Uma Sudhindra writes about being raised as an Army BRAT and how the upbringing of Army kids differentiates them from other children.
A lot of us have heard the term Army Brat. Today, it primarily refers to any child who has grown up with a parent in the army, has never lived in a place more than 3 years, studied in Kendriya Vidyalayas, Central Schools and Army Schools, made new friends & stayed connected with most of them, lived in cantonments, would know at least a couple of people who have served in the highest battleground on earth, Siachen.
However, the term “Army BRAT” is an acronym and has a history to it.
A book written in 1921 (I don’t remember the name of the book, but a friend who read it at the National Defence University told me this) described the origins of the term. It came, like many of our military traditions, from the British Army. It seems that when a member of the British Army was assigned abroad and could take his family (mostly in India), the family went with the member in an admin status entitled: BRAT status. It stands for: British Regiment Attached Traveler. Over the years, it was altered to refer only to the children of the military officer as the wives of the British Army officers objected to the term referring to them. And the term not only stuck, but in many cases, was adopted worldwide.
Closer home, a video by Shyam Renganathan, that I saw a couple of years ago, describes BRAT as Born, Raised And Transferred. This defines us completely. We are that breed of kids who are raised in and transferred from one cantonment to another as our military parents are. Our upbringing in a unique way differentiates us from other kids.
This is also the reason it is easy for one military brat to recognize another one easily. Some of the characteristics that set us apart:
1. We army brats don’t really belong to one place. When I would get introduced by my civilian friends, it would generally happen like this, “Hi, meet my friend Uma. Her Dad is in the army.” Response, “Great. Where are you from?” “Er…everywhere.” “Oh!”
2. Almost all army brats know at least one more language besides English and Hindi. Being multi-lingual comes with the territory.
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3. We grow up in a disciplined environment, not in a regimented one. Contrary to belief, army kids are not treated like cadets at home (all the time). Yes, there is a certain discipline that is followed in terms of pursuing a sport, playing a game, study time and socialising time.
4. Our upbringing allows us to pursue pretty much any subject we want to. The all-round grooming one gets as an army brat helps us hone our skills in various fields.
5. We are as comfortable in a fancy car as we are in a Shaktiman (school buses for most of us) or a jeep or a tank. As kids, we would have experienced riding in all the above simply because our Dads would have done it!
6. We are extremely adaptable to weather, housing, environment, food and learn to make the best of everything. We have grown up that way. Home is where the army takes us and we have seen our moms create wonderful homes in whatever is given by the government.
7. Most of us learn to become good planners and organisers because it is what our parents do and we have imbibed these lessons from them.
8. It is easy for us to build relationships. Growing up, every officer and his wife in the unit/battalion is Uncle & Aunty for us. Forging camaraderie and building bonds come naturally. This carries on even when we become part of “civvy street.”
9. With the multi-faceted exposure we get from the day we are born, handling situations, circumstances and people confidently comes naturally to us.
For a military brat, life also teaches dealing with separations, postings, conflicts, injuries and in some cases, death too. All this a part of the growing-up life cycle. However, I don’t think any army kid will trade the life he/she gets as a military BRAT.
I know I never will!
(Written by Uma Sudhindra)