Major Akshay Girish: Son, Hero, Martyr

We made the most significant trip of our lives this week. Before starting and on our way to Akshay’s ‘Karma Bhoomi’, our minds and hearts were filled with a hundred different thoughts, questions and emotions. What we experienced there is so hard to put into words. For Sangeeta, it was Akshay’s divine presence, long conversations and shared emotions with close friends, reliving times they had spent together in Nagrota, and meeting with so many people who had so much to say about their association with Akshay. For Naina it was the excitement of recognizing the building where one of the guest rooms was their home for two months. She ran in from the main gate in glee, eye shining, big smiles and happy laughter interspersed with shouts of ‘mera ghar aa gaya….come avva, I show you my house…..see….this is my house’.  She also enjoyed playing with her little friends, running around to see ducks with ‘Tejwant Bhaiya’ and enjoying all the attention she got from caring uncles and aunties. I think for all of us (includes Neha,  Pradish, Dhruv, Girish, Beena, Col Ravindran and me), it was a sort of pilgrimage to the place Akshay had loved in the short span of time he was there, and wanting to know the exact circumstances of his martyrdom. It was also about being as close to our beloved son as we possibly could, trying to find him in his office(ex-office), in the unit area, in the mess and on the sports fields.

We were received with so much empathy and looked after with utmost care. Our questions were patiently answered and every little request was graciously fulfilled. While the loss of our jewel can never be compensated, we came back with less turbulent thoughts and more acceptance of the cards that destiny has dealt us. At this point, I am not sure how to take Akshay’s story forward. I know I said this would be the last part but suddenly there seems to be more confusion. Should I write from where I left the last part or should I focus on what we have learnt and felt from our visit to Nagrota? Or should I combine then with now and see what emerges as I write?

I know it will not be possible to pen all that happened in just one post. Apart from Nagrota, Girish and I also travelled to Isha ashram at Coimbatore for a small ritual for Akshay’s soul (as suggested by a friend) and have returned home with a little more peace in our troubled hearts. Tonight, we travel again, this time to Agartala to meet with Akshay’s co-martyr’s family- parents, wife and kids. Naik Chittaranjan Debbarma was Akshay’s buddy in the counter-terrorist operation and a valiant warrior from the state of Tripura.

To all you wonderful people who have made this journey with Akshay and us, I have to try and do justice to your patience, your support and your encouragement. For that, I think I will need to add at least one more part to Akshay’s story- the most important part of what happened in Nagrota on 29th November and how a much bigger tragedy/catastrophe was foiled by the bravery of our soldiers.

Believing Akshay guides me in writing these post, here is part twelve of Akshay’s Story, My Way.


The very day Akshay, Sangeeta, Naina and Bingo reached Nagrota after a long drive by road (they were accommodated in the guest rooms of the Unit’s Officers Mess, with other families), Akshay left on another long road drive. He had to join his colleagues for special ‘orientation training’ high up in the cold mountains and valleys. My understanding is that the training is for officers and other ranks (ORs) from army units posted in the disturbed areas of J&K, and basically hones their skills for anti-terrorist action. At 8 pm on the first night, Akshay called me and his voice was soft but clear. ‘After all the studying and desk work last few months, I’m out of stamina ma….and really need to catch up physically,’ he said. I pepped him up with ‘the first few days will be hard beta but don’t worry, you will catch up’. ‘Hmmm’ he said and added, ‘you know, it is so beautiful up here. Very cold but so scenic- if only there wasn’t all this terrorism, others could have also experienced the joy of being in these stunning places.’  A few more calls over the next ten days were about long hard days spent running up mountain slopes in heavy combat gear, carrying arms and supplies and practicing  battle tactics taught in instructional classes, and falling asleep out of sheer exhaustion by 8.30pm. ‘No matter how hard one trains, no two battle situations are identical and a soldier always has to stay calm and apply his mind while leading his men’ was Akshay’s summary after the orientation.

Back in Nagrota, Naina, just short of her third birthday, started playschool on 3rd October. As Sangy got her dressed and sent us a picture of Nainu beaming with bag and water bottle, Akshay’s message read ‘Nainu’s first day of school- feels like she is getting big so soon.’ Naina seemed to have taken well to school – no crying even on her first day there, and Akshay and Sangeeta’s parental pangs were reassured. She did however howl on day three but as soon as Sangeeta left her with her teacher and walked out, the teacher said Naina wiped her tears and played happily!

