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There is no denying it... Spouses and children from an Armed Forces background are different... They stand apart! And the values that the forces inculcate in the wives and children gives them the character and steel that has resulted in so many success stories taking wing.
Spouses have learnt to balance careers and homes with aplomb. In the process, many have also managed to carve a niche for themselves in different walks of life. There is Subhashini Vasanth, an international danseuse, writer and social activist. Her never-say-die spirit saw her set up the Vasantratna Foundation for Arts, after her husband was martyred in Kashmir. Through this foundation, she reaches out to children of martyrs, especially those from the ranks, and helps empower them. Nafisa Ali, the wife of Col ‘Pickles’ Sodhi, attained fame as a national level swimmer and then went on to become a Miss India and Actress. After a brief stint with politics, she is now a social activist and known for her crusades for rehabilitating cyclone victims, opening patient facilities for HIV positive victims and masterminding child welfare schemes. There is Deepa Malik, the feisty, gutsy wife of Col Bikram Malik, who did not let her nerve degeneration and paralysis bring her down. From her wheelchair she went on the win medals for the nation in international Para-Athlete events across the world – something that earned her a much deserved Arjuna Award. She has won numerous accolades for her participation in various adventure sports. Whether it is swimming against the strong Yamuna current, or riding a special bike or even taking a shot at the Paralympics, she has done it all. Then there is Aman Grewal, winner of Mrs India Worldwide in 2014 and Laxmi Rana, an International Model and TV Artist. Dr. Manisha Rathi; Author, International Speaker and Sky Diver, Shalini Puri is a well-known Educationist and Philanthropist. Neeharika Naidu is another famous Singer, Artist and Editor. The list of army wives who have excelled in diverse fields is endless.
Deepa Malik recieving the Arjuna Award
The same values seem to have been imbibed by service children. (Or fauji brats as we are often uncharitably referred to). Their success stories are legion and in many ways due to attributes imbibed by the service background. The norms of discipline, punctuality, obedience, sincerity, courtesy and proper conduct are all ingrained there. Service children grow up with many limitations and learn to manage in all sorts of circumstances, with whatever little they have. They have been brought up in a world with no ‘frills and fancies’ and have been shaped by values loyalty, integrity, honesty and commitment. For them there are no shortcuts in life...there is no such thing as a free lunch. What they attain is through sheer hard work, determination and dogged perseverance.
Defence services children are so adaptable that it enables them to fit in anywhere in the years to come. They grow up moving from place to place, school to school, home to home...leaving old friends...making new ones...sometimes living in small towns, sometimes in big cities and other times in the back of the beyond. In this they learn to adapt and survive. Separation from fathers brings on added responsibility and gives them the ability to take independent decisions. These kids mature faster than their contemporaries and are often more confident than the rest.
And in the services they grow up imbibing the sense of discipline and sacrifice. They are Indians first and learn to respect all religions and ideologies. Festivals are celebrated together. Days are packed with activities. Where else will you be lucky enough to have access to unlimited sporting activities, clubs and fields. From cycling for games to travelling to Army Schools/ Kendriya Vidyalayas / Convent Schools in the venerable Shaktimans , to exploring the wild outdoors (often just beyond your backyard) to picnics and games and hikes there is no dearth of excitement. Growing up in Cantonments makes us part of a large extended family. This is where service children understand what it really means to defend your country and to die fighting to save it. Death is experienced first-hand and brotherhood and camaraderie are not just terms. They are emotions experienced on a daily basis. It is only a Defence Services child who would understand what exactly the soldier’s worth is.
And so it is no surprise that service children have excelled in various fields and activities. We have a bevy of beauties like Sushmita Sen, Preity Zinta, Anoushka Sharma, Chitraganda Singh, Pooja Batra, Priyanka Chopra, Celina Jaitley, Lara Dutta, Neha Dhupia to name a few. Akshay Kumar, Mohnish Behl, Arjun Rampal, Rajeev Khandelwal, Aman Verma , Cyrus Sahurkar and Ranvijay Singh are some of the well-known Bollywood and television personalities. TV anchors, television commentators and journalists like Seema Mustafa, Nitin Gokhale, Arnab Goswami, Karan Thapar, Siddhartha Patankar, and Mayanti Langer are all defence children. And there are luminaries in the field of business and commerce as well; Ajay Banga, the Chief Executive Officer of MasterCard, Lord Karan Fariddon Billimoria, a British Entrepreneur and Chairman of Cobra Beer and Sameer Bhatia, the founder of Hotmail. Go on to Nirupama Rao, the former Foreign Secretary and Indian Ambassador to the US, Jeev Milkah Singh and Jyoti Randhawa who have made a mark for themselves in Golf; Gul Panag, the daughter of General H S Panag who has carved a special niche for herself not just as a beauty queen and actress, but as an author, adventurist and political activist. The armed forces have contributed to the world of fashion through J J Valaya and Tarun Tahiliani and to social causes with Tiffany Brar, herself visually impaired, but the driving force a mobile blind school and Sister Nirmala Joshi, successor of Mother Teresa Missions of Charity. Add to the list Gauri Khan, Prahlad Kakkar, Kirron Kher, Amrita Singh, Deepak Chopra and Renuka Chowdary...
Fauji children have excelled as Beauty Queens and Activists alike
And then there are the unknown – the silent heroes and heroines that the armed forces have produced like you and me. In each case we have imbibed the same values and steel from our service background. So go ahead and give it a whiz. Give your best shot to whatever you set your mind to attain. And who knows! The next big success story from the forces could just be you, or your child.
Fine piece,wonderfully articulated. Eminently readable.
A very nice piece. Why don't you follow up with other success stories of Service officers and their families. There are so many of them in all walks of life
Thank you so much.
Thank you. Yes that is in the offing and we plan to follow up with many such stories.