Updated: Sep 7
Indian defence forces used to be completely male dominated till the 90s. Entry of women into the cadre started somewhere in the mid nineties which soon followed them getting posted at the field units. The feeling among the male group varied. A few were anxious to see how they will cope up in the male dominated arena, while few were tensed as they feared the entire focus will now shift to the new entrants and they will loose relevance. Some were quite perturbed as they could not digest the idea at all. But, the majority were excited, though they were afraid to express it in public. Most of the bachelors were of course in the last category. As the field units were plenty, not all the units were lucky enough to get one in it's roll from the first batch. The male forces waited, hoping to see a few in their stations soon.
Around that time, I was posted at a station in the north. The Luck Goddess had not graced us till then. On a hot Sunday afternoon, the bachelor folks were busy emptying chilled beer bottles at the bar. A colleague walked in, holding a piece of paper and waving it at us. A look at the paper, we all recognized what it was. Print out from a the only DMP printer at the station, the one which we used to call as 'signals'. In forces, that used to be the main mode of official communication, issuing posting orders and temporary moves etc. Suddenly all the faces turned a bit tensed, fearing that it could be a posting order for one of us. The one holding the signal enjoyed the tension on everyone's face for sometime. Then a smile appeared on his face. He started reading out. 'Pilot Officer Ms Renu posted to 'Air Force Station.......'. He could not even complete the sentence, as the crowd started howling and the otherwise dull Sunday mood changed to lively and a ray of hope appeared on every face. The celebration continued till late evening and the barman Pandeji had to extend his services, far beyond his work hours to cope with the changed mood.
On the due day, few of my colleagues made some weird excuse to go to the Adjutant's office, hoping to get a first glimpse of Pilot Officer (Ms) Renu. They lingered around there for a while, but Renu did not appear. They went back and the next lot of watchers took charge. They too returned without any joy. Then the next batch took guard, keeping their hope still alive. The Adjutant was not so mused with the sudden rush around his office. He beckoned a guy, asked him what was going on. After a bit of questioning, he spilled the bean. The Adjutant started laughing like hell. The entire orderly room gathered around, everyone laughing and mocking at the young officers. After a while, with great difficulty the Adjutant controlled his laughter, took a pause and yelled - "Hey, you fools, Ms Renu has
already joined the station this morning. She is posted to the 901 Dog Squadron. She is going to be sniffing out you guys soon", and he resumed his laughter.
It was a new learning to most of us that the Dogs in the Dog Squadron were also given officer ranks and our dream girl Ms Renu turned out to be a trained sniffer dog. That evening we all gathered at the bar again. Silent, gloomy and sullen faces all around. No music, no jokes. We kept drinking - hoping to hear some good news soon.