Major Akshay Girish: Son, Hero, Martyr

His Story; My way

Thirty nine days since Nagrota. Each busy day passes by with Girish, Neha and Pradish at work, Naina at school and Sangeeta and me doing the drop-pick up and home duties. Sarit and Deshu pitch in to help with multiple errands. Sleep continues to be fitful at night. Sangeeta and I have had more time for close chats. As always, the topic of conversation revolves around our beloved Akshay and his thoughts and images are brighter than ever. Yes, we are coping with our unimaginable loss and we don’t know where the strength is coming from. The combined power of all your prayers, empathy and support is probably helping us and with gratitude, we thank you, dear extended family, friends and well-wishers. And maybe, from somewhere where we cant see him, but feel his presence ever so often, our guardian angel is transmitting all his positive energy to loved ones back home?

Some of you have also been sharing your dreams on Akshay. With much spiritual connection, feeling calmer, I am back to taking Akshay’s story forward, my way.

PART SEVEN

Commissioned from IMA into 51 Engineers of the Bengal Sappers (Known as ‘Combat Engineers’ along with Madras Sappers and Bombay Sappers), Akshay came home on a months leave and we, thrilled parents and grandparents celebrated the twins achievements. Akshay’s commissioning coincided with Neha graduating with a BE in Biomedical Engineering from Manipal and we threw a party with music, dancing and leg-pulling laughter!

During his leave, Akshay as always, went and met his teachers in school, his friends around Bangalore and spent time with extended family. He loved catching up with everyone on everything and was always willing to go visit an ailing relative, have a drink with his Nana or celebrate a friends birthday. Anywhere he went, folks loved his chatter and he in turn always showered old and young with compliments that made each one feel good about themselves. With a grandmother, aunt or me urging him to eat he would say ‘Ummm…this is the best rasam/ sabzi/ cheese omelette / milkshake / dosa / dal… I  have ever eaten!”  Any news of a tiny achievement like an exam going well,  hike in pay or pension, a game won by a cousin or friend would bring forth his ‘we must celebrate- chalo- lets go out for dinner tonight!’ To an ailing grandparent,  a new worried mom, heartbroken friend or a kid who fell and hurt a knee, he would put an arm around their shoulder saying ‘arre, don’t worry- you are strong and doing fine’. Akshay would make sure he chatted with our domestic help and asked about their kids. After each surgery for benign tumors’ that our pet daschund Teeny underwent, he would cradle her in his arms like a baby – eyes full of concern even as he smiled. Akshay made sure we updated him on all that he missed out on and made the effort to reach out to anyone who was going through a low phase.

Somehow, Akshay always brought people together and even after Nagrota, we have all been connected through him.

Neha, Girish and I particularly teased Akshay about his insistence on a ritual of ‘coffee at midnight’ – something he often suggested after dinner and long chats at home. He would say ‘chalo na – all four of us are together- lets go have coffee and chat some more’. It was sacred family bonding time and despite our feigned ‘not tonight Akshay- Im sleepy’ or ‘Ill make you good filter coffee at home’, we invariably did go along with his cute cajoling and have probably tried a lot of 24/7 coffee shops around Koramangala!

Those are today among our sweetest memories- Akshay with his cute smile and twinkling eyes making sure everyone opened up in conversation so that our bond stayed strong.

After his leave, Akshay went on to the Bengal Sappers Regimental Centre at Rorkee for initial orientation training. From there, in February 2008, after a long and much delayed train journey, he joined his unit at Nagaland. As he got off at the platform in Dimapur, he was received by colleagues from his unit and whisked off to the Mess for his ‘Welcome party’. When he surfaced the next day and called home, he was talking about the tremendous welcome he received- ‘downing 51 punches with every senior officer as per tradition’! For an almost non-drinker like Akshay, he was out cold and soon after tucked into bed by his new colleagues! In absolute embarrassment he said ‘Mamma, I hardly remember anything but my buddy was laughing at me in the morning saying “sahib aap neend mein bahut kuch bol rahe the….ki chodoonga nahin, jis jis ne mujhe pilayi hai, ek ek ko dekh loonga!!”