Our littlest one was already showing signs of strength to deal with life’s insecurities and uncertainties’.

As was the pattern right from the start of 2016, Akshay could not make it home for Girish’s big birthday on 8th October- turning 60 years young! Sangeeta and Naina however did make it to the big day, coming all the way from Nagrota and we all had a large family dinner out with our parents, siblings and kids (Vaibhav, Ankit, Dhruv, Neha, Pradish, Sangeeta and of course, little Naina). While everyone spoke of a ‘puja and party’ to celebrate Girish’s 60th, we decided they can’t be planned without our son. So, the big celebrations were postponed to February 2017 as the likelihood of Akshay’s getting long leave then seemed good. I sent him a message saying ‘Really missing you Raja. Let’s plan a big party for dad in February. Hopefully you will get leave by then.’ Akshay responded with many ‘smileys’ and an uncharacteristically philosophical ‘Ya ma…the world lives on hope. The stars hopefully will align soon…’ He did post a very special message for his dad on facebook.

It’s been almost 31 years (us kids) … You’ve taught us to live calm, live sensible, live lively, live keen..
You’ve taught us that compassion, hardwork, determination and focus can share the same pallette as adventurous, fun, jovial and humorous..
you’ve kept the vintage songs going at home, given the travel bug not much rest, treated us to numerous gastronomic delights and even pampered us plenty…
you’ve taught us that all milestones are achievable..
That it’s important to enjoy the simple pleasures of life..
That humility only enhances ones greatness..

From cricket bats and barbies u brought back on TDs.. from long drives we cherish .. From the traveling all across Andamans to the numerous countries.. from advising us when we needed it to supporting us always.. you’ve also helped us realise that a happy marriage and a warm and loving home can produce two wonderful kids 😉 😂 (this, I couldn’t have missed)! Thanks dad for everything.. We’re truly blessed.. Happpyyyyyyyy happy milestone..

PS – MOM.. Dad couldn’t have done all that without u.. Not even James… James Bond could do that..

The next week, the family got together once again, for my father’s 88th birthday and on Vijayadashami ,Naina wore my duppata as ‘meri sari’ and as she did puja (she loves  observing and following my simple routine of prayer- placing flowers, putting kumkum and singing), we took some pictures. Looking at them, Akshay responded with ‘lovely pictures….family together and celebrating…’ Sangeeta and Naina returned to Nagrota to a happy surprise- Naina had won herself a first prize for recitation! Neha asked for the certificate to be framed and all of us were smiling. Neha-Pradish’s first wedding anniversary on 25th October was followed by two separate celebrations- Akshay-Sangeeta celebrating Naina’s third birthday with friends in Nagrota Mess and we enjoying Deepavali in our Bangalore home with families of our domestic help. This year, Neha got me an outfit identical to hers and as we all dressed up in new clothes and lit diyas, the children of Ritu- Sanjay and Birendar-Mamta (our part time help for home and garden) burst crackers and everyone from grandparents downwards had a good time.

By now, we had really started to miss having our beta come home.

Akshay had started to play Golf in Nagrota- adding another game to his list of sporty hobbies, and Sangeeta sent us a really cute video of Naina following him around swinging a golf club and saying ‘papa…wait!’  On 3rd November, I had a very long chat with my son- the results of the Staff College examination were expected and so was his posting. Akshay was saying,  ‘keeping fingers crossed ma, hope I clear the exam in this first attempt…nahi toh phir se padna padega.’ I was saying ‘you did your best raja, whatever happens is fine- don’t worry.’ To which his response was prompt ‘Im not worried ma. Staff College toh jaoonga hi- abhi nahi toh next time. I know I can do it and I will.’ His ‘never give up’ spirit always amazed me and made me happy and proud.  I told him ‘really missing you beta- looking forward to meeting up from 1st December,’ and he said ‘me too ma- really want to catch up with everyone and enjoy a break.’ It seemed like the ‘Sujeev-Diya wedding’ in Mumbai was also going to be a ‘Girish family reunion.’

