|SODA. Ready to go.|
The Senior Officers’ Daughters’ Association.
Affectionately viewed and indulgently pampered, this is a greatly looked forward to, periodic presence, lending verve and spirit to an otherwise predictable life on defence bases out there in the beyond of wilderness. The sporadic appearance of SODA on trips home from schools and colleges makes news on stations. There comes with them, a frisson of life in the bachelors’ alley, the prospect of an exciting new potential partner for the anniversary dances and some bonus colour-cum-glow in the Holi bashes and Diwali festivities.
SODA is always welcome except for one recently occurred, technical detail. More and more, SODA is coming calling in slippers these days. Slippers! Those darned slippers. Now everybody knows what a chip the defence households carry on their brass shoulders about chappals. This item is too informal, too insolent, too laid back and not finished enough to find acceptance in OG (Olive Green) homes. One does not air them outside the bath or the bed rooms, better still, keep them to the dressing rooms.
Heaven help us, if we do not have a clothing revolution on hands that is shaking the very core of a protocol bound society for the simple reason that it is striking from within and behind the lines. The offensive is from the SODA, in their carefully cultivated “out of bed” look. Mussed hair, parallel jammies, gunjies and horror of horrors, them slippers. Those harmless looking, colourful flip flops are devastating an age old code, leaving Military homes struck and shattered. Converse, Puma, Adidas....they may be the fanciest of brands, call them by any name, chappleeez are chappleeez. They are not smart enough and make the wearer seem in a state of unpreparedness, both anathemas in this part of the woods.
Mothers are better able to absorb this foot fad. It is the soldier Dads who don’t know what to make of this terrifying trend. A Commander at work but a vexed father at home, he stands there, spluttering and protesting his daughter’s choice of footwear. What is this shabby, strappy contraption the girls wear that looks like it is ready to fall apart?
These sights are not unusual in cantonments any more: a Flag Car in waiting, engine running, the Flag Officer in full regalia, body rigid with disapproval, scowling at his vibrant, spirited young Princess, standing her ground in a pair of sliders. In many defence homes in Delhi, the evening fencing begins with an innocuous enough query, “Shall we go out as a family?” Instead of the whoop of joy this should elicit, the proposal is met with a pregnant silence, the unexpressed thought being about the “dress code”. An institutional dress code that has been a way of life for generations.
Oh no, the legion is not about to give up without a fight. Some valiant Dads continue to resist these stringed inroads into a way of life they hold sacrosanct and dear. Several pairs of shoes have been bought and acquired. And the one day she decides to humour the old man by gamely slipping on a pair, he can’t stop smiling and the compliments come in a rush, “What a nice pair of slip ons !” Easy, easy...lay it on easy, he is thinking.....
Anything will do; anything, even a peep toe, a pump or a gladiator. Anything but those silly, wispy affairs.
In one particular case I know closely, the father looks stricken as though he has just been dealt one in the solar plexus, when he learns that his young lady is riding her Pulsar in...in...in ...those very skidders.....