Major Akshay Girish: Son, Hero, Martyr

This week has been even more difficult. The luggage truck arrived from Nagrota- all things big and small that Akshay and Sangeeta, with so much love and pleasure, had put together over the last five and half years- for ‘their home’. His favorite car with a book and the songs he loved still playing inside, the music system cum home theater for pleasant evenings at home, and more than anything else, Akshay’s clothes and personal belongings. My heart broke all over again to see them…..the shirts he looked so good in, sets of uniforms and combat gear he wore with so much pride….bright sweaters I had sent just in October (and he sent us pics wearing them)…. the formal suit he got tailored for Neha’s wedding…loving picture frames and collages…. His prized collection of watches, tennis rackets and shiny sets of cuff links and tie pins…….The ‘Fit Go Pro’ gifted by Pradish and Neha that he was waiting to tryout on their next adventure holiday……and a million other things from sheets and curtains to kitchen appliances and dinner sets etc,  that go into making a happy home.

Naina was thrilled to see the car when I got her home from school and kept saying ‘my red car avva.’  My mother and brother came home the same day and we all felt very sad. Sangy looked so low that I tried not to ask too many questions of what she planned to do with all their things. I picked up a few clothes of Akshay’s and went downstairs to my room where I held them close and wept. The home they had set up together, the many plans they must had made for the year ahead, the dreams woven for a future together…that home no longer exists. It is with a heavy heart, mixed with our resolve to stand by Sangeeta and Naina, and our ‘never-say-die’ hope to see them smile as before, that I pull myself together and continue to write Akshay’s Story; My Way.

PART NINE

Early 2013 saw all of us excited at the ‘Pooja-Viraj’ wedding which coincided with the completion of our new home. Pooja (friends Deshu-Sarits daughter), Akshay-Neha’s childhood ‘play and fight mate’ decided to get married at Jade Garden- where we live- and our just completed home became their sangeet-practice venue and young people’s hang out place for the event. As always, Akshay was the enthusiastic one egging the rest to put up something special for their ‘chaddi-buddy’. With just a few hours of practice Akshay, Dhruv, Neha, Priyanka and Sangeeta  choreographed and coordinated so well that the evening began with a bang to ‘Subah hone na de….Shaam khone na de…….Tu mera hero…..’ I thought Akshay was the best amateur dancer ever and for those who don’t believe me, do watch this foot tapping youtube video by copy-pasting this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1mMo3j0hahc&feature=share

Soon after the thoroughly enjoyable wedding, Akshay and Sangeeta were back at CME Pune from where they called to give us the good news- we were all set to be grandparents before the year ended! They had earlier, as newly-weds, got home a pet cocker spaniel named ‘Bingo’ and Akshay called the cute fellow their ‘son’. Sangy had picked up a job as dietician in Pune’s VLCC and as pregnancy pangs set in, Akshay took the really good husband role a notch higher- making sure she got enough rest and care and did not stress over anything. With blood pressure showing signs of an increase (family history), Sangeeta returned to Bangalore in the seventh month, initially spending some time with Girish, Neha and me, and then under Beena’s loving care, as D day approached.

Akshay all along wanted a girl and one day, at the Ravindran’s dining table, as we all suggested baby names, he barely paid any attention to ‘boy names’! Sangeeta went into early labour and after Beena and Col Ravindran rushed her to hospital, Akshay reached saying ‘mom, papa, Im here. You can relax. I will take care of Sangeeta’. In Sangeeta’s papa’s words, ‘Sangu who was looking a little worried despite our presence was all smiles to see Akshay. We went home confident our daughter had Akshay beside her at this critical time.’ On the morning of 28th October 2013, our world became even more bright and beautiful!

I was driving towards the hospital when my phone rang, and although I normally do not use the mobile while driving, had to answer this one! Akshay was sounding soft and emotional as he said, ‘ma, our princess has arrived. She is so cute and Sangeeta is tired but smiling and well.’ I was over the moon, grinning and laughing to myself after the call with Akshay and can never forget the rush of deep love and gratitude that filled my heart as the nurse placed our little grand-daughter in my arms. Neha entered with a bunch of gifts and cute balloon decorations and we were all hugging and smiling as the twins made the drab hospital room look all cheery! Sangeeta was absolutely rocking- the prettiest and most cheerful mother, moments after giving birth.