He also learnt of the tradition in 51 Engineers when each young officer joining his unit for the first time spends a month with the soldiers in their barracks, and not in the Officers Mess. This is to make sure they interact with the men under their command, learn about their strengths, shortcomings and family issues and help each soldier put in their best, by being a compassionate mentor. Needless to say, Akshay enjoyed the close camaraderie with his men, rubbing shoulders as he ran the tough BPT with them, took classes and trained with them, played team games like football, hockey and basketball, spent evenings chatting with them about their families back home and ate the ‘langar’ food. Soon he knew how to cheer-up, motivate and lead by example. Along with putting his academy training into action by leading patrols in the insurgency ridden villages of Nagaland, he experienced the coming together of soldiers and families at the unit ‘Mandir’, learnt some Punjabi (many of the soldiers in his unit are from Punjab), sang with the unit Band during social evenings and called home very often, thrilled to share his many exciting experiences.  He greatly looked up to his first Commanding Officer, Col Praveen Deswal and we often heard about ‘how fit he was, how decisive and committed he was and how he could still beat most of the youngsters at any sport!’

On annual leave, Akshay came home looking every bit the confident, ‘happy with his chosen way of life’ young officer and his always warm, tight hug became stronger and lasted a bit longer. Or maybe, I, his equally proud parent felt so! This time, the very evening he reached home, he was all set to ‘meet some friends at NGV’ (National games Village in Bangalore). I looked up from some work I was doing and asked “are you also meeting someone special Akshay?”Ma, how did you know?” he said with a huge grin spreading across his face and as his cheeks and nose turned a shade of red, he added “Aapko pata hai, Sangeeta finds me cute too– aapka beta hai hi itna special!” I knew that Sangeeta’s friends were Akshay’s friends too- Akshay Ghorpade, Aman and Preetham among others. Together, they played cupid in bringing the two cuties together! It felt wonderful to see my little one smiling and so happy!

A year after Akshay joined his unit, he was sent to CME Pune for the Young Officer’s (YOs) Course where he once again met some of his academy course-mates and between classes, tests and shared experiences, they youngsters had a jolly good time biking around Pune, catching up on what we often take for granted- dinner at a good restaurant, movies in a multiplex, beer at a pub or shopping at a mall. Akshay also worked hard and did well in his YOs course and was rewarded with an Alpha (A) grade. When we congratulated him, he said ‘Ma, its not just for my sake that I need to do well. My men and my unit should feel proud they have a good officer.’

Akshay was very proud of many traditions in the Army where the unit became a big extended family and each put in his/her best to ensure the ‘izzat of the paltan’ (Honour of the Unit)

Akshay re-joined his unit in Zirrakpur near Chandigarh after his successful completion of the YOs course and we were happy to be able to visit him and see the pride reflect in his eyes as he showed us around their Unit and Mess and introduced us to his co-officers. Neha, who came on a term break (she was at this point doing her MS in Duke University in the USA) and Dhruv also made a visit and were impressed with how much responsibility Akshay shouldered at a young age. When they returned, each separately told Girish and me with much pride that Akshay’s  CO had said ‘Your brother is a very good Officer’.

Soon after, the unit was ‘tasked’ with fencing the LC (Line of Control) at the heights beyond Tangdhar (ahead of Kupwara in Kashmir) to help prevent infiltration by terrorists. Akshay  took his men and we learned from his seniors how well he led them by example, to not only climb steep mountains with equipment at places few had set foot on, but also motivated them to do a very good job of putting up the fence well within stipulated time. This was also the time to hone his skills as a soldier- accompanying infantry battalion teams on patrol duties and coming close to a possible encounter with terrorists trying to infiltrate across the border.

As always, particularly when I’m writing, my mind goes back and forth as it is again doing now. Suddenly, I recollect a conversation we were all having on our family whatsapp group in the very month we lost Akshay. I pick up my phone to scroll back, desperate to find that part of our family chat. I find it and it was on November 4th 2016. The chat started with Neha talking about some scary movie that she and Pradish had watched when Akshay said “…Lol…We all have our moments of fear…Whats been your most scary moment ever? Lets reveal…” I took him up and revealed how mine was watching the movie ‘Exorcist’ as a young teen and that I had been scared for months after that. Akshay responded with lots of smilies and when I said ‘your chance now,’ he started with “Never a movie moment as I remember…..but in the ambush that I dozed off in while in Kupwara….felt alone on waking, in the middle of a jungle along the line of control….50 mts from a Pak post…expecting militants that night based on intelligence…never forgotten that night and how it felt….. I responded with “Some experiences are unique”, and since it was late added “Good night…sleep well everyone.”