On 4th November, in response to leg pulling between Neha, Pradish and Akshay over scary movies and sleep-less nights, he asked us all a question; ‘We all have our moments of fear- what has been yours? Let us reveal’. On 6th November, he spoke about ‘escalation happening – two soldiers killed in Poonch.’ On 8th November, all the chatter was predictably about ‘Demonitisation and Trump’s takeover’ with lots of jokes being forwarded!

When the DSSC entrance results came, Akshay had fallen a little short of making it to the merit list and he was really feeling low.  Sangeeta called up to let us know and Girish, Neha and I spoke with him to cheer him up. Knowing how much he had wanted to do well, we all felt his disappointment. I narrated my own experience of failure in a college exam, how low I had then felt, and how it motivated me to work harder and win a state award. He listened very carefully, asking a few questions and we shared precious moments of empathy. By next morning, his mood had bounced back! Determined to do well, he had already decided to get back to studying and ordered a few more books, telling his dad they would be home delivered and that he should bring them to Mumbai.

Since January 2016, Akshay’s whatsapp status had been ‘He will command His angels concerning You to guard You carefully.’ He now changed it to ‘Strike Two….’ It probably signified his determination to make it to DSSC in his second attempt. He did not get that opportunity. Was he then slated for something much beyond imagination? An examination that was bigger than all others? One that he would clear with flying colours in his first attempt but not be present to receive the accolades?

On 13th November, Sangeeta had posted some pictures and looking at Akshay’s handsome face, I wrote ‘Akshay Cutie…love love..’ to which his happy and embarrassed response was ‘Mom…Gee…’ with a ‘smiley.’ Once again the posts were on the family reunion coming up in Mumbai and we chatted about what to wear at the wedding and how much fun it was going to be with all our friends there. Unknown to Akshay and Neha, Pradish had initiated a separate discussion about a ‘surprise early birthday party for the twins’ on 2nd December. While he and Sangeeta were planning the surprise, I was roped in to babysit Naina at friend Sucheta’s home in Mumbai, so the youngsters could party late. Sujeev, Diya, Priyanka, Dhruv and many of Akshay’s course-mates (who he hadn’t met in a long time) were part of the ‘party planning group.’

This time, Akshay did not make it to his 31st birthday on 6th December. He will always remain young at 30.

On the night of 18th November, Akshay, continued his pattern of posting bravery related family whatsapp posts in 2016. We never paid much attention earlier but when we look at his posts now, there is a clear pattern emerging. His post said; ‘Can’t resist sharing. Feel like it’s a nice way to say goodnight. Trust you all will understand why…’ The forward started with ‘Today is Rezang La day …’ and went on narrate the story of unparalleled valour of soldiers from a Kumaon regiment who fought the Chinese in a battle on icy heights in 1962. It remains to this day a story of ‘Bravery that continues to inspire generations of soldiers.’  You can read this story on

The words at the end are particularly poignant; ‘At the Rezang La memorial are etched eternal lines of Thomas B Macaulay…….”How can man die better than facing fearful odds, for the ashes of his fathers and the temples of his Gods.”

On seeing Girish and me posting responses to his forward, Akshay prompted Pradish with a ‘Pradish, read it….’ Pradish then replied with a ‘ Just read it…I wish such a day never comes back but indeed, today wouldn’t exist for us but for these men….. these guys are real Spartans.’ Akshay sent a huge ‘smiley’ in response.

Ten days later, Nagrota was under attack. The dots seem to be connecting…or is it just my imagination?

I cannot just narrate the facts of what happened on the 29th of November 2016, without bringing in what we have seen on our recent trip to Nagrota, and what we have heard from people who were there on the ground that fateful day.

The next part will have to be more than just Akshay’s story, for there were other bravehearts who fought alongside him. Together, they succeeded in thwarting the evil plans that the terrorists came well prepared to execute. They laid down their own lives to do so. I will have to ask you all for more time. Hopefully, the next part will complete ‘Akshay’s Story, My Way.’


