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Benaras was celebrating the first big festival of this year. Holi, just a year back in Gupta Niwas was celebrated with full fervor. People from neighborhood, friends and relatives came and enjoyed. Gulaal everywhere with gujia, mathri and papad served all day long made it memorable.
But, the same house was silent today. Ammaji on the charpoi chopping vegetables, bauji reading the newspaper probably the third time, 2 year old Nakul playing and Savita, pretending to hide her tears. Her gaze was fixated at the gate still waiting for Amar coming all coloured by his friends, dancing to the dhol and smearing her face with gulaal. This was what he did earlier......what an illusion was this....she knew he would never come back...
Major Amar Gupta, 28 years old, her husband, was no more. He had been posted in kutch, Gujarat and was part of a secret operation conducted to stop terrorist using that route to enter our country and had died battling the enemy. This was revealed by senior Army officials who had visited them to break the news. He had died fighting for his country till his last breath.
She still got goosebumps even at the thought of it and was unable to comprehend her own feelings. Being a widow to a brave soldier and martyr she was proud of him but the grief of loosing him forever was an overriding emotion.
Well Isn't it the reality of life for a soldier and his family. The uncertainty attached, the fear of death, loosing life....fighting.... Anytime getting that news.....but even after that Savita had never accustomed herself to this reality that one day her husband may die....well can a wife or husband or mother or father do that....ever... But it happens happens in families like them everyday.... They don't know that the last visit may be actually the last time they meet. She had seen one of Amar's colleague dying just a month after his marriage....only examples like these could provide some solace....if they were living so was she....
Savita, even after requests from Ammaji had not eaten anything since morning. How could she forget that day when 3 years back on this same festival she and Amar had met for the first time. They were married in a month and Amar had taken her to Pathankot, where he was posted. That was probably the best time of her life.
She was beautiful and smart and with little help from Amar had well adjusted to the Army ways. The cantonment was a beautiful place and newly married, to a handsome, loving and caring husband she was on cloud 9. She had made good friends too. She was enjoying every moment of that time.
Pregnant with Nakul, and Amar getting posted to Kutch, she had come back to Benaras for her delivery. Bauji had always been like a father to her and though they seldom talked, and that too formally, she respected him. Ammaji was good at heart but she had her strict ways and believes. Well, they shared the typical sweet and sour saas babu relation. They sometimes disagreed and didn't talk for a day or two and sometimes she even replied back. But all in all they lived together.
Nakul was born, and Amar had come for a month, to be with her and his newborn son. He had left after a month, leaving her and Nakul in care of his parents.
Even Savita wanted to stay as it would be difficult to be with Amar alone, with a month old baby. Also, Ammaji was taking good care of her and she was becoming aware of her excellent motherly skills. This was the first time she had come close to her emotionally.
Months passed and now, when Savita was to join Amar with Nakul, he was posted in kutch. Probably he had an idea of this secret operation and thus, wanted Savita to stay back. It was this same holi time when Amar called them and told that he would be coming to celebrate holi this time after an important work of his is over. He had applied for a leave. The house and housemates had gone crazy. Everyone was called and so many preparations made.
But what came just two days prior to holi was Amar's corpse. She had almost fainted and it took her 15 days to realize what had happened. There was no grief as comparable. She cried and cried. Nakul was too small to comprehend the situation. She was given tranquilizers to sleep. She was ready to give anything to get Amar back. She was not eating and sleeping. His memories haunted her, she longed for him and was herself a living corpse for the next few months.
Through support from her own parents, siblings and her in laws specially Ammaji, she had recovered and adjusted to her fate. She could now see that apart from her there were two other people who were standing strong, pretending to be calm but crying every moment. Their grief was no less....
Ammaji and bauji had lost their only son. Bauji's shoulders seemed to droop more and Ammaji's grey hair were more evident. They were standing behind her, consoling her....supporting her.....taking care of Nakul and everything else..... But what a pain they felt......
Neighbours...Amar's childhood friends.......her parents and family visited them from time to time but nothing seemed to take the grief out of her.
Savita's thought process was broken when the bell rang.
A family had arrived. They were distant relatives. After some initial formalities they revealed that they had come with a marriage proposal for Savita. The man was a widower with a 4 year old daughter and was ready to marry Savita and was ready to accept Nakul too. They knew the whole thing and the logic the lady with them gave was that life is too long and difficult to spend without a partner. This alliance would help both Savita and their son.
Savita was fuming with anger and wanted to drive them out when Ammaji stopped her. For her no one could take Amar's place and she wanted Nakul to be brought up in the same house as his father. Also there was something else, a feeling which she was unable to express...she wanted to be with Ammaji and bauji....
Once they left, she was surprised to know that it was Ammaji and bauji who had called them and wanted her to remarry.
They said, "Savita, Amar is gone forever, he will never come back but we can't see you dying like this every day. We share the same grief but we are old and don't know how much life is left in us. You have a whole long life in front of you. We are proud of our son and what he did for his motherland but we can't see you with so much grief in your heart. We know that even you, like us hide your emotions and pretend to be normal but look how you have changed. Your health has gone down. You have changed from that bubbly, beautiful and full of life person to someone whom no one will recognize had they seen you an year back. You don't eat and sleep properly. You are still in white and seems that will not celebrate anything ever. Even Nakul needs a happy family environment. We won't force you, we understand your situation but Consider it......we will take care of everything else.
Tears started to flow from Savita's eyes and she hugged Ammaji. She said, " I know Ammaji and bauji, you have a very big heart and what it takes to even think of a thing like this. If I have lost my husband, you have lost your son and I know how it feels. You have been a pillar of support to me for an year now and have become like my own parents.
I can't abandon you at this stage and leave you alone in this grief. You want me and Nakul to go but I know it is only Nakul, because of whom you smile a bit. As for Nakul, no other home or people can love and care for him as you can. I know I can't be what Amar was to you but from now onwards will try to do everything that he would have done for you and this family. You will see a changed me.
If nothing else this incident had made me strong and I have decided to live again. But, don't separate me from yourself....
Ammaji and bauji agreed....
So from today I am not your daughter in law. I am your daughter and you are parents to me.
This blog was written to mark two things. One is my salute to those men, and mothers, father's, wives, kids and families of soldiers who show the heart and courage to make this supreme sacrifice for their nation. Only they know how they do it and what they go through. Whenever we all hear about a soldier dying, we are grieved but how it impacts their families is what I wanted to show.
The second point was that how Savita a DIL changed to a daughter. Adversity and grief brings a family together and mutual support for each other let's them sail through even the toughest of times and relationships change for better and people come out strong.
Thanks for reading....