He most certainly wasn’t dozing on the 29th– just 3 weeks plus after that exchange on whatsapp. Was his intuition telling him something? So many people who were in Nagrota that fateful day have met us (when we went to Jammu and Delhi), or have come home to meet us or called…and each one has told us how he led from the front, knowing his life was in grave danger, and knowing there had already been fatalities in terrorist fire. And despite his utmost love for his beloved Sangeeta and Naina who would have been waiting for him to return home, he did not hesitate even for a moment to put his life at risk. With complete awareness and 100% alert, he left a protected space and did what he needed to do to save the lives of our countrymen.

Its almost as if Akshay, now our guardian angel is helping me tell this story in a way that I do not miss out any critical bits.

As I am about to stop writing this part of Akshay’s story, Neha forwards a picture that brings tears of pride to my eyes. Some runners in the Chennai Marathon today ran wearing a poster of Akshay with ‘Salute the Braveheart’ on their chests. I wish I knew their names to share with all of you. Through this channel, I thank each one of them for honoring Akshay and the other martyrs for their supreme sacrifice. Akshay must be smiling at the sight from up there!

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

  1. Your words leave such a deep Impact aunty 🙂 Every time I go to any coffee shop in Koro or visit my school kumarans or even have filter coffee I am definitely going to be reminded of your words and the valour of Maj Akshay. You have instilled in us a sense of pride of having known the brave heart. When I was young I too had tried my hand on writing a blog for my father, but it was not nearly as wonderful as yours.

    http://defenceconfessions.blogspot.in/?m=1

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  2. Aunty please don’t stop writing…please share more experiences….you don’t know me I’m Neha’s classmate from MIT Biomed…Monel Ruchi Sam etc are all our friends…

    Your writing brings more connection n tears to my eyes..

    Love your writing aunty…will meet you once I’m in blr

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  3. It’s like a film running through my head, I feel every emotion..I smile with you, tears well in my eyes as they must cloud yours when you recall and pen down an incident..I experience the same chest swelling pride that you feel for Akshay..meghna I love seeing the flashback through your eyes reliving every moment..wish I had met Akshay. Warmest regards and hugs my friend

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  4. Respected Mam
    Thru my daughter Nandita,friend of Neha,I get to read all yr breath taking heartbreaking events nd life events of your handsome,gallant nd wonderful son Major Akshay.I stl do the hv the heart to write late major Akshay as he lives in all our hearts!!Truly feel the pain each one of you all are going through nd it is the most trying period having to face life.All I can say from the depth of my heart,we are PROUD of Major Akshay nd will alwaz be.It is so hurtng lives being sacrificed in LOC ,with no concrete solution nd the loss nd pain which h will never leave is for the family.All we can do is pray you all continue to have the strength to cope with this terrible tragedy.Rgds Nalini RAO

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    • Thank you Nalini- for sharing this journey with all of us. Akshay is special and is connecting us all. And please call me Meghna. Love and regards to you. God bless Nandita.

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  5. Lovely write up Mrs. Girish. Met Girish after a long long gap. Wish this was not to be the occassion. I just wanted to spend a few solemn moments with Girish family which i did. Must thank Pala Raj for this. Difficult to fill the void Maj.Akshay has left in the family, friends & nation as a whole. No adjectives are enough for his bravery & the supreme sacrifice. Touched by your blog maam.

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  6. When our loved ones leave even though the pain is too much to bear, the irony is that they are now at peace and are done with this world and its silly little issues. And that actually gives you this little moment of peace within. That’s how I always, always comfort myself without Ma.

    Someone once comforted me in the early days saying God takes the good souls early. I wasn’t ready to hear it initially. But now I think it was right.
    Akshay was a beautiful soul too. Innocent and happy and genuine.
    Every day I wait to read about Akshay’s story and know him so much more than I ever did. And I thank you Aunty for being so brave and sharing his story with us. This is something we all cherish.
    Lots of love always!

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    • Maybe you are right. Akshay was a beautiful soul and although we miss him every moment, grateful to have been blessed to be his parents. Love and hugs to you. take care.

