Major Akshay Girish: Son Hero, Martyr

Life is so strange. We are grieving, yet filled with pride. The magnetic power of Akshay continues to bring us closer to each other as a family, and also to all of you, reaching out with concern and expressing solidarity with us. Receiving a letter addressed to her ‘martyred brothers’, 14 year old Vidhi Jadhav from Nadiad district of Gujarat asks about Naina and tells us how she uses her pocket money to help families of martyrs and support poor children stay in school. Tammy, a Lieutenant Commander in the US Naval reserves reads Akshay’s story and writes to me expressing concern and giving therapeutic tips to cope with grief. One sentence reads, ‘Know that days will get easier but grief takes time. It is a journey none can take for us, and yet – God does not intend for us to put down the tent stakes.’ Truly, it’s the thought that counts and we are determined to go on with life, while counting our blessings, even as we hope for continued strength and togetherness.

PART EIGHT

This part of ‘Akshay’s Story, My Way’ is mostly about the ‘super highs’ in our son’s life- love, romance and commitment to Sangeeta. While Akshay was still with his unit near Chandigarh, Sangeeta was in the midst of her MBA in Hospital Management in Jaipur. Eager to meet each other whenever they could wing it, ‘aaj kal tere mere pyaar ke charche’ was the song that matched their mood! By mid 2009, Akshay had told me and also written to Neha (she was studying in the USA) that Sangeeta was the love of his life, and he had never ever been happier! The first time he brought her home, meeting this pretty, poised and smiling child, as a mother, I was drawn to her. Akshay’s doting looks are vivid images in my mind and the vibes felt so right.

Akshay went back after his leave and then made a phone call- he and Sangeeta wanted us parents to meet and formalize the commitment. The Ravindrans and Girish’s didn’t know each other so communication had to be through the kids. Girish and I told Akshay we were happy to have them come over but he said there was a catch, that in her family, the boy’s folks were expected to initiate a proposal. So Girish called Sangeeta’s dad and the two ‘fauji’s’ typically set up a meeting at the Officers Institute called RSI. With Sangeeta’s mom Beena away in US of A where her elder daughter Vineeta and her husband Nitin were set to become first time parents, I was nervous about how to raise the topic with Sangeeta’s dad. It was after all our first experience as prospective in laws!

I needn’t have worried though. Like most good officers, after sharing a drink, they came straight to the main issue- ‘my son and your daughter have been seeing each other’ said Wg Cdr Girish and Col Ravindran continued the sentence with ‘and so we should formalize the relationship’. In the next 15 minutes, with shared conversation about our respective families, no questions asked by either side, a convenient date for the engagement was fixed for 29th May 2010. Phone calls were made to Beena, Akshay, Sangeeta and Neha and that was the shortest ever ‘proposed and accepted’ ‘love cum arranged match’ (as we call it in our part of the world)!

After celebrating Neha’s graduation from Duke University (with Girish, Satwik and my sis-in-law Prema), we were back in Bangalore and planning the Akshay-Sangeeta engagement – two wonderful celebrations in the same month! What more could we have asked for? And it was a lovely event – traditional Ganesh puja and ring exchange in the morning followed by a swinging party in the evening. To surprise Akshay-the dancer, Neha, Dhruv, my niece Prarthana, the Deshpande kids Pooja and Sameer and Sukoon, after just a two hour practice session, set the stage on fire swinging to cute old love songs like ‘ Jaane kahaan mera jigar gaya ji’ and ‘Shaadi ke liye raza mand kar li’. The twosome of course, smiled from ear to ear!

The love story, after initial hiccups and partial derailment was chugging along at perfect pace. All we did was add more fuel in the form of regular meetings between parents and soon, the train had reached the wedding day station.

With the blessings of grandparents and extended family and friends, Akshay and Sangeeta tied the knot on 8th May 2011. At just 25, both were lucky to have found each other while still young by today’s standards. The happy occasion was so well attended, particularly by Girish’’s and Akshay’s fauji friends that it was also a re-union of sorts, with plenty of ‘group photographs’ being shot on the sidelines of the wedding hall!

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We became parents to one more daughter and Akshay became a second son to the Ravindrans- in the truest sense. Very comfortable, minus expectations, just lots of joy and good times, bonding over small shared moments and larger celebrations- Prakash’s (My sister in law Jamuna’s spouse) sixtieth birthday at our home followed by the twins 26th birthday in December 2011 and soon after, Col Ravindran’s 60th. The smiles of joy were on all our faces.

