While all children hailing from diverse global communities are blessed in some way or the other, the resilience, fortitude, adaptability and etiquette seen among military children truly shine bright. Hence, the 1980s heralded an international practice of acknowledging and celebrating these kids all through the month of April. Purple – a mix of all the designated military and para-military shades – was chosen as the official colour for the event.
Being the spouse of an Indian Air Force officer, I had seen a lot of movement, settling and un-settling in the initial years. And this naturally continued even after my sons were born. While growing up, they had friends from every possible community and faith, and got to explore a plethora of cuisines – right from vada-pav, idli-dosa, chana-bhatura and chopsuey to pies and tarts, gajar ka halwa and sweet pongal. Festivals were another great way of creating bonds and enjoying bonhomie, be it the boisterous celebrations during Lohri-Holi-Diwali, the sombre carol singing before Christmas, or listening to stories of the Prophet over helpings of rich, ghee-laden sewai. Military children learn to love other human beings without and beyond prejudices and boundaries. Tolerance, a sense of brotherhood, and empathy are wired into their DNA.
The adaptability quotient of these children is put to test when they have to change schools and even boards, every two to three years because of their parent’s postings. Leaving old friendships behind, forging new ones, understanding the teachers’ idiosyncrasies and expectations, adapting to a whole new eco-system –all this can take a psychological toll on young minds. And just when they start settling down, they are again shunted out to a new place! But our military kids do it all, often with a smile. If one is very lucky, one might get to study with an old friend, many moons later, at another military base. Which explains why my son was overjoyed when he bumped into his primary school buddy of Ambala Cantt, in his senior secondary years at Bangalore!
I remembered the time when our entire fighter squadron had been deployed near the Punjab-Pakistan border during the Kargil crisis. I was pregnant with my second child. My older son, all of five, did not understand the nitty-gritty of the situation except for the fact that Papa was out on duty and that, he was the man of the house! But this is one of the better incidents that ended on a happy note. There are so many children who have to deal with fatalities within the family, very early on in life. And there are still others who have to grapple with long periods of separation and anxiety in their tender years, thanks to the perils of defence assignments in high-risk or inhospitable terrain. And through all this, they never forget their “Good evening, Uncle” and “Thank you, Aunty”, reinstating the decorum and the pride that the Forces instil in them. They are conditioned to sport a confident, unruffled front and tap on their inner reserves of patience and intrepidity, while dealing with unforeseen adversities.
Hence, dedicating a month to the Military Child is a small way of saluting and honouring this exemplary breed of children, our prized citizens of tomorrow.