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

  1. Dear aunty, please don’t stop writing…! I feel so connected, inspired by your thoughts on the effervescent mj akshay! Feel so relieved.. rejuvenated for the other day coming up.. he will indeed forever stay young at 30! love and hugs to you… and much more love to sangeeta and Naina! All I can say is without mj akshay today along with you all of ten thousand otherlives have changed and are getting inspired and encouraged to live, smile and survive with each day! God bless…


    • Maybe Akshay will want us to stay connected even after this story Ritu…..cant plan ahead at this time though. Too many emotions…maybe once I get down to writing the next part, thoughts will be clearer. Thank you very much for your very sweet words – mean a lot to us. Love and take care. God bless you and your family.


  2. Dear Aunty
    Sending good wishes and prayers to he entire family. There will be times when you would feel that life has been unfair. Put these thoughts to re at by replacing ‘unfair’ by ‘uncertain’. And accept this as reality.. we all have to.
    As always it is amazing to read about Maj Akshay. It was his desire to always be the best that he went out there on that unfateful day.. being the best here too. Salute to him and his undefeated spirit. We sleep well because of him.
    Lots of love


    • The best- like that for Akshay Ruchi. I will remember to not dwell on unfair and yes, life is uncertain- thats true. Love and take care. God bless you and your family


  3. Sitting here in Mumbai , I feel a deep connect with Naina , Sangeeta and you …it would be an honour for us to meet you on your trip to Mumbai …Adhiraj and me convey our best wishes to the Deb Barman family as well-to little Inlet and the little fellow …
    Warm regards ,


    • Thank you Ruchika. Meeting the Debbrama family was an emotional experience- his wife and parents still need to reconcile to their tragic loss. Girish and I feel our going there will give them strength. The kids Inlet and Kuplai were very sweet. Love and take care.


  4. Words fall short for this divine narrative of a very brave soul ..”Our Akshay”,
    He did clear his exam aunty, it was the real exam of life and that too with flying colours.
    Life has its own way to take us through our seperate journeys until we fulfill our destiny , the purpose of our birth, then leave to be born again.
    For me Akshay is “That immortal Soldier”
    Who is a Phoenix and shall be born again from His ashes…
    This was meant to happen..and in some ways with your grief I am able to connect mine and it does ease, He had a greater purpose to serve , to rise above the ordinary mundane life that we all lead into something far greater than all of us.
    Waiting anxiously for your next post and sharing your feelings always.
    Lots of love.


    • Lots of love to you….and take care Shivangi. You are right- Life has its own way and we will have to accept the cards dealt to us. We are doing so and thanking our stars for giving us this beautiful soul Akshay. Whatever time we had together was a precious gift. God bless you and your family


  5. Meghna ma’am, hugs & more hugs coming your way. Will re-read at leisure & respond. I know the Nagrota visit must have evoked a range of emotions in all of you – I only pray that it allows for healing as well. Please take care & convey our respect & love to Naik Debbarma’s family as well.


  6. Dear Aunty,
    I look forward to your blog every week. Please dont stop writing. I feel like I know you all and feel so connected.
    We all feel safe when we go to sleep because our Army is protecting our nation. But it gives us a sense of peace to know how it all happened and how you are coping. Akshay’s ‘never say die’ attitude and his maturity in thinking will always inspire us. Terrorism is the demon that we are facing now in the world. It should be wiped out from the face of earth. The sacrifice made by Major Akshay and your family will be remembered for eternity.
    We are with you . My prayers for you all will continue always. Love to Little Naina. I look forward to your next segment of the story.
    With Warm Regards,
    Archana Srinath


    • Thank you for your lovely thoughts and words Archana. If we are meant to stay connected (Akshay has done that for us) maybe some way will come up….lets see. Once I write the next part, thoughts may be more clear. Love to you and take care. God bless your family


  7. Aunty!

    So good to read your post! I have visited the blog daily atleast 5 times!! My heart is pounding as the end ( yet another start!) nears. Take good care of your family & yourself.

