Ever had your parents throw a party? One with loud music, booze, salty wafers and peanuts galore?

Most ‘defense brats’ will know exactly what I’m describing. Most of our parties involved a ‘pot-luck’ where biryani was generally the ideal dinner plan, and by the end of the evening, most of our dads were smashed beyond compare, while our mothers would act like the best of friends, and then go home and say “I really don’t like that woman.”

We always had that one uncle who told the same stories again and again, and that one really loud aunty, who had that annoying kid no one really liked. These parties generally involved all the kids being locked up in a room, to stay out of everyone’s way, with a constant flow of chips and coke coming in, courtesy the family’s maid, until the time one of the older kids had the brilliant idea of playing ‘dark room’ which was followed by a secret mission of transferring all the tiny tots into a different room, keeping them occupied with a cartoon, generally Naruto or Pokémon.  Once the kiddies location was secured, we’d start the horrible game of darkroom, which involved all the kids cramming themselves into spots too tiny to fit then, and silently waiting for the ‘denner’ to come get them ‘out’, all with the lights off. I was the kid who always hid in one of the cupboards, behind the hostess auntie’s towels and bedspreads.

Getting caught was considered a curse, and the poor victim could only pray for that one smart kid, who’d manage to hit the grim reaper equivalent hard in the back and say, ‘Dhappa’. This hero was then guaranteed some solid appreciation for the rest of the evening, as because of him, the ‘denner’ would have to repeat the below process.

A quick what to do when after you’re the chosen one after what seems like a dozen rounds of ‘inky-pinky-ponkies’:

  • Stand with your face towards the wall, and count to a number chosen by the other players beforehand. This number was always either 10 or 100. Never anything between them. (I’d always wish for the 10, but my sadistic friends always went “No no, count to 100.”)
  • Yell “ready or not, here I come!!!!!!!”
  • Sneakily enter the designated hiding area.
  • Catch the kid stupid enough to hide under the bed.
  • Catch the next two idiots hiding behind the curtains.
  • Repeat above step, replacing curtains with other really obvious places to hide.
  • Find all but one of the kids, and then nervously look over your shoulder, in case he was in ideal dhapa position.
  • Get ‘dhappa-ed’.
  • Repeat above process.

This was our source of entertainment.

Of course, no party was complete without the breaking of a glass and the spilling of some coke; I myself have been the hand behind these actions, on numerous occasions.

However ridiculous these parties may sound, ever since I’ve been forced into the civilian world, I’ve sort of missed these shenanigans.

Parties at the defense area clubs, namely ‘NOI’ were altogether a different story. Now that I think of it, us kids, we were really efficient in whipping up ways to entertain ourselves.

One such method of passing time was the brilliant game of ‘car numbers’.

The idea of the game was to safely maneuver the group from one car to the other, without our old friend the ‘denner’ catching us.

Now, the catch to the whole operation was that the car we had to migrate to, was assigned to us by Mr. Denner ( Lets just call him Mr. D from now, sounds so much more sinister.), who would then hang around said car, waiting to catch the first unsuspecting victim of his. We were soldiers on a battle field, moving to our new base, the last four digits on the number plate, our coordinates.

I remember the older kids dividing us into troops and sending out spies to follow Mr. D while he found the perfect car to make us move to. Most times the spies were caught, and we were then left at Mr. D’s mercy. He would always cunningly pick the car furthest to us, and then would wait for us to try running to it.  If caught, the victim would then be the next Mr. D.

Now, I have to give credit to my ‘Didis’ and ‘Bhaiyas’. They were some serious masterminds, when it came to strategizing our POA.  Sneaking around, diversion tactics, troops approaching the target from different direction, you name it, they’d already chalked it all out!

The fastest kid amongst us was first sent to scout for the car, while we ran amok like headless chicken, with Mr. D on our tails, and then, when target was acquired, we’d rush back to our home base, and finally begin the tedious job of moving to the other car.

What about the people who were to jelly to move? You ask, what about the ones who were easy targets for Mr. D?

Fear not! We had a plan to get them to safety too!

We would all form a human chain, and pull our team mate to safety. Stretching as much as we can, holding each other’s hair as means of extension, we made this possible.

I distinctly remember myself holding on to someone’s shoelace, in order to lengthen the chain the tallest boy standing on one foot, clutching onto the car, with the other kids holding on to his toes, thus elongating our ridiculous attempt to bring our sissy team mates to safety.

And this is how we spent every party.

Now that my father has left the Navy, most parties involve us youngsters sitting in corners, glued to our phones, or locked in our rooms, watching the latest sitcom. However ridiculous our games sounded, they were the reason we had an amazing time at every get-together, irrespective of our age. If you haven’t experienced at least one of our ‘Fauji’ shenanigans, you’ve certainly missed out on something.

I’ve spent 13 years as a naval brat, and I can say for sure, that that’s where life is as good as it gets.