Akshay and Sangeeta went on to set up ‘their own home’ in CME Pune where Akshay, posted by the Army, was doing his 3 year Engineering Degree. It was the perfect posting for the newly-weds- lovely city (by fauji station standards, any place other than ‘field station’ is a good posting)back to classes meant regular work hours, no outstation tasks or deployment, and best of all, many other friends in the same boat! Im sure Akshay and Sangeetas friends will have many anecdotes and stories on the time they spent together in Pune and maybe they will share some with us. I know that as a new bride, Sangeeta got a very warm and boisterous ‘welcome party’ and Akshay’s friends made him carry her a long way down the road and over the threshold into their home!

It is with so much love and pride that I share how Akshay, from the time he committed to togetherness with Sangeeta, never took her for granted. He did in fact, while still a bachelor, make sure he set up their home before the wedding, right from painting a wall or two so it looked pretty(money from his own pocket), buying home appliances and a few pieces of good wood they could use (a bar unit to be precise!), to writing Sangeeta a lovely poem and having it framed on their wall with a much loved picture, and even trying his hand at a new skill- cooking!  Over the years, he became a really good cook and would love to feed others with special recipe’s served beautifully plated- ‘masterchef style’. Something I still cant do! Sangeeta would laugh about how he would drag his friends’ home and enjoy making them a nice cup of tea or a special snack as they chatted.

When he would call or chat with me on leave, he would praise Sangeeta, ‘ma, she makes the bed so well, sheets pulled and tucked in perfectly’ or ‘you know, she never lets me drive fast and she is right. I have become careful now’ and ‘her rajma was a big hit with my friends who came for dinner last night’. The little things most of us take for granted, he never failed to appreciate. I loved him even more!

Akshay instinctively knew that marriage, like a beautiful plant, needs to be nurtured to make the roots strong so it stays green. I personally do not know of any other husband who spoke of only the nicest things about his wife, encouraged her to be independent, pursue her interests and hobbies, enjoyed time spent with her friends and best of all, made every birthday and anniversary special by pampering her with ‘surprise’ outings planned to perfection well in advance.

In Sangeeta’s own words, he gave her more love and respect than she ever expected. And she reciprocated – we could all see that.

As a parent, I urge all you young people out there to take from Akshay and Sangeeta’s experience and invest in your relationships.  Akshay invested in all his relationships and today, even when he is so far away, he is remembered with love and continues to inspire. In a marriage, this investment becomes much more important. When both partners express love and care for each other and their families, appreciate the little things one does for the other, respect diverse opinions and encourage one another to pursue interests they want to, both benefit, as do the kids and elders in the long term.

As they say, its not just the length of the journey, it is also how the path is walked while together.

Akshay’s love for adventure was known to all. He would go all out to find and experience the adrenalin rush – be it bungee jumping, trekking, white water rafting and even hobby flying. He urged us as a family (Girish, Neha, Akshay, Sangeeta and me) to take a ‘skydiving vacation’ and in December 2012, we did! It was the best ever family time the five of us got. In an unknown small town called Udon Thani in Thailand, we signed up to skydive at the ‘Birds Paradise’ resort. The resort was large but simple, with local staff who cooked Thai food, two instructors ( one was a Dutch veteran), and a pilot. A few training sessions on the ground, a video, clear bright skies and one by one, we were airborne to jump out in tandem at over 10,000 feet. It was scary and exhilarating! Akshay of course opted to go first and as the videos showed later, was laughing throughout the jump, not a trace of fear on his face! He had so many plans for this year- including doing the skydiving course that would need about 3 weeks of precious leave. Maybe he is doing a lot of it from the heavens but we cant really verify that.

Once again, my thoughts take me back to Kashmir and Akshay’s experience that won him praise in the past. Akshay and his CO were driving down from the the heights of Tangdhar to Kupwara when all of a sudden, bodies that seemed to be falling from the sky landed right in front of their jeep. The driver was quick to stop and they realized that a vehicle had fallen off the steep cliff from the curved road above ad disappeared into the valley below. People had fallen out of that vehicle, or had jumped out, and while few landed on the road below, others were stuck in bushes on precarious slopes or had fallen to their death.

In Akshay’s COs words, ‘we had just two jeeps and two to three hundred Kashmiris were shouting and coming towards us.  We couldn’t understand what they were saying but knowing how mutually suspicious and strained the locals vs army sentiment is in those parts, we thought of backing off. But I was lucky to have Akshay with me. He was very calm and told me to deal with speaking to the local leaders while he decided to rescue the injured. The few soldiers and he used their jeeps to transport many badly injured locals to the civil hospital. Their relatives were grateful and the regiment was appreciated for their soldiers going beyond their call of duty.’

