My dad is the biggest military nerd in the world and I'm not joking when I say that at 58, the man still plays some of the best and most difficult flight simulation games. His passion for all things military started from the time he was barely 16, which is when he graduated from school (making me wonder what the hell went wrong with me) and joined the National Defence Academy to become a.... wait for it....FIGHTER PILOT! Hence, the post image because there are many similar pictures of him in his fighter pilot uniform lying around the house. Pictures in which he looks effortlessly graceful, handsome, sexy, charming, and all those things that the children of these fighter pilots never inherit.
The kids of these men and women can very well be called Military Brats because that's what we become when we grow up. My dad retired from the Indian Air Force some 13 years ago, so some of my observations may be outdated. But here is a list of 10 things that I have observed about the Military Brats from my generation who for some reason, never inherited their parents' good looks:
We are the most annoyingly polite, slap-worthy kids on the planet. Even before we learned how to frame proper sentences, we learned to wish our parents' colleagues. Any military kid who is just learning to walk will promptly stand up, do a quick somersault and wish the guests a Good Morning/Afternoon/Evening depending on the time of the day. Oh yes, we also learn to tell the time very early in life and know that it's always 'Good Morning' before 12 p.m and so on. We learn telephone etiquette before we are even potty trained. We say snotty things like "May I pliss speak with.." as if we already know the difference between 'can' and 'may', 'to' and 'with'. We say things like, "No thank you.", "I'm fine, thank you. How are you?" and "Could I get you something?" while we're still in our diapers, and holding on to feeding bottles. That kid who jumped off his balcony on the third floor and ran across the street to help you with your groceries? Yep, that's a military brat.
House visiting is a real thing in the military environment. People drop in sometimes just to socialise. And it seems very natural. Getting dressed to go visit someone who lives in the next building or preparing home-made snacks and drinks in advance because you could be entertaining in the evening, is normal.
Making friends is easy. Sometimes your parents will walk up to your room holding the hand of a random kid that you've never seen before in your life and say, "Look, your friend has come over to play with you.". And we never question how this kid suddenly became our friend. We just play with the kid and get invited for a play-date with him/her the next day.
We speak a minimum of three languages very fluently. Our mother-tongue, obviously. English, because you need to know English when you're changing schools every three years, and at least one local language from the part of the country that you're stationed at for three years. It just happens naturally and you realise that you're an anomaly only when you're much older.
The parties. Oh yes, the parties. The kids wear pretty clothes (if they're invited) and run around the area assigned to them, which is mostly an outdoor garden or a random room with a TV. We play, drink carbonated beverages, have good food, run around some more, play with more random strange kids like we've known them forever, and finally pass out from exhaustion. If we're not invited (which is mostly the case, because who wants kids at a party?), we all just babysit one another. Three sets of parents attending the same party, having three sets of children, will have at least one kid who is old enough to make sure that nobody burns down the house.
After these exhausting parties, we all go back to the same school the next day. Possibly using the same mode of transportation because we all live in the same building. And why would you send your kid to any other school when you have your own? The Air Force kids go to The Air Force School by default. The Army kids to the Army Public School and the Navy kids to the Naval Public School. It's simple and uncomplicated.
The kids sometimes get together and argue about which of the uniformed services is the best. The Army kids say the Army is the best and the Air Force kids say, "No way.". This sometimes escalates to the point where they say things like, "Come meet me at the playground at 5 p.m if you're man enough to settle this once and for all.". Yes, 5 year-olds have been heard saying things like that.
All military kids want to join the military when they grow up. This is by default. And the parents try to embrace and cherish it for as long as they can because when they grow up, the kids could change their ambitions and career paths. But take any military child under the age of 10, and he/she is going to tell you that he/she wants to become a fighter pilot or join the Army like his/her father/mother. I know I did. Then puberty hit and unlike normal kids, I stopped growing. You see, they don't let 149 cm tall half-humans fly planes.
We're those kids that stand in attention and scream "Jai Hai" at the top of our lungs during the National Anthem. We're hard-wired patriots and will give our lives for our country. This, of course, is mostly just a phase which lasts till we grow up and read a little more than our prescribed history textbooks and go, "Huh. So he wasn't such a great man after all".
Men in Uniforms are the sexiest men alive. Period. There's no way anyone can argue with a military kid about that. Even a random loser on the street will suddenly transform into a sexy beast the minute he wears a military uniform. The lamest Bollywood actors become super-hot, manly-men the minute they appear on screen in a uniform. The Navy uniforms are my personal favourite. Dad is going to be disappointed in me.
Believe me, there are more points to add to the above list. Off the top of my head, we are capable of reciting the military ranks in any order. We think that our parents' ranks are a fixed part of their names as if they were born with them. Quick side story - We went to a plant nursery to get some plants for our garden and the owner asked me my dad's name. I said "Wing Commander Narayan" and she wrote "Vengamandan Narayan" on the receipt. This joke never gets old. But I'll stop for now. Because I need to go back and call Vengamandan Narayan.
Venagamandan Narayan is a very good looking man.
Image courtesy - Facebook