    Love & more love,


  8. Dear Meghna,
    Have been following your blog for sometime now….whatever you write comes straight from your heart and that makes it all the more captivating.
    May God bless the departed soul and give you all the strength und courage to be stoic. I m sure this pilgrimage of yours would give you the much needed peace to accept things as they are. Akshay is always going to be you…your mind will have long conversations with him and you will sense his presence everywhere.
    Take care, Hugs to you all.
    Anita Chandramouli (gayatris friend)
    w/o Late Wgcdr Chandramouli


    • Thank you Anita. Yes, Gayatri and Rajesh spoke about their visit to meet you recently. Please accept our deepest condolences on your loss. Love and take care.


  9. Meghna, words fail me, I feel numb and tears flow down as I read this piece. The piece you shared shows how philosophical and wise all his messages to you were. Take care Meghna, love you all!


  10. Meghna
    I was wiping my tears as i read your words to say. you are blessed parents to get a son like. akshay May God bless your family meghna.

    With prayers


  11. Meghna
    I was wiping my tears as i read your words to say. you are blessed parents to get a son like. akshay May God bless your family meghna.
    With prayers


  12. What you write is a experience as a family , I feel deeply connected, there’s love, there’s passion, there’s fear.
    Aunty you should write, as who every is patient to read what you write are emotionally connected.
    I can’t do much for what happened, but love to know what happened on the previous day and the day of the attack, how was the terrorist able to plan so well when the place was highly secured with guards,how can no body even have a clue about there was a threat, what was akshay going through at that point. These are questions I’ve been thinking.
    I really feel proud to have a great soldier who died for our country but as a family member it’s a big loss. I feel your pain, I’m not even sure if my writing makes sense coz I am just feeling you and your family loss.
    Jai hind!
    Love !!!


    • Will try to keep your message in mind Divya. Although, when I do write, the words flow on their own so really cant be sure if all these questions will find answers. Thank you for reaching out, sharing our loss and supporting us. Love and take care. Jai Hind


  13. Amazing! I salute the braveheart and the amazing valour and strength of the the family as I read each word… love for the Nation … love for the son husband father brother!!! Love is what makes each moment precious!


  14. I connect to every word u wrote….I have experienced all this during kargil…as in a puzzle …joined all his words in his long letters to extract the untold. ..I sensed the gradual transition of a calm n composed soldier’s expressions turning into little ,hidden feelings of uncertainty conveyed through very careful selection of words n emotions….
    Aunty ,keep writing….keep him young forever 30 in ur writings. …god bless


    • Have you lost a loved one too Pam? If so, our deepest condolences and a big Salute to your braveheart. Thank you for reaching out. Love and take care. God bless you and your family


  15. The Nagrota visit must have been difficult and encapsulated all of you in varied emotions, hope this helps all of you heal better !!
    Lots of love and hugs


  16. Akshay will inspire and will live forever in our hearts . I missed this yesterday . But the journey back and to meet his buddy are noble . Am overwhelmed


    • Must tell you that the long journey from Bengaluru to a very small village in Agartala (one and half hour drive through narrow, remote roads) will forever be in our hearts. Yes, Akshay inspired us to do that too. Both families bonded over our bravehearts. Thank you.


  17. Aunty this part leaves me silent,as we are reaching the last part feels like will miss u & a lot.May be since Maj.Akshay loved his country so dearly that we his country men will miss being loved.please stay connected through your writings.warm hugs & love to lil naina & sangeeta.Maj.Akshay actually cleared his toughest exams with flying colours & kept our tricolour flying & regards to Debbarman family too.tkcr,god bless.


    • Oh yes Lisa, Akshay did pass with flying colours. When people spoke to us about how fearlessly he fought to protect, we were overwhelmed. And the Girish and Debbrama families bonded over their bravehearts in a remote village in Tripura! That is the power of us as ‘Indians first’ and everyone should try not to forget that primary identity . God bless you. Much love


  18. Namastey Meghna Ma’am,
    Regret I couldn’t read this part on day it appeared on my Facebook…
    Yes…Ma’am Maj. Akshay will remain young.. in our hearts…forever…
    He couldn’t make it to DSSC nevertheless he made it to Supreme sacrifice which is above all…he did the best to save his country and he did it well.
    Once again Salute to him…
    Please accept our Good wishes and affections to entire Girish family… And please keep writing…Mother.
    Jai Hind


    • Oh yes Amit- Akshay did much much more…..protected our motherland and our people. And as his mother, I know he would have definitely made it to DSSC if God had given him another opportunity. Thank you for your wishes. God bless you all. Jai Hind.


