Updated: Sep 7, 2020
Just happened to see this old photograph – and it triggered the good old memories of the fresh beginnings at every new stations during the military life.
The huge steel boxes are an essential possession of any fauji – the number keeps adding as the years of service increases. They are supposed to be the safe carriers of the house hold items during every transfer– the utensils, the clothes, books, your mementos and other show pieces and every junk you accumulated over the years. As a bachelor, a soldier start with two boxes on the first posting, and post marriage the number goes up to six or eight straight away. Then with every kid two boxes adds up and mostly with each posting another one or two! One with a twenty-year service will have about 15 – 20 such boxes depending on his interest in accumulating the fancy/unique show piece stuff from all over the places.
The preparation starts months before one is due for a transfer – take out the boxes from the garages, clean them, give a fresh coat of black paint, earmark the locks and depending on the items that are planned to go in – give a felt cushioning or polythene covering inside. Once it is ready, the items starts going in – first the non-essentials like the show pieces, the non-season clothes, extra utensils, books etc. Just before the due date of move – the only items left outside the boxes will be the bare minimum kitchen stuff and a few uniforms and your essential clothes and ofcourse the hoomans in the house! It needs to be done with quite a bit of planning, marking the boxes as ‘Most essential’ - the one which you need at the new station from day one, the ‘Essential’ – that you may not be required till you start your own kitchen and then the ‘Non-essential’ – with all the remaining mostly useless items! You need to number the boxes and keep a note of every item as it gets into the boxes – else, if all of a sudden you need some item at the new station, you would end up opening every single box! Many even carry the un-fitting clothes and every piece of item, though they are pretty sure that those will never be used again – just because you are permitted to carry 60 quintals during the transfer! Atleast a few of them remain unopened at the new place! The boxes once emptied, occupies the space in the servant quarters or the garages. Fauji’s don’t mind parking the vehicles in the open, but the boxes are precious and need to be kept safe till the next transfer.
And the boxes have some other purpose too! We generally get all the boxes of exactly the same size – like my all 16 boxes were 3’ x 2’ x 2’. So when you reach a new place the boxes can be used as temporary study tables, sofas or even beds by joining them and with the right size of cushion or mattress placed over!
But yes, the real problem is once you retire from the forces and settles down at your own house. Then, the space becomes a constraint and you end up throwing out the contents of many boxes that you carried with you over the past many years as junk. Disposing these items is a real pain – and I have gone through it here in Kochi. Even disposing off the boxes is not that easy. If one is lucky and living near a military station, you may find some needy fauji brother as takers for them. After months of searching, finally I got a buyer through OLX - a guy who was shifting house and was crazy to do it all by himself! I still have three of them left with me as Souvenirs – one with some useless kitchen stuff (we don’t know when are we going to use that), another one with one complete set of uniforms and few winter clothing (May be I am expecting a call back to duty!) and another one with my electronic scrap, which I am sure I will carry to the grave!