Just finished reading the book – Soldier and Spice. A perfect entertainer that this book was for a dull evening yesterday, I could not put the book down or my hands down until I drank every word from the book. Soldier and Spice is written by an army wife – Aditi Mathur Kumar, for the army wives, elaborating on the interesting life of a petite humorous protagonist, the coy bride Pia, who enters the much dreaded, much anticipated, much talked about ‘unit life’ in her first station Pathankoat, with husband Capt Arjun Mehra (Now, I was more pulled towards the book because my son sports the same name J). Pia happens to have quit her job with a news channel and now joins the biggest fraternity of our democracy – Indian Army as Mrs. Mehra.
Now, if I were to review this book, Soldier and Spice would just be any other mediocre book brimming with steamy romance between the newly weds and their funny escapades, sensational rumors and spicy gossips, fashionistas and their fashion disasters, broken friendships and spiteful ladies, ladies meets and welfare activities and a lot more. But then, I do not want to review this book because there is a lot more an army wife can learn from it rather than commenting on what the eyes want to catch. The book has beautiful messages hidden in between those zesty gossips and fashion parades. And here is what I have deduced from the book:
(Ladies with no time to read the book, can read the below ten points which is what the book is all about)
- The world is small, they say. The Indian Army is even smaller that way. So, you might just bump into a known face more often than not. So make sure, you are no bearer of rumors and bad examples and not a subject either!
- Learn to be happy alone in your own company, when husband has to go for an exercise or some unavoidable duties. Engage your mind so that you do not feel lonely.
- Do not gossip much, and at the same time, avoid hearing gossip or being a part of it. This is the most difficult task for an army wife for two reasons: First, she goes through hard times enduring temporary separations from husband, owing to latter’s duties. Second, she is a woman! To gossip is an innate nature to most of us. However, the lesser you gossip, the lighter you feel and the safer you are! Fact to the core!
- The book portrays the matriarchal hierarchy when it comes to senior ladies. Some can be incredibly bossy and annoyingly nosy at the same time. The truth is, most of them sport that attitude for two reasons: One, they love to patronize or at least, show that they love to. Two, some of them seem to demand the respect that only the ranks of their husbands deserve. However, not all of them are like that. So, being tactful is an essential etiquette for an army wife. She must know to guard her preferences and priorities without antagonizing the senior ladies! Difficult task!
- There will be ample number of ‘why-did-I-even-meet-them-in-the-first-place’ people. That only means one thing for you. You know how not to be!
- Follow the decorum of the organization and half of your problems are solved!
- And, the system of sahayaks is not for the officer’s family. The sahayak or bhaiya (as fondly addressed), is only answerable or duty bound to the officer and NOT his family. So make sure, your personal life and the sacred space of home is well guarded.
- And never say never to a senior lady, the first time at least. Later, No can be said with some tact and of course, timing!
- Connect with everyone, but keep your distance. Not everyone has to know everything about your life and nor you need to know the same about everyone.
- Last but not the least, amidst all the cat fights and unsavory relations between the ladies, what binds all together is the sisterhood that comes alive when, even one of the ladies suffers from an issue, whatever it might be. The bottom line is, no one is bad. And, no one has to be good all the time either. All one needs to do is, think before speaking and go slow with words and slower in judging people around. Assume nothing and hold your head high sans doubts and fears.
I loved this book for two reasons: The protagonist Pia learns the art of tactfulness slowly yet steadily and gathers her nerves to control her emotions when her husband meets with an accident (spoiler alert!). The way she takes the daggers from certain malevolent wives around, without reacting impulsively is something commendable. And, time teachers her and us a thing or two about life – Good times are not permanent. But then, neither are the bad times! Second, I love the way she EARNS her respect amongst the ladies (senior and junior alike) and also manages to get back diplomatically at the ladies who had sworn to make her life miserable.
This book does not cover all the aspects of every army wife. Because, every lady will have her own unique tales to share. But then, there are many tales in the book, most of us will relate to, which is why I recommend this book as a must read!
Please note: This post will be more understood and realized by army wives.