For helping rescue and save lives of civilians in Kashmir, Akshay was awarded the COAS (Chief of Army Staff) Commendation medal in early 2010. He wore it everyday with so much pride.

Kashmir seems to be the land that has, each time, tested Akshay in different situations. And Akshay- Officer, Gentleman, Concerned citizen, Brave soldier never ever fell short. Never.

I end this part of my story with sentences from Neha’s touching speech on the 13th day after Akshay’s supreme sacrifice. She choked as she said, “I am thankful that Akshay experienced such enormous happiness in his life with Sangy and Naina , enjoying every moment to the fullest, loving deeply and being loved in return”.

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

  1. Amazing piece aunty! Felt as though I was seeing it all happen in front of my eyes. Indeed every relationship needs nurturing, it’s like planting a seed and seeing it grow into a tree. Akshay was a perfect human being – perfect on all fronts, all rounder 🙂 Thank you Sangeeta, Naina, Neha, Mr. Girish and aunty for your supreme sacrifice.
    Sending my love and lot of strength to all of you.

    Love,
    Sindhu

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  2. What a man and what a family. I always cry when I read your post . I feel I am part of this tragedy, proud to have known him and privileged to be allowd an glimpse into what a family goes through . You must publish this book for helping others cope with a tragedy so monumental taken in the stride . You have dealt cards like no one else I know.
    In this part I realise what ove you all as my own family .

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    • As you have said DPK, consider you a younger brother now. Look forward to you visiting Akshay’s home and family on your next visit to Bengaluru. Take care. Warm regards and God bless your boys.

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  3. ‘Akshay-Sangeeta”s love reached all of us !! So many of my chats with him ,have been about his beloved wife Sangeeta , and how fondly he spoke of her always and advised me to get married saying ‘I’m more best friends with sangeeta now than I ever was ‘ 🙂 . I used to love talking to him about his love life that radiated so much positivity .

    P.S -We are in 2012 of the journey already . Sigh !

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    • Know you all felt the love they shared Ankita- it made so many people happy. Wish the journey was longer and yes, we are in 2012 already. Love and God bless

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  4. Very beautifully expressed thoughts,Meghana. Akshay truly was a very nice jovial person n a perfect son ,husband,n father. We miss him too. God bless ,hugs n love.

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  5. As you say, Meghna, it’s the kind of journey we take on this earth that is important, not the length. Indeed, Akshay lived a life that was short, but rich in love and meaningful relationships and wisdom and he has left behind a legacy of the art of living for his family and friends.

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    • Very true Malathi. Always knew he was a special person but his legacy has been brought home in a way one would never have expected (or wanted).

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  6. Following Akshay and Sangitas love story I felt part of your family. Unbridled joy at the unfolding romance n immense sadness at it being so shortlived. At the same time I’m so glad that Sangita found this amazing man and his love that most people would give anything to experience it just once. God bless Sangy and Naina and all of you

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  7. Hello Meghna Ma’am,
    Wish all of you a great strength to have faster recovery from massive tragedy… Thank you for writing and let all of us know him more closely.. A true leader and Gentleman…Major Akshay
    His selfless Service will be remembered by those Kashmiris as well as by whole country.
    A great Salute to you Ma’am and Girish sir because of your ” Parvarish” we could know such a lively personality.
    Anyways Happy Army Day to you…
    I hope Naina is also doing fine…God Bless her…

    Keep writing Ma’am we are with you…
    JAI HIND

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  8. Dear aunty,
    Its during this part of the journey , i met sangeeta. I remember how the brief acquaintance made me closer to her. I don’t know what was it but I fou nd a younger sister in her. She along with Anshul used to share the lovely anecdotes and we used to enjoy the chivalry of the young army men. The newly marrieds had joined the salsa class then and we used to appreciate their enthusiasm.
    And when I read your write up each time I remember sangeeta’s ever glowing smile and tears just start flowing.
    I feel I am living all these moments with you. How I wish it was all a dream or a story to be just read and forgotten….
    A thousand pranamam
    to you all….
    Lots of love
    Sandhya

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    • So happy to know of your attachment to sangeeta Sandhya. Wish it was a dream ….or nightmare….many times feel losing Akshay cant be real. Very painful and yet, somewhere we are trying to find the strength to accept our loss. Thank you for being part of our journey. Love and God bless you and your family.

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  9. Its a beautiful write -up yet again dear Meghna aunty …As I read the more I feel His devine presence telling each one of us to be better and bigger, in such a short span of time its amazing how many lives He was able to touch and inspire…We are all with you in this difficult journey that you have so bravely chosen to tread upon…Your zeal and compassion has become our way of life ..please continue to enlighten and illuminate..
    Only love,
    Your shivangi.