‘Naina’, with her beautiful big eyes, so like her father’s, was born in the same hospital that Akshay and Neha had arrived in so many years ago! And when Sangeeta and Naina were shifted to the ward, it was the same room I had spent 40 days in, waiting for our little ones to make a safe entry. Time, they say, never stops. Time however, can seem to stand still and to come a full circle.

The extended family’s cup was brimming over with this little bundle of joy. Akshay’s Dadi was particularly thrilled to receive the first ‘4th generation baby’ of the family. Girish and I, as per tradition, celebrated Naina’s birth by gathering our near and dear to felicitate all the great-grandparents with a ‘Swarnabhishekam’. Naina was placed in the arms of her family elders, one after the other, and they (Akshay’s Dadi, Nana and Nani) were respectfully showered with tiny golden flowers. They in turn blessed Naina and the rest of us. It was such an emotional and happy time with Naina in a good mood and Akshay-Sangeeta, truly the cutest new parents.

Akshay went back to Pune to complete his degree while Sangeeta and Naina stayed on for a few months. He graduated as an Electrical Engineer from CME in early 2014. Akshay hadn’t been very pleased to have missed out being with his Unit during its field tenure at the high altitude of Leh and after graduating, he rejoined his unit in its new location near Kolkata. Once back in the regiment he loved, Sangeeta joined him with little Naina and the twosome that had become a threesome with Bingo now became a regular foursome with the littlest addition.

Akshay’s calls home continued and now his chatter was about ‘how cute Naina was, how well Sangy took care of the little one, how Bingo was jealous of the attention Naina got and how happy the home felt with all of them being together.’ Our family whatsapp group became busier as pictures and videos of Naina led to delighted exchanges between all of us!

Like most babies, Naina was most secure in her mother’s company. Akshay encouraged Sangeeta to take a break from her busy baby routine to meet with other ladies from the unit and to participate in the many unit activities. On a phone call one day he spoke with much sensitivity saying, ‘ma, when Naina wakes up, she looks for Sangy and is upset if she doesn’t see her. No matter how hard I try, it’s just not the same. Naina wants only Sangeeta and the minute she sees her, she gives such a happy smile. And if she is not well, it is only Sangeeta who can soothe her. Now I realise how important a mother is for a baby. No one can take her place.’ I responded by telling him that as she grows, Naina will want to spend more time with her father as well and will greet him with lots of excitement. That she will love swinging in his arms and being carried around held close to his chest.

My story moves fast forward to the present. In the past year and half, Naina showered her father with her demonstrative love- her ‘huggies’, Ummas (kisses) and her ‘Uv(love) you papa’ had Akshay floored by his little princess. As I write today, Naina’s clear voice saying ‘I miss papa’ and her shrill cries of ‘papa….papa…..’ when she is upset and crying is ringing in my ears and my eyes are clouding over. She has said this so many times since Nagrota and each time, Sangy and the rest of us have pretended to not be rattled and managed to keep our emotions from showing, as we try to distract and soothe her.

Akshay would have loved to know how much Naina misses her father. We are left with the difficult task of making sure she doesn’t miss him too much.

On the professional front, the regiment was tasked with another important assignment- this time to make bunkers in the icy heights of Sikkim, along the border with China. Akshay moved up the mountains to take forward the work begun by his colleague Major Samarth who moved to Pune on posting. Thanks to army phones, he could contact us even from altitudes between 17000 to over 19000 ft! The soldiers were pushed to the limits of endurance as they carried material up by foot, literally brick by brick and worked despite the cold and low oxygen in the rarified atmosphere. Akshay would tell us how difficult it was to breathe, how one couldn’t go on after a couple of hours of hard labour and how they managed on a ‘dal-rice’ or ‘aloo-roti’ meal because cooking up there had to start with melting ice, and everything took so long to cook. On bad weather days, they managed on just canned food and chocolates.

Akshay loved the mountains despite the hardships and took some out-of-this-world photographs of the barren beauty of the area and spoke about Gurudogmar Lake which, located at an altitude of 17,800 ft is one of the highest lakes in the world. The romantic in Akshay carved out S-A in ice as he missed his beloved. And he often said ‘son’ Bingo kept him company in those heights where he, as the soldier and Bingo representing man’s best friend shared a tiny temporary shelter and sometimes a sleeping bag for warmth in sub-zero temperatures.

