100 days without Akshay in the physical realm. Feels like….. I don’t know what…….unable to find the ‘right’ words to express emotions that overwhelm me when I think about our loss….. despair and emptiness…. heartache and torment……
Driving into the city and alone in a cab, I try to focus at what I can see through the window- so much construction destroying the city, a little kid holding on to his dad on a scooter, pedestrians looking for a break in traffic flow to cross the road and traffic snarls at every junction. Despite attempts, I didn’t really succeed at distracting myself for long. Akshay’s thoughts just push themselves in…interspersed with his ever so bright images.
Did he know….?
Did he send us that single whatsapp message to prepare us for the worst …?
Did he see our responses of ‘love you’ ….?
Did he feel terrible pain for long….?
Did he have time for thoughts….?
Did he want to reach out to us but couldn’t…?
Did he know how many people he helped save…?
What were his last thoughts…?
There are many more such questions in our minds and hearts although we don’t voice them too often. As his mother, my most painful one is
Did I somehow fail to protect my child……?’
Once again, the meltdown happens…..Terribly embarrassed at glances from passers-by at traffic signals and the cab driver in the rear view mirror, I struggle to wipe my messy tears….scrubbing my face with my dupatta. Then, to stop crying and compose myself, I focus on recollecting responses to Akshay’s Story, My Way.
Harsh Vishwanathan said Thank you for beautifully writing and conveying this story. This is important because the media does not convey these stories with such fineness and depth. It really stirs up emotions as it inspires as we read along. These are our true heroes and their story must be passed on to future generations to inspire them. It’s a coincidence that I’m reading this on Shivaratri – a night when cosmic energy is given to earth bountifully. I hope and pray that Lord Sadashiva will bless you with patience and good memories…. to remember that after all Maj Akshay has just left the body and maybe he is already reborn somewhere. May the Lord bless and infuse into Maj Akshay’s memory the power to transform our nation in general and our youth in particular, by directing their creative energies and efforts into a truly meaningful life.
Sudeep Hegde recollected his association with Akshay through Neha and wrote: His martyrdom has moved me deeply. As a teenager, I sometimes used to fancy myself as a soldier or a fighter pilot, specially after watching movies with such roles. Then I would see Akshay already on that path – and so clear and focused about it. I often came away feeling a bit awed, and wishing I had the same clarity and commitment. A few years later I met him at a small reunion of Kumaranites, while he had come home on leave from his assignment in a north-eastern conflict zone. I asked him if he ever felt scared facing militants. With a cool smile and a finality to it, he said “they (the militants) should be scared”. That line and his expression have stayed with me and I’ve played it in my mind many times over the years, especially whenever I hear news about our soldiers fighting.
Akshay’s convictions, actions and his smile came from the deepest part of his being, his soul. That’s why I can only picture his soul still smiling, having lived a life true to his heart and with no fear, till the very end. That is a quality we can all look to emulate. Aunty, thank you for sharing Akshay’s story your way – I think we all needed it, including those who’ve never met him, because we have all felt an inexplicable connection. It is as if Akshay was already a part of us, and we only fully realized it after he left our mortal world. In the same way we feel connected to you and the family, and your blog has brought a semblance of closure and peace for us as we share in your grief.
Lokesh Sharma wrote about Akshay being blessed at Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar (he had no intention of visiting the Golden Temple and yet, it seems like he was there just before reaching Nagrota). Quoting Deh Shiva bar Mohe -a 17th-century hymn (shabad) written by Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Sikh Guru, in the Dasam Granth, he translated it for us as:
The physical body (deh) is analogous to mythological superpowers such as those possessed by Siva in folk tales, therefore I should not fear when committing myself to good deeds. That I shall not fear when I go into combat. And with determination I will be victorious. That I may teach myself this creed alone, to speak only of Thy (almighty lord Waheguru) praises. And when the last days of my life come, I may die in the might of the lord.
Anant Singh wrote: Aunty, had been desperately waiting for this last one. Thank you so much for letting us know the facts. I have no ways to express my grief as this incident had taken away a wonderful human being who always had a smile and did good for all. Nevertheless a great friend. We miss you Akshay! And from somewhere up above, he is always looking at us. The real stars always shine up in the sky.
