The Wonder Years From the Indian Army diaries

Jan 14, 2013, 09:31 IST | Soma Das, Surekha S, Ruchika Kher, Dhara Vora and Hassan M Kamal

Tomorrow, India will celebrate Army Day. On this occasion, The Guide has invited five Indian personalities across different genres who were born into families that served with the Indian Army, as they recall their lessons for life

“Army kids are more adaptable”
Cyrus Sahukar, VJ, actor

My dad was a Colonel in the Army, and my grandfather was in the Army as well. I was, in fact, born in the military headquarters in Indore. I have not experienced much of Army life as my parents separated when I was still young. But Army life is surely different from civilian life. I experienced it as an adolescent and it is akin to being part of a completely different set-up. Army kids grow up with activities like horse riding. You pick up a lot of things and interact with other Army kids. It is a whole world in itself. Army kids are more adaptable and disciplined than others. The opportunity to be disciplined is a lot more for them. It becomes part and parcel of who they are.

“Everything is taught by example”
< Gul Panag, Actress

Belonging to an Army background teaches you how to adjust under any circumstance. On an average, you end up changing schools 8-14 times and thus, develop an ability to adapt to the omnipresent change of surroundings. You also develop an understanding and adherence to hierarchy; this interpersonal tool helps in every industry and even in informal interactions. The ability to know what to say to whom makes the difference between making friends and enemies. As an Army kid, it becomes second nature to manage interactions in a hierarchical structure. Also, everything is taught by example — we observe and learn. I was inspired by my father Lt Gen (Retd) HS Panag, a punctual disciplinarian who turns up at events before time as he respects the other person’s time. In contrast, I am not as disciplined, and I worry about the lessons I will pass on to my children. A bonus is the incredible network we develop across the country. So, if I am stuck in a remote corner in India, my father will be able to direct me to someone, for help.

“Army kids have a secular upbringing”
Ranvijay Singh Sangha, VJ & actor

When I was born, my paternal and maternal grandfather, Col HS Sangha and Major Jeevan Singh were in the Indian Army. My father, Major General IS Sangha, is still in the Army and my brother and cousins are also Armymen. I was to join the Army before I got through the Roadies audition, and now I am the only guy in my family who is not in the Army. As kids, we went to the best schools and had a modern and disciplined upbringing. There is a reason why Army kids do well in the media — we have been travelling all our lives and are never out of place anywhere, be it a jungle or a five-star hotel. Our lifestyle has always been adventurous and outgoing. Also, we have a secular upbringing, it was only when I started interacting with the outside world did I realise that there even is such a thing as religious biases.

“The Army keeps you grounded”
JJ Valaya, Fashion Designer
It was wonderful and refreshingly different to be an army kid. A life in cantonments is something else! Civilians will never quite understand that. When one grows up in an environment replete with discipline and customs, it is natural to imbibe some of these qualities. My sense of discipline and commitment comes from growing up as an Army child, and from my father. Secondly, by virtue of his postings, I got exposed to different parts of India, and made friends from diverse cultural backgrounds. Different schools every three years also contributed to my ability to adapt with new people and a new environment. Lastly, growing up as an Army kid keeps you grounded; there are no tantrums, whims or unreasonable fancies. I was fortunate because by the time I reached an age where I could register things, my father had moved up, seniority-wise; so I was exposed to the best life that the Army could offer — huge bungalows, guards all around, special privileges at the mess — those were the good times!

“I learnt the importance of discipline”
Nikita Anand, former Miss India

I enjoyed the Army life. I had the opportunity to meet lots of new people and visit new places. There are many aspects of Army life which is appealing, but I really liked that it’s so huge. There are the Services, the Navy, the Army, the Air Force — all integrated into one large, close-knit family, extended across the country. It’s great feeling to be part of such family. My father was a double specialist Army doctor; so fortunately, we didn’t have to be uprooted every year. But being in the Army, I travelled to different cities while growing up. I learned to adjust, adapt and met new people. This exposure helped in the all-round development of my attitude. They say, you are a product of your environment, and growing up in an Army family has taught me the importance of discipline, honour and respect for one’s word and the sense of organisation. Army life has also taught me to be a fighter. These things helped me when I participated in the Miss India competition. It has made me what I am today.

Did you know?
Army Day commemorates the changing of guard when Lieutenant General (later Field Marshal) KM Cariappa took over as the first Commander in Chief of the Indian Army from the last British commander, Sir Francis Butcher, in 1949.  

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