been consistently writing articles, publishing papers, and writing for research journals, to keep up with my ambition of carving a niche for myself in the academic world. Striking a balance between one’s professional pursuits and responsibilities as a military spouse is challenging but not impossible. If you have an understanding partner, you can make it work.”
Kavita Bhalla, Regional Head and Corporate Training Head, ICBI
Kavita Bhalla has a honors degree in Economics and an MBA in Finance and Marketing. She made her professional debut with the Ansals Group and bifurcated to handling business operations in professional training companies. In a career spanning 16 years, she has worked with Arena Multimedia, Boston Computers, Frankfinn Institute of Airhostess Training, before joining ICBI.
“I was already working prior to our marriage and my husband always encouraged me to pursue my professional goals. He was ready to share responsibilities whenever he was around, which was not very often given his many field tenures. Despite the multitude of social commitments required of me as an Army spouse and the juggling required to manage my own professional commitments, I have enjoyed every moment doing my best to meet both.
I’ve had my share of conflicting requirements from my career and that of the uniformed family I chose to adopt. Here an understanding husband and an accommodating employer have made my task much easier, never forcing me to pick one over the other.
I am conscious of the immense responsibilities that come with being an Army officer’s wife, while expectations of my own employers need to be met. It is difficult, but not impossible. I have come around to managing both, and I daresay rather well. In fact, I can credit the Army for teaching me self-reliance, making me immune to mundane challenges and giving me the wisdom to make the correct choices. The Army doesn’t just train its officers and men but entire families.”