IT IS DIFFICULT. Life is difficult. Today I’m not going to start this letter saying: ‘How are you? We’re fine here and hope it’s the same with you.’ Because we’re not. We haven’t been for 18 years. We’ve only just managed to survive.
Calling you daddy feels small. It’s not how I want to address you because you’re not my father first, you never were. You’re an angel who touched our lives to turn it into a dream.
Even in your absence, you turned a small-town woman into a strong, independent businesswoman who learnt to support her two daughters all on her own. You turned a daughter, who didn’t know how to prepare for her exams without you, into a mother to her younger sister at the age of 12. And you turned your younger daughter into a force you could have never imagined her to be. All this, just by your memories and your words.
But, I’m going to stick to calling you daddy in this letter because it feels personal. Personal enough to make me feel like you’re still here somewhere. Maybe you’re sitting right next to me, looking over what I’m writing. Maybe you want to make up for all those years you didn’t pay attention to my studies because Neha di’s studies were more important. I have always wondered if she was your favourite daughter. Unfortunately, I’ll never know.
You had always protected us from the harshness of reality. You were always a part of our life even when you weren’t around. You made sure your two daughters never woke up feeling abandoned every time you had to return to your unit, 315 Field Regiment (Kargil), after your leave. Even when you were on duty, you held our hands, those of your three girls, every step of the way.
I often wonder why and how I remember you so clearly. Did some part of my subconscious self know that I was going to lose you so early in my life? That I should try and capture every moment I had with you, because that’s all I’d have to live with for the rest of my life? There’s no other reason why I’d remember pulling a strand of hair from the back of your hand when I was three or four. I was in your lap and you jumped in pain, but, no, you didn’t let me fall. You never let us fall.
Your greatest gift to me is the fire in my heart and the restlessness in my mind that won’t allow my life to go to waste. You called me ‘Pepsodent’, and rightly so. Before I knew it, you knew I was made for ‘dhishum dhishum’ in this big bad world. After all, I’m a hero’s daughter.
With love in my heart and pride in my soul,
Diksha Dwivedi, 27, lives in Mumbai and runs her own company, YOSO Media. Her father, Major C.B. Dwivedi of 315 Field Regiment, was martyred in Kargil on July 2, 1999. This letter has been excerpted with permission from Diksha’s book, Letters from Kargil, published in 2017 by Juggernaut.