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  7. been following your blog….no words,,a million salutes & he will always live in our hearts…God be with you all…keep writing…regards…asha..

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  8. Chinni: once again I am tearing up and laughing. Those moments of togetherness, the conversations, the chit-chats, the outings: how absolutely precious they are. Makes me want to sit with you and listen to more memories. Please keep writing. Hugs.

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      • Definitely will see you when I am in Bangalore next. Whenever you are ready, please also come to Bangkok with Sangy, Naina, Girish, Neha and family. We can also have those late night chats in Bangkok. Tight hugs to all of you.

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  9. what a great guy ! Aunty- Akshay has made us all become better sons, daughters, brothers, sisters and countrymen. To me Akshay is a brother from a different mother. Thank you for sharing his story and please keep writing..much love.

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  10. Words fail me Meghana, it’s been a blessing to be a part of this journey that you take us through with your wonderful blog. Akshay was a special and beautiful soul . Such souls are a rare find and hence so dear to the Almighty too.

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  11. Dearest Meghna Aunty
    So true it that through our Akshay…Our hero all of us have got connected by strings unknown..His story is evolving and through it so many of us are getting inspired ..Life is so unpredictable…One never knows when He will take His /her last breath…Then might as well lead a good one while we are at it…These little sublimitities came to our Akshay so naturally…Love you aunty always have always will..

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    • Very right Shivangi. the legacy of understanding, love and respect is what we can leave behind when its time to leave. And Akshay personified these and much more. Love and hugs to you.

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  12. Meghna keep writing. No words to express how i feel.sad n proud at d same time having known dear Akshay right from childhood. Love n hugs to all of you.

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  13. Hello Meghna Ma’am
    I was fortunate enough to met Major Akshay at CME in April 2015 I guess.. A very brief meeting. . But I still remember his twinkling eyes yes… Very fine Officer and rare soul…
    I have heard about his Bravery and Courage through my friends and relatives…those were there at # Nagrota on that fateful day …
    Ma’am your son is now a National Hero.. His martyrdom is credited to all citizens of union of India..
    Regards
    Jai Hind

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    • Glad you all share our pride in Akshay’s bravery and courage Amit. He is now our guardian angel. God bless you and your family.

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  14. I have been following your blog since the beginning and each post is so warm 🙂 I look forward to monday’s now to read your posts !

    p.s : As part of my work,one of my responsibilties is to manage the distribution of our ‘in-house’ comic books online. Today, we received an order from a Lt Col posted in Shillong and this was the order that made me so happy for no particular reason ! But before sending out the order , i grabbed the opportunity to leave a personalized message, thanking him for his service 🙂 I am sharing this piece, only to convey how beautifully you and your son are impacting all of our lives and it is also because of you that I wanted to thank a serving officer on behalf of my team !

    Thank you
    Regards

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    • Thank you so much Ankita- for your gratitude to our soldiers who put their lives at risk to keep our countrymen safe. Sure the officer loved your personalized message and very glad to know Akshay is impacting so many lives. he is definitely our guardian angel. Do confess coping is very difficult despite the pride. We are lucky to have been his parents. Love and regards to you and your team. God bless.

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  15. Aunty ur blog is a chicken soup,inspiring , full of life & so transforming.i really look forward to read your blog every week as it touches our lives & reminds us about the supreme sacrifice of our soldiers.Salute to ur bravest of the brave son.God bless u all.hat’s off to a extremely courageous family.

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  16. Dear Meghna, I have been following your blog , having met Major Akshay once only , can’t forget his face while I m reading about him. Your memory of him, his tiny lil details , pride in each word, is commendable. He must be as proud son as you are a proud mother of that devine soul. Hats off n a huge Salute Meghna, can very well feel your pain my friend. Love you.

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  17. Sincere salutes Akshay.met Akshay in Jc.remember him standing to speak during the discussions .truly motivated soldier.proud of u brother.

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  18. Dear Meghna Ma’am,
    Your blog really brings alive the life of Akshay..it always touches a chord in my heart…he was a mighty brave soldier and a gentleman to the core..we, being his comrades are mighty proud him…I was there in the Air force hangar, when entire Bangalore descended down to pay their last respects to your brave son…. The manner in which you and Sangeeta handled this huge loss was an epitome of bravery and sacrifice in itself…Really proud of you, Akshay and his family..
    Regards, Sqn Ldr Karthik (AFS YEL).