Akshay and his men lived there for months, the close bond strengthened in adversity as they worked, ate, and lived with only one aim- to complete the task for the ‘Paltan’s izzat’. Part of Akshay’s responsibility towards his men was to ensure the ‘no-alcohol in high altitude’ rule was adhered to, along with closely monitoring them for any signs of acute mountain sickness (AMS). He told us that not a drop of alcohol is allowed in high posts as it tends to cause dehydration and exacerbates AMS fatalities. Breathlessness, nausea, vomiting, visual disturbances and such other symptoms if not immediately treated quickly lead to pulmonary edema and cerebral edema which are potentially fatal. Twice during that tenure, Akshay’s men had to be airlifted to a hospital and once, a soldier who fell into an icy pit had to be rescued and evacuated. Luckily, they all recovered from their risky ordeal.

Akshay was proud to have shouldered the responsibility of another tough task and his seniors were impressed at how well he motivated his men to complete it just before the winter of 2013 set in. Any delay would have meant abandoning the work until the next summer.

The picture he posted with his watch recording an altitude of over 19000 feet left me with very mixed feelings. Here was my little one, who in the first few months of birth couldn’t find the strength to cry. I was told to not pick him up and to let him cry so that his lungs would get enough oxygen and would help him get stronger. In his childhood, he often had breathing problems and I was worried he may have a form of asthma that runs in my family. At one stage, he was worried he may not have the ‘lung capacity’ needed to clear the stringent medical exam for NDA selection.

To see Akshay fit, smiling and healthy at that height made me send a grateful ‘thank you’, and a prayer up for his safe return.

But life can spring a surprise or shock us when we least expect it to. It wasn’t the heights that posed a risk to Akshay. The real danger lurked in the plains around peaceful Jammu. Unfortunately, that though was nowhere on my horizon of fears and concerns for Akshay’s safety and well-being.

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

      • Hi. Akshay was my senior at NDA n one of the nicest human being I hv come across. Will be greatly missed. Thanks a lot for d comprehensive yet exhaustive write up. Take care and god bless. Regards
        It cdr Umesh kumar

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    • My eyes r full of water while reading the blog n pictures of their home at kanchrapara n related memories r coming in my mind. Infact before leaving kanchrapara they purchased inverter due to long power cuts. It took us good effort to convince Akshay to buy it. God bless!

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      • Yes, Akshay was at first reluctant but realised an inverter was needed with Nainu around. Thank you for being part of this difficult journey. Take care. God bless

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  1. I remember the day so clearly when I was on site and Amma called me and told me that Sangy was in labour.. I remember not being able to concentrate on work and I kept checking my phone for the slightest hint of news. A few hours later we all graduated to roles of aunts and uncles, grannies and grandpas.. Little Nainu does not know just yet how she lights up our lives with her existence. Little coincidence that she was due exactly nine months after we got married..?!? Wink wink.. Viraj and I realized that recently and were all prepared to tease akshay and Sangy at sujeev’s wedding. He knows now.. Lol!! And I can already see that grin!
    Beautiful post this one aunty.. Lots of live to you…

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    • He he….come to think of it, almost nine months Pooja! Yes, Naina is everyone’s little sweetheart and she dotes on her pretty aunts. Love to you and Viraj….and Naina needs a playmate in Jade…!

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  2. The luggage is probably the most difficult part, It brings down all the progress made in coping up…… My love and hugs to Nanina ❤️ with a strong mother like Sangeeta and loving grandparents like you she’s always going to be loved and protected. As she grows you’ll probably realise (like my mother says) “Genes are so strong” her actions, words and habits will mimic those of her fathers, despite the fact that she was so young when she spent her best years with him. 🙂 she will in the true sense always keep Maj Akshay alive.

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    • Thats true Aakanksha- who better than you to know? And yes, Naina is definitely showing already that she is fathers daughter. Sangy keeps saying that- just like Akshay. And Akshay for sure would love that! A hug to you. God bless

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  3. I imagine you writing this piece with tears threatening to spill out at every memory. But that doesn’t stop brave heart Major Akshays courageous mother. She continues with tear-streaked face, clouded vision. On a much smaller scale we your readers and Akshays fans read your story with heavy heart, lumps in throat and tears…feeling the pain of a mother having lost a much loved son (lost is a wrong word though. Akshay will always be around for you living through Nainu and Sangy n in spirit) a caring husband that Sangy will never get over, a part of herself for Neha n Naina…I feel saddest for the poor child. Life is so unfair. Keep writing meghna. It will be cathartic

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    • In a strange way, it is Geetanjali- I seem to sleep better the day I write about Akshay. He is far away and yet around us all in so many ways. Thank God for that. Naina, Sangy. Neha and now Pradish give Girish and me reason to look beyond our sorrow and appreciate all those, like you, who take it upon themselves to rally around us. Love and hugs.

