Wife in the Army: Aditi Mathur Kumar

Ladies, I'm back with another kickass interview :D Meet Aditi Mathur Kumar, the best-selling author of my favourite and the MUST READ book Soldier & Spice: An Army Wife's Life, a popular blogger, mother to an adorable 3 yr old girl and an awesome person. Of course, a dedicated Army wife completely in love with her man and the organization. Here she shares about how marrying into the military changed her life 180 degrees, why a wrap around skirt is a must-have in an Army wife's wardrobe and how marrying a fauji doesn't have to mean the end of your career:

That book!

How did Army happen to you?
Army happened to me rather dramatically and the story can be written as some sort of a Hindi Movie screenplay. In fact, I can write another book on it. In short, we met, fell in love, faced a few complications, and eventually got our Happily Ever After. Until I got married, Army had very less role to play in all of this, other than the fact that I was drawn to him in the first place, because of his impeccable manners and drool-worthy chivalry, which is a rare bird these days.

What was your welcome prank?
There was no welcome prank for me – Yes, none - because when we entered the station where he was posted at the time, the entire unit was away for some outdoor practice. I stayed like a civilian in my new fauji acco for 4 days before the unit was back, and by then, no one wanted to prank me. My loss, I know. Sigh!

Describe Aditi before and after Army happened to her.
The Aditi before the Army-Wife-Life was an extremely casual and loud girl from the mad Advertising world, who wore Tees and Shorts to office and said a certain swear word after every 5 sentences. The Aditi after becoming an Army-Wife is trying to learn the ropes of the elegant and grand world of Army Wives, while trying to keep her fucking language in check. It has been 6 years, and I although I am still a long way from being a seasoned and “Lady Like” Army Wife, I find the process to be super fun. Wearing sarees like a Desi Swag Queen, cooking 5 course meals while speaking to an irate client from Hong Kong, finalizing his Digital Media Plan, and teaching my 3 year old to be a strong individual, while crying inconsolably every time I watch the movie LOC Kargil – I’d like to believe that the Aditi after Army happened, is a much more compassionate and grounded person because I know the value of seemingly small things like freedom, togetherness and well, life.

How did marrying into the Army impact your career?
This is something that I’ve been asked in every interview about my book and/or writing career, because people think that an Army Wife with a steady career is a myth. People seem to think that the only viable career option for an Army Wife is that of a Teacher. But hey, it’s not! I am exhibit – A of an Army Wife with a career other than teaching. I am a Digital Advertising girl and I have been blessed with good friends and amazing past clients who work with me even today. I now work with an Adventure & Outdoor firm called GIO Adventures, handling their Media and Advertising. I am on board of a start up Publishing House called Ink Horn Publishing India. My first book is extremely well received by both, the Army and the civilians alike. I write for Huffington Post, and a lot of other publications and I also earn through my blog. With all this in place, I also get to be with my husband during peace postings, and that is going to be my priority numero uno, always. True, my contemporaries from my advertising days are way ahead of me, career wise, but in the end, it’s a choice you have to make and I made mine.

What is a regular day in your life like?
I have a 3-year-old daughter so my regular day involves a lot of crayons, play-dough-art pieces, constantly wiping snot from my work clothes and a lot of hysterical laughter. In the morning, I head to work after sending the husband and the kid off to the office and school. I get back home by 1:15pm for lunch, right in time for the daughter to arrive. After trying to make her eat, I have lunch with the husband and then, as he takes the mandatory afternoon nap, I take the daughter with me to my office which is a play area for her because of the huge gardens and the occasional tent or sleeping bags laid out to dry. We get back home around 6, have the evening tea and snacks with the husband and then…oh, I know, it’s complicated, but we make it work. It sure is hectic at times, but the fact that I can work from home in times of emergencies, is a blessing.

What do you love most about being an Army wife?
You mean besides being married to the love of my life, who is an Army Officer? I’ll have to say it’s the pride that comes with being an Army Wife. Being a part of the Silent Ranks is what makes it special, because it’s a bunch of resilient and fabulous ladies who are the true example of Empowered Women. That is the best part, hands down.

What do you dislike most about being an Army wife?
Women who wear their husband’s ranks and treat other (mostly, junior) wives with rudeness and/or hostility, or, in the sly guise of “grooming” someone, end up hurting them. Arrogance should not be acceptable in the Army or outside, it’s a simple as that.

What inspired you to write your first book ‘Soldier and Spice’?
I was a total and utter civilian, with zero or very little knowledge about the world of Army Wives. Only when I became one, did I realize that it was incredibly overwhelming, fascinating, tempting and scary – all at the same time. I read a lot, and I realized that there was nothing written about the things that I was experiencing as a newbie in Army-Wife world. So I wrote it.

Soldier & Spice: An Army Wife’s Life is the story of Pia and her first year as an Indian Army Wife. The inspiration was all the kick-ass and super cool Army Wives I’ve met so far.

At her book launch

What is your upcoming book about? Is it a sequel to Soldier and Spice?
My next book is a simple story of a girl who falls in love with an Army Officer, but is haunted by her own past and the scary future of being married to the olive green and her indecisions. It is a story of how she finally lets go of her indecisions and her fears. It is humour genre though, so all this is packaged in a fun, laugh-out-loud fashion. I hope most of us Army Wives, especially the ones with no Army background, will relate to. It is related to Soldier and Spice, because it is in a way, a prequel to it. “Love, Whatever That mean…” (yes, that’s the title) ends where Soldier & Spice starts. But, I’ve changed the names to keep the fun alive. Read it for funny anecdotes and hilarious (according to me, at least) episodes of when a civilian girl dates an Army Officer.

