Major Akshay Girish: Son, Hero, Martyr

It’s the festive season. On behalf of our family, let me wish you all a Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year in advance.

While we are all doing our best to cope with losing Akshay in flesh and blood, we are also talking about him all the time and continuing to tell each other to stay strong, supportive, caring and loving. Because, Akshay has set very high standards of how to live life and embrace death, and the least we can do is try and emulate his way of bringing cheer and succor to people he came in touch with.

PART FIVE

Akshay is remembered as this ever smiling, fun loving boy who radiated positivism but as a parent, I know he never had it easy. He worked hard towards everything he wanted to achieve and the path was usually rocky. In fact, Akshay faced some very tough challenges even after following his heart into the National Defence Academy, where he and Aditya continued to be together as ‘first termers in Echo Squadron’. Unlike the Air Force and Naval cadets who automatically get science subjects (called techies) for their academic degree, Army cadets may have to take up humanities (non-techies). Akshay had always been better at Science than at Social Studies but  once he realized that many of his NDA course-mates had very high percentage of marks in their 12th Board exams, he was worried. Since many army cadets had overall % of marks in the mid-90s, Akshay had to not only keep his fingers crossed but also pro-actively try for BSc because he did not want to do a BA. Much to his relief, he succeeded in convincing the officer in charge!

The next challenge was not only managing the really tough routine of military training, the constant physical and academic tests and the ‘ragda’ but also staying firm on a newly chosen path after having been denied a long-cherished dream of becoming a fighter pilot.  Akshay was swayed by peer influence, some of who questioned why he opted for NDA and not for ‘commercial flying’, when his dad had given him that choice. Less than a month after joining NDA, Akshay, over a phone call, told Girish and me that he was considering leaving the academy and returning home. He added that some other cadets had run away from the tough life! I wrote Akshay a long letter reminding him of how driven he had been to choose this career, how he had overcome so many challenges right since his birth and to carefully consider and decide on what he really wanted to do. I also added that if he wanted to return, we would respect his change of mind and support whatever he chose to do.

Akshay overcame confusion and chose to stay on. He never ever looked back.

Even when a confrontation of the young cadets with senior 5th/6th termers took a serious turn and resulted in some of them being reassigned to other squadrons in their second term, Akshay remained motivated and cheerful. He moved on to become a proud and loyal ‘Kilo’ squadron-type, even as his soft corner for his ‘Echo’ mates never left him! When inter-squadron competitions became fierce, Akshay always said he cheered first for ‘Kilo’, and when it was not in the running for top spots, ‘Echo’ was what he rooted for!

As a family, Girish, Neha and I visited Akshay more than a couple of times during his three years in NDA. Akshay was always happy and proud to take family and friends around his squadron and talk animatedly about the vast facilities and activities that kept them on their toes from sunrise to sunset. I confess I was one of ‘those moms’ who visited her son in every term at NDA! Despite being told it was not the ‘done thing’, I seized every given opportunity to travel to Pune and visit Akshay because I missed him a lot and wanted to meet him as often as possible! My heart would swell just seeing our ‘little boy’ walking towards us, and listening to his unending stories on all he and his mates were upto, made my day.

He would talk all about ‘cross country competitions to drill and PT, maths and physics classes in Sudan block to lectures, events and movies in Habibullah hall, ‘fake’ liberties and punishments to jam sessions and NDA Ball, basketball, horse riding and tennis to cream rolling, push-ups and ‘dhava’, the 10 metre board jump to racing up and down Sinhagad fort, cycling and samosas at gol market to sailing in Khadakwasla lake, the amazing NDA dining hall and fantastic menus to never having enough time to eat a full meal, the famous camps – Green horn, Rovers and Torna to the ‘Josh run’ back to the academy.’ There were many more interesting tales that I’m sure his friends will be reminded of. We lapped up all that he would narrate, particularly when he was home during term-breaks, and we went through many emotions with Akshay.  He was well aware of his weaknesses and strengths and was in awe of friends who excelled in an activity and were rewarded with a blazer or medal. He loved the wonderful camaraderie through the tough competitions and took pride in the fact that every single cadet’s performance contributed to the squadron’s position. That meant motivating each other to do their best for the squadron and never leaving a buddy or mate behind.

