Daughter of war

"My father called me Mogli, the lead character in Jungle Book, in his letters to my mother. That was because he didn’t know the gender of the baby in the womb. Even in his last letter, he wrote to my mother, 'Take care of my Mogli'. Just three months before his Mogli was born, he died, while fighting for the country in the Kargil War. My family was heartbroken, of course. My aunt was affected themost. But my grandmother dealt with the sorrow in a much stronger way. She said, ‘Soldiers never die and their families never cry’. That not just moved my aunt, but my whole family. They wanted to ensure that the baby that was coming had the happiest childhood. I must say, they kept their promise. Growing up, I got a lot of sympathy from outsiders, but none of us needed that. We’ve been a bunch of happy and jovial people, always trying to look at everything with a positive thought. There are low days but that doesn’t stop me from anything. Like my father, I know to get up and fight every obstacle. 

Also, thanks to my family, no time in life did I feel like I don’t have enough support or love. This thought of mine has become even stronger during the launch and writing of my book (about her father, Major Padmapani Acharya). During this time, I met so many officers, fellow course mates, friends who became my extended family. I discovered so many stories about him that I never knew before. The whole journey was never depressing. In fact, it made me proud that so many people voluntarily visited us to share their moments with him. That was the amount of respect and love they had for him and his family. With every tale and every letter I read, I only became more proud and responsible. I have big shoes to fit into. The only fear I have is that someday, someone will say my father would’ve been ashamed of my actions. That fear makes me work hard and be conscious. Every time I feel I’m not doing something right, I look at my dad’s picture and think. I clear my head and get my priorities right. Although I never met him, there’s some understanding and an emotional bond I share. I know he’s looking down at me. There’s a part of him in me. Apart from my obvious looks, even my habits match his. From the dishes we like to reading books and being slightly short-tempered, we’re the same. Honestly, I never felt his absence. I only miss his presence. But over the years, I have learnt to deal with it. I proudly talk about all his achievements. At 30, he was fighting the war, when his wife was almost six months pregnant. And he is not the only one. The Indian defence forces have people as young as 22 and 25, fighting for the country. Although they’re at the borders, back home, there’s a family constantly praying they come back with a victory. Nobody joins the army alone, the whole family does. And when things don’t go right, they don’t need sympathy. They need you to feel proud of them. Every martyr’s family deserves respect and support. Just like a family supports their officer, the society should support each one of those families. Instead, people come up with weird myths about defence forces. My grandmother often talks to youngsters and tells them how the army is a great place to work. Not every person in the army has to fight a war. You can be into accounts or human resources or any other field, but you’re still working for the country. And what’s the harm in fighting a war anyway? It's not really about killing alone. No soldier wants to go there and kill people. Nobody enjoys surviving freezing temperatures and having no food to eat. They do it for the country, for each one of us to be safe here. The least we can do is be supportive and salute them for their sacrifices and victory.

My dad always wrote quotes from the Bhagavad Gita in his letters to my mother. His last quote is what has stayed with always: ‘If you win the war, you’ll attain sovereignty. If you die, you’ll go to heaven. Then, what do you have to fear? Stand up and fight.’ This perfectly explains the life and journey of a soldier, which is reflected in every word in the book. I only hope it gets more people to know not just his story, but stories of unsung heroes and unknown wars post-independence. 
Jai Hind! "

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