In 2002 I left Madras and moved to Pune to study law. Until then I had no friends with a connection to the armed forces, and honestly, all I knew about the military was from the information I gathered from books or magazines, and the movies I watched.
However, my roommates in Pune, who became good friends for life, shaped my perceptions of the forces.
One of my friend’s father was posted in Udhampur, Jammu and Kashmir, and I saw just how much she missed him. She was worried about his safety, but never once let the anxiety break her. I remember her prayers, how she followed the news so closely, and her steely face, which made her appear more formidable than her petite frame let on.
Usually, unless one spends a considerable amount of time with them, one doesn’t really know what they go through. This creates a warped idea of their lifestyles and much misunderstanding. So I sat down for a fun conversation with four fiery military “brats” who were more than willing to bust some of the myths surrounding their lives.
Kangan Varma is the daughter of Late Wing Commander P.K. Varma. She is a mother and a blogger based in Bengaluru. Lekshmi Priya S is the daughter of Group Captain P.S. Sanal Kumar and is a writer based in Bengaluru. Raveesh Dev is the son of Colonel Vijay Sharma (Retd.) and is a corporate professional. Tia Malik, daughter of Col. Sunil Mailk (Retd.), is a partner in an Intellectual Property law firm in the capital.
Myth #1: You are an Army kid! You must have had a very strict upbringing, right?
“Strict is a rather strong word to use. We led disciplined lives. My father would never spoil me rotten, but I had enough and more freedom to be as naughty as I wanted to. The entire ‘army-parents-are-strict’ is a big myth’ answers Raveesh.
Myth #2: Being an Army kid, you were probably stationed in so many places. That must have been amazing!
Kangan, who has lived in many places during her growing up years, says, “Yes, it was lovely to be in so many places while growing up. But the pain of leaving behind friends in every station as we moved was equally, if not more hard.”
To this Tia adds, “Also, we did not always get to stay with our father and were very often separated. Not nice at all.”
Myth #3: You are an Army kid, so all your dinners must have been rather prim and proper. Were you even allowed to talk?
Raveesh laughs when asked this. He says, “Yes, we like to eat in a civilised manner, but then don’t you? Remember a certain Arnab Goswami? Wouldn’t have been possible if they kept mum all their life at the dinner table. Think about it!”
Myth #4: How lucky you are! Everything is subsidised for you at the canteen.
“Subsidised supplies for your family go hand-in-hand when you prioritise your country over your family. Also, subsidised does not mean free – we do pay for our supplies. We just pay lower taxes,” says Kangan, who adds that she is tired of being asked this.
Myth #5: “My father is a defence personnel.” “Oh, your father is in the Army?”
“Defence doesn’t mean Army alone. There is Air Force and Navy too. This is perhaps one of the biggest misconceptions civilians harbor,” says Tia.
Myth #6: All Army kids are fit because their fathers are so fit.
Vehemently disagreeing with this point, Tia says, “NO. Being fit, or unfit for that matter, has nothing to do with my father. Yes, my father still wakes up between 5 and 5.30 a.m., and he diligently goes for his morning walk. But I am not forced to do that.”
Myth #7: “Oh, you are dating an army officer’s daughter. All the best!”
Tia jumps at this myth and says, “Fathers will be fathers, how does being in the armed forces change how protective or concerned he is about my well-being?”
Myth #8: Oh you must have access to an unlimited quota of alcohol. How awesome!
“Yes, there is a monthly quota of alcohol issued. But it certainly doesn’t mean one stockpiles bottles at home. And there are many officers who are teetotaler. My father is one example,” says Lekshmi.