Akshay was very proud of the stress NDA laid on character-building for ‘officer-like qualities’. He often spoke about the code of honour and how lying, cheating and stealing are the only vices not tolerated in NDA. Not owing up would result in a cadet being thrown out.

The spirit of the ‘Cradle for Leadership’ had seeped in till it flowed in Akshay’s veins.

Our charmer also had this innate and intuitive ability to reach out to help a fellow being faced with a problem. In their final term at NDA, Akshay called to ask if he could bring a friend home for a night. He went on to explain how the friend from an economically backward family was stressed because his father was unable to repay a loan. The family was being harassed by the money lender and the young son, a cadet like Akshay, wanted to help his family. Girish gladly gave the money and we got to meet and admire the grit and determination of another young officer in the making. Needless to say, the young man returned the money once he got his officers commission.

It was while on a break home from NDA that Akshay and Sangeeta took their initial friendship (they had earlier met through common friends) a step ahead. They spent hours on the phone late at night and Akshay began to sport that slightly goofy smile that the ‘falling-in-love’ types are famous for! While I wasnt really privy to details of their relationship at that stage, like most mothers, I could sense my son was happier than he had previously been in other ‘crushes’.

As I come to the end of this part of Akshay’s story, flashback is merging with fast-forward. Recollections bring me to the ‘Hut of Remembrance’ in NDA. I remember Akshay telling me that the cadets themselves had built the revered memorial in the mid 1950s to honour the sacrifices of NDA alumni who laid down their lives in service of the motherland. The prayer when the Academy assembles to pay homage to the martyrs says “Merciful God, we earnestly pray, that those of us who are yet to be tested and shaped in the forge of the battle, may, when the call comes, be capable of the same devotion, courage and determination, in the service of our country, as those of our comrades – at – arms, whom we remember today, in this Hut of Remembrance. Let their noble example guide us to emulate them in their integrity and may their inspiration help us in the moments of our greatest peril to triumph over our shortcomings and weaknesses”.

The names of 2/Lt Arun Khetarpal and Capt Manoj Kumar Pandey are legendary and Akshay would speak about their astonishing bravery and their gallantry awards. On a recent course re-union at the NDA, my brother Hari and friend Geetanjali sent us some images.  The name of our son, ‘Major Akshay Girish – 51 Engineers’ is already enshrined in the sublime memorial.

If only he could see his name in his alma mater’s Hut of Remembrance, that wonderful smile of satisfaction would light up Akshay’s face. I can picture that smile through blurry eyes.

47 thoughts on “Major Akshay Girish: Son, Hero, Martyr

  1. My first visit to NDA was when I went to meet Akshay there. We had taken a bag of goodies for him but he asked us to give it to him at the end of our visit – or there would be no trace of it by the time he went back to his room! Any hosteler would understand that. He took us around NDA telling us all the details of each building, monument (even to dates and height and when they were built!), the lake. All this was spiced by anecdotes of his and other cadets experiences. We saw a lot of cadets doing weird things – walking backwards, doing pushups (some funny kind of pushup), etc. Akshay told us it was a serious thing and we were not to smile or stare. Then the food at the canteen – Akshay told us what was good ( which was almost everything) and it was so sweet to see him enjoy eating it. I now remember what one of his CO had said – The food at NDA was the best because Akshay said so! My recent visit to NDA also was special. Saw Akshay’s name in the Hut of Remembrance. My visit to NDA will always be associated with Akshay.

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  2. Hello mam,
    You have recreated d journey of Girish sir through NDA …any of the guys with him during the trg days will esily connect…

    Regards

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  3. Hi Chinni, Arun and I went through your narration of Akshay’s life. Found it very well written and interesting too. Continue writing for the sake of people like ours. Take heart and be brave. Love to Sangeeta and Naina.

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  4. I so wait to read another creation of the brave mom. Have two boys of my own and am daughter of an army officer. It’s so touchy and heartbreaking every time. May God bless your family immensely to cope with the loss of such a darling. Salute to the brave heart Akshay. May the precious one rest in peace

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  5. Akshay’s name is engraved in our hearts forever aunty.What great perseverance and persistence he carried.He has become an idol that young soldiers would look upon and get inspired from…
    I would like to take this opportunity to thank you dear Meghna aunty for writing so beautifully and efficacious lu,has touched my soul and I am different because of him..Lots of love to you.