  19. Dear Aunty

    I’m neha’s friend from Manipal, and my prayers have been with your family ever since I heard about Akshay. Your posts are hard to stop reading, every single one of them – a true testament to the warmth of your family, the valour of your son, the courage in your spirit, and the goodness of your hearts.

    I have recounted your story so many times, not just your loss, but the truly admirable and healthy way in which you have dealt with it. I cannot fathom the grief of losing a child, but I feel the rock solid foundation you built for your family, has been the source of all your joy, strength and growth. There is a greater reason for everything that happens, one that is beyond our understanding, and you have submitted wholly and humbly to the gods and Akshay’s guardian angels.

    You are clearly magnetic, when seeing the friends you have like family, and family like friends. From celebrating Diwali with your help, or going on the longest drives relocating, you have found a silver lining and a teaching moment in just about everything life has thrown at you. You have even grieved with so much grace, from standing bravely at his memorial, celebrating his birthday distributing sweets at nda, writing this blog, going to nagrota to relive everything, to going to his fellow martyr’s house for support that only the two of you can give each other. It’s not easy to articulate what you’re feeling and document his short life the way you have. You didn’t give up and lose the purpose of life itself, and instead chose to grow from this and value the outpouring of support you’ve received from family and friends.

    You are the beating heart of your family. It is evident that you have brought your children up with solid values and I think every parent can take a page from your book. I apologise if this ended up being more an ode to you than a condolence message, but you’re unknowingly giving many people a lot to learn from.

    With many prayers and much love always, Sapnu


    • Dear Sapnu,

      Of course I know you as Neha’s friend…and I did read your fb post after Akshay…..where you wrote about how difficult it was to wish Neha happy birthday this time. Thank you for that message and this one Sapnu- glad to have all you lovely people in our lives, grieving with us, understanding our emotions, giving us strength to cope and purpose to go on… hard to explain but these are the humane connections that truly matter. Yes, as a family I did know we had been blessed….and now …losing Akshay…..maybe one cant hope only for joy …. ? So, submitting to whatever life has decided to give us. You write and express beautifully- keep writing. Lots of love and God bless.


  20. The story must continue. For those who turn the page on our lives and get back to living their own, the story of what happens ‘after’ must be told.

    I don’t know you Mrs.Girish. But from one mom of an angel son to another…big, BIG hugs.


    • Love and hugs to you Rangoli. I will be posting the last part of this series on Akshay today but hope to continue staying connected with all of you.We will find a way! Thank you and take care.


  21. Dear meghna.. I’m new to blogging but I came across your blogs.. Your son was a true hero… And I salute him, u and your family… They are and always will be the bravest of the brave and you my dear are amazing to share this with us.. Thank you from the bottom of my heart

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Dear Aunty,

    I am a friend of Akshay, met him on a train journey in jan 2007 on rajdhani express from banglore to delhi while he was on his way to join IMA, Dehradun.
    We were in touch until Naina was born, but then I got busy after i had a baby girl in 2014 n completely lost touch with him after that.
    I am not much of an aware person, so got to knw about Akshay very recently through a facebook post by Sangeeta.
    I went numb for a moment, but after reading more about the fateul day and how strongly you all dealt with it through ur blogs,
    I am feeling inspired by your family’s strength and courage.
    Salute to Akshay and your family.
    Feeling so proud to be his friend.
    I also lost my father in 2006, n I was about 18 yrs old then, can completely understand the pain of losing someone you hold so close to your heart but like you said, you cant ask for just joy, sorrows are the part of life too.
    What matters is how we deal with it.
    Hope Sangeeta and Naina are doing fine.
    Lots of love to little Naina.


    • Dear Priyanka,

      Akshay had spoken about your meeting on a train journey, the good chit-chat that led to a fond friendship. I am so touched to hear from you and very happy to know you too have a baby girl like Akshay and Sangeeta’s Naina. Yes, Sangeeta and Naina are doing well, thank you. Feel your loss too- a father is so special, particularly to a daughter- her first hero. Do take care. God bless your family. Love to you and may your little one bring joys unlimited to you all. Love, meghna.


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