Of the 30 years that she has been married, Sunita Malik has spent only five years living with her husband. A Central Reserve Police Force personnel, her husband has been posted most of the time in non-family stations facing the risk of life and limb, whether it was in Jammu and Kashmir, the North East, Naxalite areas in Andhra Pradesh or deployed in Sri Lanka as part of the Indian peace keeping force. It is not just the daily anxiety and tension of her husband’s safety that she has to cope with, she says, but also taking care of her in-laws, her two children, her son in Class 12 and her daughter pursuing a B.Com degree.

“Tension hi tension hai,” says Sunita. “It becomes more difficult when children are in higher classes because they need guidance from their father, then the tension of taking decisions without the husband by your side.”

Dhanpati, whose CRPF husband too has been away from home most of their married life says, “We have to keep track of the news all the time and if there is tension in the area our husbands are posted at, there is no end to worrying, life seems to stop at such times.”

This is not the story of only Sunita or Dhanpati, but of every family of security personnel whether they are serving the CRPF, the Border Security Force or other forces.

Both Sunita and Dhanpati, however say that while life is not easy, the inbuilt system within the fraternity of the force is of great help.

Rajul Tiwari, a counsellor with the CRPF Public School in Delhi’s Rohini area, however, feels there is need for stress management not only for the CRPF personnel who have to spend most of their lives away from their families, sometimes in extreme climate conditions and difficult terrains facing threat of death and injury, but also for their children and spouses.

The first thing that is required says Rajul, is acceptance by the wives that their husbands are going to be away from home and they will have to learn to cope both with stress and workload. Secondly, they need to be taught life skills to manage the house as well as earn extra income so that in case of an eventuality, they are able to stand on their feet. There is need to counsel the children as well on how they can become independent and even help their mother and other elderly members of the family. “There is a need for constant interaction because sometimes simply letting out bottled-up feelings and emotions can be of great help,” says Rajul. The chief executive council member of the CRPF Wives Welfare Association, Dr Anjali Nirmal says that in all the 32 Group Commands, branch associations are working to help CRPF families. They try and get them necessary medical assistance, organise recreational events on a weekly basis, teach them vocational skills such as tailoring, knitting, a beautician’s course or bee keeping.

“The idea is to keep them busy and involved, create a warm and congenial atmosphere for them and at the same time help them earn extra money.” Recently, some of their products were showcased in a three-day annual exhibition-cum-sale in Delhi.

Anjali’s husband is also in the CRPF. She says her husband remained incommunicado for nine days fighting insurgency in Chhattisgarh’s jungles during his tenure as Inspector General Cobra and she herself went through hell thinking about his safety. “But we all have to take things in our stride and be prepared to face every situation.”