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    • Thank you for your kind words and for being there and supporting our family Karthik. Our pride in Akshay makes it important for us to be brave in coping with his loss. He would not want it any other way. Do visit us sometime when you are free. God bless you and your family.

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  19. Dear Aunty,
    I have been reading your blogs , which leaves a deep impact every time. The quote “In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years” so truly matches Akshays persona. Below snippet is from a Kannada song, We don’t know what gods plans are, but Akshay has truly inspired many lives.
    “Arthavagade ulidiro
    Suthradariya maye
    Mareyalarade uliyali
    Pathradariya chaaye..
    Rangabhoomiye ee jaga”

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    • Thank you for the very appropriate quote and the song for Akshay Mahima. Am glad you are reading the blog- its good to know so many of you stand with us in support of Akshay’s heroism for the Nation. God bless you and your family.

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  20. I end up crying every time i read your blog. Wish this had never happened. Please do not think of me as insensitive. But out of curiosity, was there ever a thought in his mind or in your’s or your family members’ mind that what happened was a possibility and did any of you maybe had a quick talk about it? Did he maybe talk with his wife about that possibility? An Army soldier and one who gets posted in Kashmir does lead a very uncertain life. The reason i am asking is that a few days before my Mom died ( I was still in my twenties and pregnant) she told that she just wants me to be happy in life and that one statement of hers is what kept me going after she died and still keeps me going even though the pain is still there as she died fairly young and my father too passed away a few months after she did. Take Care.

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    • Dear Shashi,

      My heart reaches out to you on your personal loss- that too at a time when you were pregnant and having parental support was so important. Glad you have coped and your mothers words kept you going. Sangeeta, Neha, Girish and I have discussed our conversations with Akshay and although he did not directly talk about the possibility, his poetry (written long before the Kashmir postings though) reveals the thoughts that may have crossed his mind. As you have asked a direct question and I do not want to tell lies, may I contact you off this public channel? Let me know. Love and hugs to you. God bless your family.

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  21. Every chapter I read …i get so emotional. He is a blessed soul. So inspirational. I hope i can save this for my daughter to read. We are with you and your family.

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  22. Hi aunty,
    I am choked reading this post. Such a fine human being Major Akshay was (is). Blessed are all those whose lives he touched and continues to do so. I keep telling my husband (Ashoka) that I don’t know what you are made of, where and how have you gathered so much strength from and he keeps saying – some people are cut from different cloth and I tell him that you are from another planet, unique and rare. Every night I read a story for my 9 month old daughter and I have beem thinking that Major’s story would be a good one to start with for this year. I am sure she would love it and will be blessed by Akshay who is watching us all. I pray that the universe gives you and your family the strength to continue to show this unparalleled valour. Can you please share your address and your number aunty?

    Lots of love
    Sindhu

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    • Dear Sindhu, your little daughter may not appreciate the story at this time! Thank you so much for your sweet words and please thank your husband for me. We are very much from mother earth – like all you lovely people out there – making this difficult journey and being supported after unimaginable loss. Yes, blessed to have been Akshay’s parents and loved ones. My number is 9844011177. Love and hugs to you. God bless your family.

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  23. What a man, this son of yours Meghna. He gave so much of himself in everything he did. Wish he had stopped a bit short that fateful day! But then, that wouldn’t have been Akshay. So proud of him and so proud of all of you – this extended family of ours. Unending salutes… And keep writing, please.

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    • Think of that wish every moment Sri- then remind myself, ‘ if wishes were horses….’ Willing to beg but it wont help either. So chin up it is. Very very proud of Akshay- so many share our pride and we will take each day as it comes. Take care.

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  24. Akshay was the first NDA cadet I ever knew personally and was a big inspiration in me going there in the first place, almost a decade ago. A lot changed since then but his inspirstion has not faded and he only made it a lot stronger with his final act in this world. Gallant.
    Please keep the story going aunty. I am sure he wants to inspire more.

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    • Think about you a lot Ninad- happy to know Akshay inspired and do believe he will want to inspire…..love and take care. God bless

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