QuirksofArmy

Boxes are our best friends

Hello! everyone, once again I am back with another quirk of army, which my civilian friends would underestimate or not understand the weight of that object till they try to lift it. Yes! An object not very beautiful but extremely useful, ‘The Box’. Our life cannot be complete without the boxes, as we practically live out of boxes

I still remember my first view of the box. In my first posting my husband who was a lieutenant then had only one box with him and that he had kept in a store room, so I had not seen the precious box. But soon, my husband’s then Commanding Officer was about to go on posting, so we went to meet him on his last day in the station. When we reached their, the complete house which the lady wife had so beautifully decorated was now devoid of any beauty. Leaving aside the furniture provided by the station (MES), nothing was to be seen. When I went to the terrace with one of the ladies I saw a black mountain, I counted those mountain of boxes which came up to be more than 50 in number. Beside the boxes were numerous packages large and small and then there was a line of planters some of terracotta, others were of porcelain and still others made out of cheese tins, jam bottles and what not. I gulped at the sight. Then, the CO’s wife came beside us and offered us to take away some small and even large planters, as she felt so many planters would not fit in the truck. Being new to all this, I asked her innocently if all these boxes were theirs and how they had managed to pack so much? Hearing my remark there was a wave of laughter, then very seriously the CO wife told me that with experience I would also learn and become an expert at packing.

Then soon, our time came to pack our bags and leave for a new place. It was my first experience with the compete ritual. New boxes were bought as now being married lieutenant Saab required more boxes. The boxes were painted jet black, then a unit painter was called who with white paint wrote my husband’s name and destination on it and lastly numbered the boxes. 

It was the complete unit’s move and my husband was very busy. So he asked me to pack our stuff with the help of his buddy, who happened to be a new boy himself, with no experience of packing. Still, I squared my shoulders and assured my husband that I will do it well and he should not worry. 

Packing the clothes was extremely easy, that I managed to do it in the suitcases. But soon it was time to pack the kitchen, which at that time was small, as it had been only a year that we were married. My husband had told me to do it in two boxes, as there was lots of other stuff to be packed in the remaining other.

By evening when he came back from office, he came to the kitchen and saw most of the kitchen as it is. He asked me in a surprised tone that why so many containers and utensils were still lying about. That’s when I told him very confidently that the kitchen cannot come in two boxes and I would be needing more boxes to pack the whole thing. So, very calmly he asked me to show the two boxes which I was claiming that I had filled them to brim. When he saw them, he looked once at the two boxes and once at me and then he laughed and laughed and my cheeks were burning till they were completely red with rage. 

Actually, due to no experience at all I had kept each and every utensil separate in the box and as utensils come in varied sizes they had occupied lots of space and the box was full in very few things.  

That was then, soon I became a pro. After that first posting, it has been only me and one buddy who have done the complete packing.

The boxes are used not only for packing, but also for décor. They are in such large number that they take a lot of space. In the olden days the army people did not buy so much furniture, as at that time availability of furniture shops was also less. So, these boxes were used as pieces of furniture like sette, sit outs by the bed or in some balcony, in the kitchen to keep extra utensils and otherwise the top would be used to keep the food processer or some other stuff. 

The army wives in those times were so talented that the houses were always richly decorated (trend of decorating houses is still prevailing) and the boxes were even painted with beautiful art work and kept in patio or gardens.

Some were covered with beautiful table cloths or even bed-sheets, pinned properly at the sides and propped with large and small cushions. A person who is unaware of this trend would not even recognize what lay beneath the silk cover.

Once, when my husband was in field I stayed in ‘separated family accommodation’. (SF) At that time we had six huge same sized boxes which we had turned into bed. It looked exactly like a bed with a nice frill taped around and normal mattresses fitted nicely on it. The reason behind making those boxes into bed was. Our garage was small. So the complete luggage did not fit in. Then my husband was worried that if I ever wanted something important from one of the boxes I will be unable to do so alone. So why not keep them handy.    

In each posting the number of boxes increases as the luggage increases. This is an ever prevailing trend. By the time an officer completes 17-18years of service, the couple would be a proud possessor of at least half a century of boxes. 

Same thing has happened with me and every time I promise myself that I would not buy even a single new trinket to increase my packing, but till date my resolution has not stayed long. One visit to the market at a new posting becomes good enough to break the promise and then by the time the two year posting is over we start looking for a good shop which would make strong iron boxes.

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