“Mama, look, it’s a she soldier!” said a boy in orange shorts to his mother. Amidst the guns, heavy weight army trucks, and bazooka-type warfare on display, the duo seemed a little out of place at the Defence Exposition recently held in the Capital. But who’s to say that just because I had on olive green battle fatigues, was given a weapon (with mounted laser) to play with, and was parading as a woman soldier, I had any idea what I was doing?
“Are you in the army, Ma’am?” I’d hear from intrigued passers-by.
Such queries would be dealt with depending on my gut impression: if the people who asked appeared harmless, I’d smile, make small talk, and sharpen my inter-personal skills. But a raised eyebrow and scowl did nicely when said queries bordered on the marginally inappropriate.
“I have a gun,” I’d say, adding daringly, “And I’m not afraid to use it”. (I don’t know which movie I picked that line up from, but it seemed to work well.)
Besides posing for photographs with the odd army chief, a defence minister here and a bigwig there, my job profile involved explaining the function of modern day weaponry to soldiers, officers, delegates, and other sundry folk interested in arms.
What do I know about guns and laser beams, night vision devices, and image intensifier tubes –– I don’t really, I just took a deep breath, and went through some pamphlets on guns.
But hailing from an armoured corps background, it is possible the cavalier attitude is genetic, and –– dare I say –– the confidence to pull it off, inbuilt.
Now while I enjoyed very much talking about and demonstrating rifle enhancements to people in the army, the fun part was interacting with ‘other’ media persons. Dealing with both together was a blast!
True blue soldiers would come along, curious about say, something called a reflex sight, and I would start my explaining drill. No sooner, and sensing glam photo-ops, hordes of vulturesque cameramen would descend and begin clicking: “Madam stay there, same pose”, “Once more Ma’am, hold gun up please”; and so like a gleeful kid, I’d smile and pose and freeze my combative stance –– whatever it took to ensure good photographs.
Much hilarity ensued the following day, as rival newspapers had –– on their front-page –– carried my mug, and below the picture, plastered swooping umbrella captions like “today’s Indian soldier” or some such.
Consequentially, friends called up bursting with joyous expletives, wanting “seriously” to know what on earth I was doing wearing fatigues, and a helmet and staring out scarily from the morning paper.
A (fellow) scribe even came charging towards me; frantic and high-pitched, she pleaded,“Listen, my boss is on my case to uncover the HT journo masquerading as a soldier. Do you have any idea?”
Still uniformed, I suppressed a smirk and said helpfully, “Nope, but why don’t you try the other hall?”