Being called a Brat could never be a good thing, unless you prefix it with the word Defence. For those of you unfamiliar with this term, basically the child of a member of the armed forces is usually refered to as a defence brat. And yes, I am proud I am one of them. In India, the best conversation starter is “Where are you from?”Ask a brat this question and you are sure to get an interesting answer. With a change in city every two years, a change in school every year, the lack of a hometown to visit – we are the class of society that are held in the worst Identity crises ever. Facebook insists to fill up the space in the “about me” section that reads ‘hometown’, but guess what? No regrets! The lack of a hometown might seem like a bad thing to some people, but I’m more of a cup half full kind of a guy. You never stayed in a city for more than 2 years, you met and mingled with new friends groups every years – that is nothing but a blessing. Defence families are the most avid travellers in the country. We can pack a three bedroom house into five steel trunks and load them into a truck in a few hours time. Here is my sum up on the journey of a Defence brat.
Born in Command hospital Bangalore, I was literally born into a defence upbringing. In an Army hospital even your doctor is in a uniform and your nurses are not always Malayali; thats right diversity is seen right from birth. When you learn to talk as a kid there is a very good chance your first words are some defence lingo you picked up around the house. Respect was one of the first things you learn, you can learn to walk later. Most Indian kids got a good beating from their parents for not doing well in school. Well my sister and me got the wrath of our daddy if we did not say thank you to someone or held the fork and knife in the wrong hands. When time comes for your folks to decide what school to throw you into, our parents did not have much of a choice – Heard of Kendiya Vidyalaya? KV’s were designed to school defence kids. It almost felt like they maintained bad infrastructure to make you feel at home. The reason so many of us studied at KV’s is because the government could suddenly wake up one day and decide to move your dad to another city. I once completed half of one class in Agra, and then moved to Guwahati to finish the rest of the class there. My elder sister has changed more than 16 schools in her 12 years of education, and i’m not even exaggerating. This style of schooling has its own special experiences. Have you ever gone to school in an Army truck? I have! Have you ever studied in a class room that was the dormitory of police people? I have!
Lifestyle of a defence family might seem like a cool deal to a civilian. Yes! Thats what we call non defence people. If I ever said “Hi Aunty” instead of “Good evening Aunty”, my dad would smack me on the head and say “don’t behave like a civilian”. At an early age I gained important life lessons like shining a leather shoe till you can see your reflection on it or tucking in your shirt correctly, things most people learn a day before a campus interview. Life lessons meant a whole different thing in my house. At a young age of four, my dad gave me a private lesson on how to use a fork and knife. Defence people are the most sophisticated poor people you will see. These are the people who know how to eat a steak, but cannot afford to order one at a family dinner. My friends circle, my neighbours, my dads jeep, my house – these are just a few things that would change every six months. Every few months my mom will have to go ask for ‘Ek katori dahi’ from a different persons who moved into the house next to ours. The biggest lifestyle advantage is the mix of cultures. My parents being tamilians, speak the most fluent hindi. As a matter of fact, my mom was even a Hindi teacher for the primary school. Diversity in culture was not just with language – My tamilian mom makes the best Chole Bature and Pav Bhaji, we eaten more varieties of food at home rather than at a “Multi cuisine restaurant”. FoodWorld and Nilgiris were not where we bought our supplies. Yes, I am talking about the famous CST canteen. Its not just for cheaper alcohol, its everything from Tata salt to a Tata Indica. The most memorable thing about shopping at the canteen was the that no one had heard a plastic bag there, our groceries came home in a cardboard carton.
Now if you are thinking, this sounds like a low-key restricted lifestyle then you have no idea. I got two words for you Airforce-Parties. The mess party is the only place you will ever see your parents getting drunk and dancing to Ketchup song and the Vengaboys. Bangalore might shut its parities down at 11PM and 1.30AM on the weekends – service parties don’t stop till the daru is over. We also had these civilised parties where people sat on numbered tables and played Tambola. Oh god! “Amitabh Bachchan’s long legs – Number Eleven”, every defence brat has heard these words come out of a drunk uncles mouth. All airforce parties were themed parties, if there was no theme there was a dress code. If you see 100 well dressed people standing around drinking sophisticated liquor – thats an Airforce party.
In Conclusion, am I glad I had this kick ass lifestyle? Yes! Cant be more proud. What better feeling than being able to tell your friends “Have you seen Top Gun?, I grew up watching top gun in real life”. That Ray Ban and OverAll wearing classy dude who flew planes and fought for the country… that dude is my dad! People ask me, why did you not join the defence. Well I tried, I wanted to fly for the navy. But my mom told me “I have lived 30 years of my life in tension, sitting by the phone to hear from you dad who was working from another city in a remote airforce base no one has heard of, I had enough. You do engineering!” Well I am a comedian now, and that is my way of giving back to the country, not as bad ass as my dad – but its what I got.
PS: If you are a defence brat who is reading this article, here is an internet ‘Hi-5’ right at you. Share your amazing story in the comment section below – because I really would love to hear it 🙂 You know I mean it!