Defense Kids In India: Growing Up Differently

Euphemistically termed “fauji brats” (military brats), children with parents in the Indian Armed Forces are a unique breed in many ways. They grow up seeing and experiencing a unique ‘esprit de corps’ where nothing is too much for a fellow officer.

Moving And The Art Of Packing

Military Brats

Military brats can have a breadth of experiences unmatched by most teenagers

Getting transferred is what the general public associates life in the defense services with.  Moving to a different place practically every year is very much part of enlisted life. From a very young age, children with parents in the military or Armed Forces are used to having dad walk in and announcing yet another move to a new city or town, a new home, new school and new friends. Thanks to this they end up seeing the length and breadth of the country in a short span of time and they grow up with a range of assorted experiences.

Packing up and moving on is a very ‘normal’ concept for defense children – they even learn the art of how to pack sans the modern day comforts of ‘packers and movers’. The parents do the packing, with generous help from fellow officers, and the kids pitch in as a matter of course. Being an Air Force officer’s daughter, I have personally supervised loading trucks – to the amazement of the men who came to the lifting!

Growing Up In Military Families

With so many changes in the everyday life, defense children develop a rare brand of confidence and world-perspective. They learn to deal with adverse situations from a very young age – adapting to a new school every few years is a kind of ‘survival training’ that children outside the services rarely have to undergo.

The Armed Forces have rules and regulations for all personnel. By extension, these get incorporated in the lives of defense offspring, as well. Discipline is a very integral part of the defence services and a defense home tends to adhere to certain regimental principles (for instance, time and tide wait for no one). Discipline becomes second nature, with few exceptions to the rule.

From their earliest years, defense kids learn to dress correctly for different occasions, in line with the uniform and dress codes that all defense personnel follow. Every function, military or social, calls upon this code (thankfully, military chivalrousness allows ladies some leeway there).

Defense kids are finely attuned to the concept of ‘what to wear and when’. Most parents would give an arm and a leg for such a sensibility in their kids – and believe me, we defense couples treasure the fact that our children will never under-or-overdress for any occasion!

Learning Manners And Respect For Women

Women in the services are treated with respect and deference. Children learn to show respect to ladies by observing other officers doing the little things, like standing up when a lady enters the room, opening doors, holding out a chair and all those other chivalrous things that most only read about are a matter of course for defense children.

Did you know that in the Navy, if a lady is going on board a warship, the officer on duty and any other personnel on deck will salute her as she steps on board? That is the level of respect that ladies command and that is what children see and grow up with.

They also learn not to discriminate on the basis of caste, creed, color, language and race – in the Armed Forces, every person is valued. They learn to accept and respect everyone since they see other personnel doing the same. Defense children grow up with friends from every religion – they visit temples, churches and Gurdwaras with equal gravity, and learn to celebrate all festivals with the same pomp and gaiety. This is, perhaps, the most important lesson that children growing up in a defense environment learn.

Our Defense Stars

The various successes that children of defense personnel have achieved over the years stand mute testimony to the environment in which defense kids grow up. Remember Sushmita Sen? Daughter of an Air Force officer, she went on to become India’s beauty ambassador to the world. Lara Dutta is another case in point, as are many others who have brought honor to the defense services.

Under no circumstances does this article put forth the thought that children from the defense are better than others. However, environment does play a big role in the overall development of a child. Because the defense services come with their own definition of life and living, children grow up learning to accept, accommodate, help and enjoy all that life has to offer.

Copyright © Smita Chatterjee

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