It’s not easy being an Army wife!
This dawned upon me when after two wonderful years of parties, outings, picnics and enjoyment, he went for a field posting. Eighteen years ago life wasn’t as convenient and as well connected as internet and cell phones have made it out to be. A few routine phone calls and long, meaningful letters added a peculiar charm to life which otherwise could have been painfully long and desperate for an army wife. While he was away, I kept myself busy pursuing my education further. A course in Mhow came as a real blessing as that meant a holiday with him. Unfortunately the holiday didn’t last long since I had to rush back to write my exams hoping to be back as soon as it was over.
Within two days of us being separated, he called me up with excitement oozing from every word when he told me that he had been recalled to take part in the Kargil war. I too shared his excitement with equal fervour, trying to support his endeavours of venturing out his lifetime dream. It would be wrong to say that I was not apprehensive and was a bit anxious too. Nevertheless I tried to keep all those feelings at bay.
We met at the railway station. He was in high spirits with a sense of pride writ large over his face. The people who were travelling with him had already started treating him as a hero. I too got my share of ephemeral fame, when all eyes were on me for a while, some full of admiration and some simply sympathetic. I didn’t want to be disturbed into taking any thought at that time for I simply wanted to enjoy those proud moments, proud to be the wife of a real hero. He bade goodbye, promising to call me up every day, which was the biggest and perhaps the only consolation for me at that time.
Don’t remember exactly, when was the first time he called me. He only had optimistic exhortations to all the questions that I posed to him. Initially, like a dutiful husband, he called me up regularly but then as the tension mounted on the war front, his calls became less frequent. At home, things had become a little difficult with parents, neighbours, relatives and friends unleashing their genuine apprehensions on me, taking away all my solace. How much I avoided those sympathetic eyes that conveyed that there wasn’t much hope left for me. There were times when I felt wretched and lonely not because of lack of company but because of the kind of company that made my life all the more miserable. It was tough for both our parents. They always put up a brave front and veiled their worries well enough to make me feel that there was nothing to worry about.
Those were difficult times no doubt; my own thoughts were my best companion. Many hidden revelations about my own self lay bare, I realised I was much more strong mentally than I had thought myself to be. I also realised happiness comes from your will, wit, zeal, desire, zest and determination to remain happy, which may be an uphill task but not very difficult to achieve. I guess I could train my mind to become oblivious of all that was negative and unhappy. ‘Stress’ felt helpless. It couldn’t do me much harm in the wake of support of my family and my firm belief in HIM. Thoughts of his well-being became my only prayer each and every moment.
I remember one incident which made me feel that it is the might of mind that can wreak havoc in our lives when subjected to extreme anxiety.
He called to tell me that it was now his turn to participate in the attack on the enemy and he may not be able to call for a few days. It wasn’t unnatural for me to remain anxious or even irritable after speaking to him. Television, radio, filled the void and gave a sense of connect with what was happening on the war front. That evening, the newsreader announced on radio that two officers of his unit had lost their lives in the operation that was to take place. Before she could speak out their names the electricity at our home went off. The hell let loose on every part of my being. The extent to which my mind was tortured still remains unfathomable and indefinable. The grotesque mental agony made me die many deaths during those moments. The ominous and heart shattering turbulence came to an end only when someone from his unit called up later to inform that it was a sad day for the unit but ‘saab’ was fine.
Love makes you utterly selfish and at times, morally corrupt too. How fervently I had prayed to God that he should be alive and nothing else mattered to me at that time. I just couldn’t hide my happiness to know that he was fine despite knowing that two other officers of our own unit had died. Such is life! A deep attachment to one can make you detached from the rest of the world.
He called up after two days. His morale was as high as ever but the streak of apprehension and extreme compassion couldn’t be missed in his voice when he demanded that I promise him to get married again if things didn’t go according to what we had planned. They were some extremely emotional, heart wrenching times that are very difficult to share. But I was and am and shall always remain immensely proud of the fact that my husband is a war-veteran. A larger than life figure he shall remain for me, forever.
Every time he called, I asked the same question. “When will you be back?” And every time he said, “SOON”.
I clung to this word with all my might and hope. When they came back, they were all given heroic welcome, they were jubilant and sad at the same time for obvious reasons. It wasn’t easy for me and it was worse for those whose near and dear ones never came back despite making all the promises of life.
Some losses are such, that can never be compensated with money. Some young widowed girls suddenly had all the money but not a soul who could understand their true emotions.
It’s been 18 years. Martyrs have long been forgotten. But for their families, the wounds still fester. People move on, life goes on but when you look back you realise more than half of yourself, you have left behind!