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  6. Thanks for writing Meghna .Got to know more about Akshays days at NDA .I have visited the hut of Remembrance earlier but now will surely visit again to see Akshays name and salute him .so so proud of him .he truly stood with the prayer

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  7. Reading about the hut of remembrance with a heavy heart and fierce pride; and the honor of really getting to know him through your story.

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  8. Hello
    Meghna Ma’am,
    Merry Christmas and Very happy new year to you and all.
    We can understand the vacuum created by Akshay’s absence can never be fulfilled, wishing you all a great strength to cop out. Akshay’s life is dream of many…Akshay must have lived best times in NDA.
    Jai Hind
    Wish you

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  9. Meghna, deeply touched at your narrative, had been to the hut of remembrance this June, will definitely visit again to see our Braveheart’s name engraved therein. God bless!

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  10. Meghana, NDA and the hut of remembrance are places of pride and honour. Your account of your journey with Akshay gets us glimpses of his great life and brings us closer to this brave soldier.

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  11. You write so well Meghana! Through your postings you are not only talking about Akshay, but teaching life lessons too! Once again thanks to you for sharing this brave heart’s story.

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  12. So very well written Meghna, you truly are so so proud of your braveheart that each word oozes out the pride you have inside your very emotional heart. After each segment I feel like giving you a big hug my friend. Take gud care of yourself n your family. Let your emotions flow, waiting for the next part. Salute.

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  13. I begin reading and following Akshays journey through life with a smile, heart bursting with pride and happiness at his goodness and surmounting each obstacle in life till the end of the article where the stomach is in knots, eyes welling up, heartache..I felt my breath punched out of my stomach when I saw Akshays name on the plaque in the Hut of Remembrance. Meghna, you and your family are dealing with this in such a beautiful dignified manner. Don’t know how but my heart goes out to you and your family. God bless you all

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  14. am pretty sure…you must be spending just a few minutes to narrate each of your thoughts…you know akshay too well…wish every mother knows her kiddos like you do…!!reading every word with blurry eyes…salute akshay …he surely has lived his dreams…..god be with you may the new year bring in lots of peace and happy moments…!stay blessed my dear …your thoughts have become very precious to me….!

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    • Thank you Geeta. Guess most moms do know their kids- never though I would one day be putting all these thoughts in public! Life has its own ways I guess- we all need to accept what we cant control. Wish you and your family a wonderful 2017. God Bless.

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  15. Thank u for ur writings,it’s a chicken soup in itself.with misty eyes request you to continue writing.lots of warm wishes for sangeeta & little doll naina.

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      • Thank u aunty,somehow couldn’t stop your thoughts from coming in our minds as the new year set in yesterday.just take care one of the strongest mum,bravest wife,most adorable little fairy naina i have ever learn’t about.

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  16. I do not know any of you personally but have been following your story of loss. I admire your courage, your grace and dignity in the face of such great loss. God bless all of you.

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  17. Our hearts bled when we read about brave heart Akshay.I hv fathered 2 sons, elder Alumni NDA/ IMA , Infantry, younger in NDA . ARMY, We Earnestly pray God Almighty to You All & us to give strength to with stand for the sake of our Mother Land. No word’s can wipe your 😢. Jai Hind

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    • God bless your brave sons Mr. Belliappa…they have chosen a path way above the usual. Thank you for your kind words and support to our family. Take care. Jai Hind.

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  18. Hey, aunty i wished if Major sahab would have seen his name in the hut of remembrance he would have been very happy.I’m too defense aspirant preparing for NDA and your son is one of my idol.I wish one day my name will also be written in the hut of remembrance.Be wishes for Major sahab’s family stay safe and happy.

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    • Thank you for idolising Akshay and your best wishes to our family Rajkamal. Happy to know you are preparing for NDA. All best wishes to follow your dream of joining the defence services and serving our motherland. God bless you.

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  19. Very proud to have a SON like akshay. Who fought to save many lives and this is big loss for both the mother..ma and Bharat ma. RIP

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  20. Pingback: Lest we forget – Musings On Weekends

  21. Deeply respect the supreme sacrifice that your son and your family made to keep millions of us safe. I have no words, but as a mother, I can understand the plethora of emotions that you must have gone through will penning down these memories.

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