How do you deal with the periods of separation in the Army?
I deal with periods of separation very badly. I will not lie, being away from him sucks and no one in the world can tell me that I need to ‘get used to it’. I become irritable and needy, and now that I have a kid, I feel even more alone and exhausted when he’s away. But I persevere. I keep waiting for the day he’ll come on a leave or the day we’ll meet and I try to keep my head over water till that day. Keeping myself busy with my work also helps to some extent, but not always. So yeah, basically I count down till the day we meet and keep it together meanwhile. But then, like I wrote in Soldier & Spice, “meanwhile is the worst time.” A friend of mine gave me a few fridge magnets when I was about to get married, and if I had to sum up my life during separation, it will be through the wisdom of those fridge magnets:

Army Wives: Sacrificing Months of Sex For The Country!

She Who Waits, Also Serves.

And my favorite:

There is Strong. There is Army Strong. And then there is Army Wife Strong.

Nothing like little snippets of inspiration to get you through, right?

And when you’re staying together, but he (the husband) still doesn’t have time (because they’re always so busy with work)?
In my 6 years as an Army Wife, I’ve realized that the husband will never have enough time. And I am fine with it now. Almost. We at least get to have most meals together and that is a blessing. Okay okay, as you can probably tell, I am clearly dreading a field posting and I am trying to gain some good karma by being happy about the little things. It might work, right? *wink*

Which has been your favourite military station till date and why?Kaluchak. Devlali. Dehradun. So basically all stations where we’ve stayed together so far, are my favourites. Incredibly cheesy, I know, but true.

How do you manage the numerous social engagements that come with being an Army wife?
Tough one to answer in a public forum so I’ll just be sufficiently ambiguous and point out that I am a full time working woman with a 3-year-old kid, and I attend whatever functions I can. *smiles serenely*

Do you love wearing sarees (considering we have to wear one too many)? What are your favourite ones?
I love wearing sarees and like all Army Wives, am addicted to saree shopping. I am only fairly comfortable in sarees though, not a pro yet, so I tend to go for easy-to-carry materials like Italian Crepe, Georgette, and art-silks. My taste in clothes is pretty contemporary, and though I have all the regular Must-Haves in my wardrobe like Banarasi Silk and Assamese Mekhla Chador, I love my sarees with a quirk, a modern twist. For example, a have a pure linen saree in white and green, that has elements of Devnagri script written (actually, printed) on it. Also, the soft silk I wore for the Mumbai launch of my book. I also love love LOVE khadi and linen sarees.

In your opinion, what are the 5 must-have wardrobe pieces for an army wife?
1. A black saree for black-n-white themes
2. A floral saree for spring theme
3. A red or blue, preferable a red and blue saree if you’re an Arty Wife (red and blue being the Arty colors). What? I’m telling it like it is. It might save help a new Army wife some wardrobe trouble, heehee.
4. Honestly, a wrap around long skirt to quickly tie over your shorts when the bell rings for Saab’s gadi, Saab’s Sahayak, Saab’s signature or your signature on the ladies Club circular. I am serious, the wrap around skirt kept on the dining table comes in verrry handy. The fashion of the Wrap Around Cotton Skirts might have long left us, but invest in one purely for practical purposes.
5. Stilettoes that are high enough to make your saree look stunning, but sensible enough to not sink in the soil in all those inevitable garden parties. In fact, I’ve ditched the pencil heels altogether after having a kid, and embraced the comfortable goodness of the Wedge Heels.

What is the ONE style rule an Army wife should never forget?
I’m no style expert, but the rule of sticking to my comfort zone has proved to be helpful. Just because everyone is effortlessly carrying a pashmina shawl on one shoulder without it falling down, or carrying off sleeveless blouses beautifully in the middle of December in Dehradun, doesn’t mean you have to do it too. Be yourself, and wear the damn Rupa warmers under your saree and six layers of warm clothes. As long as you look presentable and not shoddy, it’s okay. That said, I want to say to everyone reading this that please do make an effort to dress up. You might not be into makeup or styling as per latest trends - most of us aren’t – but wearing a saree that’s well ironed is part of the very basic etiquette, and goes on to show that we value ourselves. It’s not about beauty or fashion, it is simply about respecting the host, the institution.

How different do you think your life would be if you were married to a civilian?
I believe that I would have married the same person, irrespective of his profession, so personally, I’d have been the same. Other than that, who knows? And oh, Soldier & Spice would have been ‘Coder & Spice’ if he was a software coding person (whatever the correct term is) or ‘Banker & Spice’ if he was a banker – not so much fun, right? Thank God for the calling to join Army, I say!

What’s your advice to the girlfriends and new wives on living life as an Army Wife?
My first advice would be to be ready to accept the fact that in the life of a soldier, you will always come after his duty. Learn to be proud of it.

My second advice would be to stick to your morals, your principles and be kind to one another, especially to the new wives when your husband becomes senior-ish. Always remember that kindness goes a long way.

My last advice is to read Soldier & Spice: An Army Wife’s Life. Go, read. Now!

Do you have any message for our fellow citizens (civilians)?
I want to point out that being an army wife is not only about the parties or glamour – we sacrifice a lot, even in times of peace. So don’t insult us by bringing up the “benefits” we reap or the discounted alcohol from the CSD.

Also, I want to say that before you make fun of, or dismiss the veterans fighting for their rights in OROP, before you outrage against the trial of proven terrorists, and before you support those who chant anti-India slogans in the name of Freedom of Expression, think of the soldiers dying every day to protect your freedom and ask yourself - are you worth protecting? A soldier who dies protecting the nation is not just doing his duty. Army is not just a profession; it is a calling. Learn to acknowledge it. Jai Hind!

To read more of Aditi's writings, do visit her blog. You can also buy her amazing book on Flipkart or Amazon Kindle version!

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