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    • So true Shivangi. To me he always was special but now realize just how many lives he has touched and how he will continue to inspire. Love and take care.

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  10. Meghana, so touching it was to read this part of your story. It’s true, many of us do take our loved ones for granted but Akshay has left a lovely lesson for all of us! He was truly special and one of a kind, it’s rare to find people of his stature. God bless all of you and am sure we will continue to see Akshay in Naina, in the times to come. Love nd hugs to you all. Take care and thank you for taking us through this wonderful journey with Akshay and Sangeeta.

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    • Miss Akshay all the time Gayatri- yet will need to learn to deal with his loss. Thank you and love and hugs to you and the girls. Naina, Sangeeta, Neha, Pradish have all been here since 29th Nov and we are supporting each other through this.

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  11. Thank you Aunty For sharing lovely memories of our brave heart Akshay. In just 2 n half yrs as adj Akshay n me as 2ic’s wife i have loads of lovely memories with him n will always remember him as smart, hardworking ,n very disciplined gentleman n yes very responsible husband and father . The way u nurture him as mother, the way Neha as sister, Sangeeta as wife n naina as lovely daughter fulfilled his life n create as a wise gentleman is awesome . l salute all of you n i m full of proud that i was able to spend some time with such a great personality n great human whose level of humanity n bravery was so high where people cannot not reach.
    Jai hind!

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    • So sweet of you to say so Pratima- thank you for sharing our pride in Akshay and for being part of Akshay-Sangeeta- Naina’s journey. Love and hugs to you. God bless your family.

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  12. Thank you for letting all of us meet, through your moving writing, the truly inspiring young man that Akshay grew up to be. Love to all of you, especially Sangeeta and little Naina.

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  13. I can’t even imagine the grief you are going through aunty… being an air force kid and army wife myself, i feel very close to all of you. May god bless you all …
    I read each of your blogs about akshay .. and it never fails to bring tears and smiles. Celebrating his life is the best tribute we can give the brave man… Please keep writing.

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    • Thank you for reaching out Varsha- the empathy and support we have received over Akshay fills us with gratitude despite our terrible sorrow. God bless you and your family. Take care

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  14. So touching and emotional write up…Your words seem to take me along with your journey..I can deeply understand what a parent goes through yet writing and expressing all this is not easy…Major Akshay was a hero and will remain so with us all through…He achieved so much which many dream off in their lifetime…Salute to all of you..

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    • Thank you Poonam- appreciate your empathy and concern. Its not easy for a parent but Akshay is now not just our son- he is our motherland’s son and an inspirational human being. Despite our terrible sorrow, must honour his legacy. Love to you and God bless your family.

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  15. Dear Mam,

    Thanks so much for sharing this. I come from a Defense family and can understand every incident you recounted. I would love to hear more from such brave Defense moms of fallen bravehearts. Please take an initiative to form such an organization.

    Nikhil

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    • Appreciate your reaching out – thank you. You should write too Nikhil. The Defence kids can show how we all rise above petty politics, religion and communal divides. About taking initiative for starting an organisation- will need to discuss such steps in a wider group.

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  16. Dear aunty,till now this has been one of the best chicken soup love story that i have ever read.Actually this is a “rab ne bana de jodi”,I’ll read this to my daughter tonight who at the tiny age if 5 says me everytime after dressing up”ma rajputro asbe to”(ma prince charming will come one day).pheli baar koi ma apne bete ki love story itne fakr ke saath likh rahi hai.No doubt only a queen like u can raise a prince like Maj.Akshay who took care of his love like a princess.not only Maj.Akshay inspires us to be better than ourselves but you teach each one of us to be a better mommy.God bless u all.tkcr.And plz keep us connected with your wonderful writings about our brave soilder.

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    • I have no words Lisa- very touched. Thank you sweet child for your kindness in reaching out to a sorrowing parent. Much love to you and God bless your little one.

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  17. Aunty my salute to you for the way you have express each minute detail of our brother…it seems his story is from Bollywood flick…his marriage…the passion for adventure….a learner as a master chef….helping his colleagues with his calmness in the crisis situation…a decision maker whom anyone will cherish to be in his team ….a true gentleman …
    he will always be eternal in our memories ..
    We love him…..

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  18. Hi Meghana, once again a lovely write up which touches a chord. So much of love he had within him, which he so generously gave all of you, that you could bask in it forever! Once Naina grows up she will be so proud to be the daughter of such a father! God bless her and all of you. Lots of love and prayers to give strength.

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  19. Amazing aunty and very beautifully you have written it.A big salute to you and Major Akshay Girish Kumar!!!Lots of love and hugs to all of you!!!