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  4. With every post you write, my respect and admiration for a person serving his/ her country is additive. You an your family are a good example to the rest of the world in bringing up your children to serve for a higher purpose in life. Sending my thoughts and prayers to you your family at this difficult time.

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  5. Thank you for your beautiful writings Aunty. I did not have the privilege to know your son but have known Sangeeta since when both of us were in class 7 in Jaipur. With each post, I the urge of having personally met him increases.. Maybe that is for a later life now. Sending prayers and love to the entire family. Lots of hugs to little Naina

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  6. Breaks my heart to even think how difficult it must have been for you all..his car..bar..music system..his collection of coke studio and so many things..
    Still remember him inviting me and Amit over for coffee when he got the coffee machine in Pune.. it took him so long and he kept saying ‘arrey new hai na, so thoda time lagega settings seekhne mein’..
    His love for everything he possessed.. everything was from the heart..he truly loved to live and smile..make others smile.

    Nainu’s first pic.. her eyes..how can I forget that.. he was so thrilled.. and I will always miss the way he said, “Nainu umma dedo”.. He would always say ‘Mujhpe gayi hai na’.. He loved his girls. We do too…

    So many memories aunty. Your stories just bring them all back..Thank you for making us a part of your life.
    Love to you..

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    • Such lovely memories we share Shristi- even more precious now. When she is older, Naina will be happy to know her dad better through all of you. Love to you all. God bless.

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  7. Very emotional Meghna. As a mother myself I can feel every bit of emotions u r going thru. Prayers to keep u all strong n tight hugs to baby Nainu.

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  8. Chinni, the begining of the post about the luggage arriving was really really hard to read – it was just so emotional. Feel so honored and inspired for getting to know him through your writing. Love and hugs to all of you.

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  9. Thanks for the wonderful post aunty. Major Akshay did so many things which few of us can only dream of. He is and always be with you all. Lots of love to little princess Naina and salute to you and the whole family. Take care aunty.

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    • That he did Baishaki. As a family, we cherish Akshay’s legacy and are so happy to have you all with us in our journey. Love and God bless

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  10. No Chinni, don’t stop writing. I read and reread your posts- grateful that I am getting to know the truly remarkable young man he grew up to be. It is hard not to get emotional sometimes, but it is mostly inspiring. Makes me want to take a page out of your parenting book, your life book. Akshay and you have been inspiring in ways that you probably aren’t even aware of – and that is all because of your writing. I will always cherish his memory through this blog. Also , i watched the video of them dancing to subah hone na de and couldnt help but smile through my tears. Let him live on through your stories and let us celebrate the extraordinary, courageous, phenomenal and delightful hum an being that he was. As always , lots of love and hugs.

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    • Thats a well danced number isnt it?! As always, Akshay was the most enthusiastic one. He gave everything he did a 100% and had a lot of fun whenever possible. Thank you Vasu. Sweet of you. Love and hugs.

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  11. He believed” live life king size.. ”
    The more I get to know him through this write-up the more is my admiration . I am in awe .. what a personality.! Sad that never met him personally… But through your writings i get a visual treat of his beautiful existence.
    Always in our thoughts …
    Love and hugs to all of you

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  12. Meghna…naina will know her father through your stories. You are going to give her the most precious gift ….when she grows up to read it…she ll be proud of the family she belongs and her parents too…god bless n hugs …

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  13. Very beautiful and poignant thoughts. It’s an irreparable loss. May God give you the strength to tide over these difficult days. Pride and respect for the martyr’s family. Akshay will surely be in our prayers. KPS.

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  14. Meghna,each time I read your story about Akshay, I feel overwhelmed with tears and the respect for young Akshay increases manifold. His was indeed a unique persona, and am sure you are leaving the greatest gift for Naina, in your words about her father. I had been thinking since, as to how it must have been for you all when Akshay and Sangeeta luggage arrived from Nagrota, didn’t know it came now. You are a brave lot and am sure this too shall pass leaving you with the pleasant memories. His things and collections should bring you sweet memories that are associated with them .I am sure he would have wanted it that way too. Lots of love and hugs to you, Sangeeta, Neha and little Naina.

