Posting to the Eastern sector of India is common in the Army. The place is beautiful, but rain is extreme and fungus grows on everything. However, since we were just married, any place was like paradise!
Army life was new to me. I was told that all officers get a buddy to help them around with things. I soon came to know that we have a very loyal fellow. As identity is prime for us, let us call him ‘S’. A short and stout man, sunburnt all over, S was nearing his retirement. He seemed to be around my husband more than me! S knew my husband’s requirements, his likings, food choices; his ties, the number of belts he owned… Everything was more than me; it was like I had a competitor!
Since he was always around, I would sometimes talk about his family and village. He often told me that he would make sure that all three of his sons joined the Army and became like my husband one day. Such was his love!
S would often proudly interrupt and announce to me that my husband would not eat anything vegetarian, as he enjoyed non-vegetarian food more. I cooked as per his instructions and not my mood! Although it was his pure love for my husband, it soon became annoying. So one fine day, I told him to buy ladyfingers as it was my husband’s wish. I enjoyed the rain less now, as it was pouring forever and I could not venture out much due to security reasons. So, I asked S to visit the market.
It was morning and within no time, S was nowhere to be seen. He knew the place well and was out on the ladyfingers’ errand. After a few hours, I thought of making whatever was available, as there was no sign of him anywhere. I wondered if all was well. My husband came home for lunch; we finished our meal but there was no sign of S. As we sipped the afternoon coffee, the doorbell rang and he appeared.
I saw some shriveled ladyfingers in his hand. He had visited all the local markets and eventually had got it from a villager’s house. He was sweaty and his shoes were full of mud. It seemed as if he had come back from a war. I wondered how buying a simple vegetable became such a task. I took the ladyfingers and told him to freshen up. At night, I wanted to enquire what took him so long. Somehow it seemed hilarious to me. After much coaxing, he softly enlightened me … Ladyfinger was not available in that season. I felt like an ignorant fool!
While cooking the ladyfingers for the evening meal, I felt like I had won. I was making a vegetarian meal of my choice. I had finally cooked what I had wished for although it took S one whole day’s toil to manage that vegetable… Hats off to the one who got it somehow!
Such is the love and loyalty we witness.