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  20. Amazing Chinni. Thank you for sharing Akshay’s brave and beautiful life with us. I see where he gets is bravery from. You are a personification of courage and poise.

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  21. Whenever there is a martyrdom , the media goes gaga over the same until the final rites .
    We public empathize for a brief period, say for a day or two and return to our normal routine.
    But the selfless service of that soldier is all forgotten .
    Thank you dear Aunty for keeping him alive, in our hearts forever . For letting us in, to have a peek at his life, most importantly for raising a Hero.
    I remember reading somewhere that
    “Even when people we love die, our relationships with them do not. We continue to have feelings about them, memories of things they did, imaginings of things they might say were they with us now. Just because the pain of losing them diminishes with time, their importance to us need not.”

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    • Well said Mahima- their importance to those who’s lives were touched does not diminish. thank you for your kind words. Love and God bless

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  22. Sometimes I feel I should have never known him. Not this way. His story was way better when he was a Major of the Indian army. I would have never wanted to know him at this cost. I wish everyone had another shot at life. I cannot bear to see all those happy faces and realise that he is no more. Maybe he shouldn’t have sacrificed his life. I wish time could be turned back, I wish he was not there in Nagrota at that time.

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    • If only we could turn time back Pradnya….life however uncertain, must be lived. That includes coping with Akshay’s unimaginable loss. We can all hope for strength together and cope the best we can. Take care. Love to you and God bless

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  23. Dear Aunty,
    I have known Sangeeta since we both were in class 7 together. We lost touch in the interim and then got connected back in June 2016 through fb. Her fb posts were always so happy and delightful and I could see the couple complementing each other. Naina, of course, completed the picture. If I as an outsider is yet to overcome this massive unimaginable loss, then I shudder at the thought of what you all must be going through. Time is the greatest healer and God will provide the strength to all of us. Thank you for your beautiful writings. I wish I could have met your magnetic son but maybe that is for a later time now. Best regards to all in the family and lots of love to Sangeeta and Naina

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    • Thank you so much for reaching out and for your sweet words Ruchi. yes, copig with Akshay’s loss is very painful…and yet we know that we are left with no choice but to accept what life has dealt us. In all humility and with tremendous pride in Akshay’s supreme sacrifice, we will try to take this blow with our heads held high. Sure your friendship with Sangeeta will give her added support. Love and take care. God bless you and your family

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  24. Mam,
    It is so heartening to read your memories in the form of this blog. I feel so close to Major Akshay, can relate to him so well.
    God bless you and your family.
    I salute you for this humbling effort of yours.
    In respect,
    Japvir

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  25. Dear Ma’am

    As i saw the link to your blog on my fb wall, i somehow gathered the courage to read it.
    But generally, i try to avoid reading such posts. By saying this, i mean no offence. Its just that, i feel so much pain in heart and become so concerned for my husband who is also serving in army.
    Army is such a great institution and army personnels are such a gem of mankind but so difficult are the duties and commitments attached to it.

    I truly appreciate your courage and efforts to deal with this tragic loss.
    Very nicely written is the post.
    Pleas keep on writing.

    Looking forward to read more of your writings.

    Your

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    • Thank you for gathering the courage o read my posts and also for reachng out to me with your sweet words. You are a brave and proud fauji wife and that is why your husband, my son and other soldiers can do what they do for protecting our country and our people. Do not be worried. God bless you and your family.

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  26. Ma’m,
    My name is Japvir and i met Maj Akshay first somewhere in 2013 when he was posted in CME. I am a fauji kid too and was instantly drawn to his charismatic persona. He had come to our rooftop restaurant, the first time in DoubleTree by Hilton Pune, to host his friends over after Ma’m had joined him in Pune. Later we came to know through our other interactions that Ma’m was carrying Naina and we were so thrilled. Maj Akshay was such a fine officer – in NDA terms – a demo type officer. I cannot even imagine the kind of void he must have left behind.
    I live in Jaipur currently and if there is anything i could do for you i am only a phone call away. May God bless you with more courage and us to be as strong as you.
    Sincere regards,
    Japvir
    7728897307

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    • Dear Japvir, it is so good to hear from you. Akshay often spoke of your friendship with affection and regard and he must be smiling from up there to hear you calling him a demo type officer. Yes, the loss is unimaginable and we are looking for courage from Akshay to cope. We look forward to meeting you and hope you will someday make a visit to our home. Sangeeta, Naina, Neha, Pradish, Girish and me look forward to keeping this connection with you through Akshay. Do take care. Love and God bless your family. Regards to your parents.

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