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    • Sure hope so Gayatri- yes, calmer today as Sangeeta and Neha are unpacking. Sangeeta is sorting stuff to keep and give away. Thank you for your support and strength. Love and take care

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  15. I have no words just tears & deep sighs dear aunty,nothing could have been tougher for u all than this phase,just a hearty prayer for all of u and lots of love & blessings to little princess naina in whom u will see Maj. Akshay live forever.warm wishes for the very courageous Mrs.Sangeeta & lots of respect to u aunty.God bless u all,tkcr.

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  16. Akshay sir’s dance was awesome nd mindblowing i have no words to express my emotion. He was so energetic. May god bless little nainu, sangeeta mam and you all… Very happy to read to about sir’s story

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  17. Hello Meghna Ma’am,
    “The legacy of heroes is the memory of a great name and the inheritance of a great example”….& Hero is Maj. Akshya Girish..
    What a lively personality…Happy to read about him..
    Naina is brave child like his father…Don’t worry ma’am
    Jai Hind

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    • Thank you so much for your thoughtful words Amit. You are right- Naina is a brave child – so like her father. God bless you. Take care.

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  18. Hi Ma’am,
    I am a stranger to your posts, but as and when I read them, the respect for the soldiers elevates in me even more. What Maj Akshay has done, is something immeasurable, and indebted.. while I understand that your family is going through an emotional roller coaster, on the contrary I believe that you have Maj Akshay’s soul right Infront of you always as ” Naina”.. I am sure one day she will make her father proud, and he would salute her as well, from wherever he is watching then… All the love, respect and affection to you and your family…
    Thanks

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    • Thank you so much for your sweet words Niharika. Naina is a delightful child and sure she will make Sangeeta and Akshay proud one day. Love and God bless your family

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  19. Lots of Love and bestest of wishes to Little Naina! She has a beautiful foundation and blessing of a perfect family and has it in her genes to grow up to be a vibrant, charming and a loving girl !! Naina is a lovely name :)))

    Regards

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  20. Hello aunty
    Just loved reading this peace as the earlier ones , It’s amazing how you right almost as if a clear picture is drawn in front of my eyes…
    Akshay all excited and dancing…Saw the video before too …He ends up doing the Fauji free style” full enthu” as we say it.
    Just couldn’t take my eyes off him…So full of life and Charisma… Sangeeta and Him dancing…Just perfect..
    And then as a happy and proud father to your bundle of joy..Nainu,
    Then his “never say die”spirit always going that extra mile for others, No heights of the mountains, no depths of the seas could have stopped His magnanimity.
    He has immortalized yet again Our Men in uniform..Only respect and love…
    Yours
    Shivangi

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  21. Aunty, I really was in a state of shock after I heard about Akshay! The few times I met him in Bangalore and Manipal, Akshay was the light and soul of the room – so unabashedly friendly and affectionate. I didn’t know Akshay, the soldier, but through your wonderfully intimate writings, I am able to grasp a little at his overarching sense of duty. Please continue with your lovely, sensitive narratives – for readers like us, they are a deep insight into a larger-than-life personality, a life so well and fully lived, that it truly makes us question our own paths. And I hope at the same time, they can be cathartic for you.

    Lots of love and strength, Aunty!
    Ishita

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    • Thank you Ishita for sharing your thoughts on Akshay. I did start writing in the hope it would be cathartic – and maybe it is. The hole in the heart is pretty painful though! Love and God bless you all. Take care

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  22. Hats off to sacrifice of such brave officers for the country. God bless his soul. Remember some people would always consider him as hero and understand his sacrifice …even if others are busy with day to day life .
    Being and army officer son …I understand his sacrifice and courage .
    Thanks you Akshay for your service to nation .

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    • Thank you for your appreciation for our son Akshay’s service and sacrifice for our motherland Raman. God bless you and your family

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  23. Heart wrenching …have no words to say . Heart goes all out to two little girls .The part when Akshay called you to announce Naina …how well you depicted just made me cry .lots n lots of love to you Naina and sangeeta .

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Thank You for sharing Maj. Akshay’s story, Mrs. Meghna Girish. Even at this moment of loss, you tell us this story which is full of life and inspiration. Though I do not know you all personally, I feel so connected to you and have a lump in my throat reading your memoir. Our armed forces are our biggest strength and much respect to them and their families. May God bless you all and give you the strength to cope with this loss.

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    • It is so thoughtful of you to reach out to us with your comforting words Asha, Thank you for sharing our pride in our soldiers. And yes, it does seem we are all connected and in some way, Akshay has done this for us. Look forward to your comments on the next part of his story. Love and take care.

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