It's not easy being an Army wife!
It 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 the internet and cell phones have enabled it 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 by 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, and hoped to be back as soon as it was over.
Within two days of us being separated, he called me up. Excitement oozed from every word he uttered; 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 living out his lifelong dream. It would be wrong to say that I was not apprehensive or anxious. 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 looming large over his face. The people 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 by any of my thoughts at that time, for I simply wanted to enjoy those proud moments; proud to be the wife of a real hero. He bid me goodbye, promising to call me up every day. This was the biggest and perhaps the only consolation for me at that time.
I don't clearly remember when he actually called for the first time. He only had optimistic responses to all the questions that I posed to him. Initially, like a dutiful husband, he called me regularly, but then, as tensions mounted on the war front, his calls became less frequent. At home, things had become difficult with parents, neighbours, relatives and friends unleashing their genuine apprehensions on me, taking away all my solace. The extent I would go to avoid those sympathetic eyes conveying 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 stronger mentally than I had thought myself to be. I also realised happiness came from my own will, wit, zeal, desire, zest and determination to remain happy. Although it may have been an uphill task, it was not very difficult to achieve. I figured I could train my mind to become oblivious of all that was negative and unhappy. Stress rendered me helpless. However, it couldn't do me much harm in the wake of my family’s support 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 understand that the might of the mind can wreak havoc in our lives when subject(ed) to extreme anxiety.
He called to tell me that it was now his turn to partake in the attack against 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 and radio filled the void and helped establish a sense of connection with what was happening on the war front. That evening, the newsreader announced on radio that two officers— in the same unit as my husband— had lost their lives in the operation. Before she could speak out their names, there was a power cut. All hell broke loose in every part of my being. The sheer extent to which my mind was tortured still remains unfathomable and inexplicable. My severe mental agony resulted in me dying multiple deaths during those moments. The 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 for his safety; 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 from our own unit had died. Sadly, such is life. A deep attachment to one detaches you from the rest of the world.
He called up after two days. His morale was as high as ever, but the unsubtle tone of apprehension and impassioned compassion couldn't be missed in his voice. He firmly requested me to promise that I would get married again, should things fail to go according to what we had planned. Those were some extremely emotional, heart-wrenching times; very difficult to share. But I was, 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 answered, "SOON".
I clung to this word with all my might, never losing hope. When the brave-hearts returned, they were all given a heroic welcome. They were jubilant and sad at the same time, for obvious reasons. It wasn't easy for me, but it was worse for those whose near and dear ones never came back, despite making all the promises of life.
Some sadness is such that can never be compensated with money. Many young widowed girls suddenly had all the money, but not a soul who could understand their true emotions.
It has 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 you may have left behind more than half of yourself!
Author : Shailender Kaur