INDEPENDENCE DAY SPECIAL

Neha Dwivedi

It's been a constant struggle, trying to deal with your absence on a day-to-day basis

Neha Dwivedi Neha Dwivedi

Dear daddy,

HOW HAVE YOU been? Let me begin by being absolutely honest with you. This is very strange for me. I know that I have written innumerable letters and addressed many diary entries to you in the past, but how do I do this after so many years… now?

A lot has happened and many things have changed. But, do I even need to tell you this? I am sure you have been watching everything quietly from the heavens above.

However, are you aware of how we have really been? Not on the face of it but from the inside? I am not sure you would be. We have gotten good at this. We have learned to keep going, with a smile on our faces, irrespective of the void you left within us. Each of us have tried our best to try and fill it in our own way.

It has not been easy daddy. This constant struggle, trying to deal with your absence on a day-to-day basis, has been anything but easy. People said it will get better with time, life goes on, etc. They were partially right, it does. It went on. But it didn’t get much better.

When I was in school and did well in a test, I wanted to run to you and see the look in your eyes, but couldn’t. Two years back, when I taught myself to swim, and someone complimented me about how well I did it, I wanted to run to you and see the look in your eyes, but couldn’t. I am pretty sure, tomorrow, when I will do a good job at something else, I would want to run to you again, but won’t be able to. You get the point.

Your chota baby (mummy) has grown up a lot as well. She’s older than you now, sounds funny right? She fought a lot, daddy, she fought a lot to push her way through the world and continues to do it till date. In your quest to pamper your young and innocent beloved, you unwittingly left her quite unprepared and over-dependent. She had no tools to deal with a life without you.

But, she did well. She made sure that Diksha and I got all that you would have made sure we had. She also took care of your family and always stayed in touch with your extended family, that of your regiment and your friends. They took care of her and us as well. We have missed you terribly, but we were amongst the lucky ones to enjoy the love, support and warmth of the relationships that you had invested in over the years.

The hollowness, somehow, always remained.

I married an Army officer—Rohin. I couldn’t even think of marrying someone who didn’t don the uniform and go to work every morning. I also saw traces of you in him at the time, and perhaps, that was my way of trying to fill the void. I even told him, and he was thrilled to be compared with a hero like you.

This is where I realised how the manner in which you left us, had affected me. People use words like ‘brave’, ‘courageous’ and ‘valour’ every time they talk of us with you. “Brave daughters of a brave father,” they say. I almost feel like I am cheating them.

Am I brave?

I am not proud of it, but I live in constant fear. Mamaji got one call so many years ago in his office and it changed our lives. One call, informing you had left us, and that was it. So now, I live in constant anxiety… every time that mummy’s phone gets unreachable, or when Diksha fails to take my calls, or when Rohin becomes untraceable for a while. I relive that day, every single time. I live in constant fear of that one scary phone call, and I have never shared it with anyone.

Why am I doing it now then?

Because, it is required. It has been nineteen long years, and I continue to be a mess in a situation like the ones I mentioned. I have worked a lot on myself, I have overcome many of my issues, but I still struggle with some like this, constantly.

But, mine is just one story. There are so many of us… and, unfortunately, some more are added to this list almost every day. This list of people like you, who embrace their death, bravely, courageously in the line of duty… and leave behind people like us, who have to live with the repercussions of their brave and courageous sacrifices.

Is it fair?

The answer would be… yes, of course. Had it not been you, it would have been another officer, another family. Someone has to do it if we have to continue to be a free nation.

What, however, is unfair is that the majority of the youth, the future of this great country that you died protecting, is not even aware of the cost of the life they are living. They do not know how expensive it is, since most of them are not the ones paying for it. What is worse is that some don’t care enough, some choose to ignore and some even diss the (Army) and the work it is doing.

I do not expect much. I don’t think that everyone should join the Army. That would be silly. All of us can’t be our best at one job. Besides, that is not the only way to serve your nation.

All I expect of the youth of this nation is to be aware and mindful of the fact that the freedom that they are enjoying today has come at a cost. A price that someone else has paid, and so, they need to utilise this to the best of their abilities. Work hard, work well, care about your country, think of it as your home and be good citizens!

Because, daddy, though your sacrifice may have affected just us, it certainly wasn’t for us alone.

Love and miss you forever,

Neha

Neha Dwivedi, 31, is a doctor settled in Mumbai.

Her father, Major C.B. Dwivedi of the 315 Field Regiment, was martyred on July 2, 1999, in Kargil.