Monday, May 23, 2011

Ladies' Club

The Rainbow Meet !
Ladies' Club. Two words that defy explanation of the emotional storm they unleash. Just saying them aloud brings forth a micro- pyrotechnic show. It does not matter who is spouting the words. The voice drags the first syllable, spitting out the second in a bullet flash. One may altogether miss the derisive edge, so well-disguised is it under the accompanying chuckle. 

The embedded connotations are a bit surprising. It is after all just a bunch of ladies getting together to play a round of Tambola, sing and dance some, eat food and go home. Ah! But nothing could be further from the truth. A typical ladies' club is the fair, featured and fascinating face of India’s armed forces. Symbolic of a plethora of its characteristics, the meet is a lesson in hierarchy, protocol, polite conversation and an esprit de corps. It is also a forum. Under the regular format of a paper game, an ice breaker or so and the invariable ramp waddle, the pink book gets a circulation, unseen and unnoticed.
The Garden Meet 
There is in fact no pink book. Voluntary in spirit, there is only a suggestion in practise, a strong one, to attend. As a matter of fact, nothing to do with the wives and the ladies is mandatory in the defence ethos. There are only suggestions and recommendations. Even these have begun to sound like distant echoes as this institution evolves to accommodate socio-demographic changes such as the intake of women officers, the growing strength of working wives and the new parental aspirations for their children’s education. Plagued by frequent moves, disrupted school education and associated separations, this quaint custom called ladies' club meet does bear today all the maladies of “the last man standing,”.
 Black Archer Gals ! Taporis all....
As a bride, I was disdainful of the mere notion of women getting together. I was sure they did not get beyond exchanging recipes and notes on maids. It began with my welcome meet. Over the years, I became a regular and the more I attended, the more I converted. The get togethers were invariably done well. I can’t recall attending a shabby meet ever. It was shocking......the quality output the station ladies were able to conjure with limited resources on out of civil radar, bases. Give them a dozen or so dupattas, some petals and colored paper; the rugs and brass curios went from home and hey presto, you had a theme meet materialize as though by magic.
The periodic circular intimating an impending meet would be received with some amount of dismay, to begin with. Eventually people would get there. There would be a quaint formality, a girl’s day out with a dash of ceremony. It has to be said that the husbands suffered at times. Their dinner would be lack lustre because the "mem sahibs" would be full to the gills with the ladies' meet fare
Come on Brut......
Like the custom of calling on, like the farewell and welcome meals, like the tradition of bouncing, like the collective spirit of a squadron….ladies' meets too are becoming the vanishing tail lights of a lumbering lorry called “ the dated”. Never mind that many a wife discovered her life’s vocation in these meets. That every time one began to feel jaded, another event would come along that showed you how much you did not know.  
A custom that kept divergent people connected. An unofficial forum for the better, brighter, bitter halves. A grape wine to rival the most authentic of official networks. A phenomenon called ladies' meet. 

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