Kpm Das said: Something told me the last piece would read like this. Deeply stirring and emotional- Akshay, Kunal and Chittranjan represent the finest of this Army and also reflect the great family traditions which birth to such immortals. In the midst of great sorrow, slivers of hope and optimism from the narratives of your visit to the North East and in those bonds will grow the immortals of tomorrow………………..
Sarita Deshpande said: It was a difficult reading – both because I was re-living his life and that I had to wipe away the tears so that I could continue. I firmly believe that Akshay came into our lives to teach us something and with his work complete he has gone somewhere where he is needed – more than we need him here. Its time for us to do our bit. Learn from his life. It is said that time heals – but does that mean we forget? No. Akshay, you will always be around us and integral part of all the happenings here, giving us strength, helpful tips, PJs and ‘I told you so’ and the ability to look at life positively. Love you Akshay!
Ankita said: For over 24 hours now, have been constantly thinking, about how your family found the specs after two long months and it is difficult to digest that the universe really has its way of speaking to us! It is magical. I hope you continue to hear him call you, you decipher all the dreams, recognizes the places he scribbles on your hands and you wake up and plan to go. May there be endless conversations and depth over distance! The post is over too soon, just like the journey. But just like he wanted, the story was told and received with so much pride !! Thank you for sharing with us the story reminding all of us to live better! In his sacrifice, he gifted all of us a chance. A chance to live all the dreams that he bravely traded to guard ours!
So many more reached out to us. You stood with our family – by your presence, words, letters, pictures……and we have derived a lot of comfort and strength from you all.
We know our lives have been changed forever and we will miss Akshay eternally. Yet, even in his going, he has connected us as only he could! This ‘connect’ has strengthened old ties and forged new bonds for each of us. Suma, like a younger sister (or older daughter?), you made it a point to come all the way from USA for Akshay’s prayer meet. Leaving your young son with his dad…and we are not even related! Praveen and Dpk, we barely knew you and now you are part of our extended family. And Sindhu- we live in different countries and have never ever met- yet, we chat like kindred souls every other day!
Many more ties and relationships make me wonder at what are life’s ways…or God’s ways…and how do we find our own way from here on?
For someone who is a believer in the almighty but a fence sitter on abstract ideas like ‘souls’, ‘miracles’ ‘rebirth’ and so on, I have to admit that Akshay’s presence continues to be ‘felt’. Sangeeta, in the initial weeks after Akshay, often spoke of feeling his energy, as if holding her and supporting her. More recently, her dream theme has Akshay back after the ‘incident’, explaining what he went through to others. Girish and Neha have also had dreams of long conversations with Akshay – in a car, on a journey. My father says he spends a lot of time talking with Akshay. In my dreams I see him smiling and chatting – the central figure in groups of people.
One very ‘real’ dream brought him into our bedroom at about 4.45 am. He walked in wearing a blue-grey night-suit (Girish had bought him one long ago), sat on my bed while I sat propped against a pillow, legs folded at knees. Giving my folded knees a hug, Akshay smiled at me. I woke up and switched on the light…almost expecting to see Akshay. It was of course just a dream. Took me a while to get back to sleep. Strangely though, after a long time, slept most peacefully – until Neha woke me up well past eight o clock.
In all the dreams we have had and spoken about so far, Akshay has been his lively, cheerful, smiling self. Knowing he was shot and battered by a grenade …. and seeing him in that state…… isn’t it strange that none of us is dreaming about him suffering? Thinking of the pain he must have borne-YES. But dreaming of him being in pain- NO. Not sure if there is a way to correctly interpret dreams but Akshay’s positive energy seems active.
I didn’t really know what I could write about after completing Akshay’s story. Yet, here I am. Scanning my laptop to look for Akshay’s articles- one forwarded by his friend and colleague Amit. I remember Akshay had penned parts of his own story about 6 years ago and shown me what he wrote. And I know Akshay will be happy to know you are reading excerpts from his ‘Regimental Dreams’.
Somebody asked, “What are the dreams you get while asleep”. A straight forward reply was “Dreams are not those you get while you’re asleep….dreams are those that don’t let you sleep.”
Such were my dreams since a young boy of maybe 6-7 years. Dreaming of the mountains of Kashmir, learning from and staying on the frontiers, witnessing action… and high morale….always………
To me, Fauj never came across as a job…….……………………..it was always a calling.
Before joining the Academy, facing apprehensive uncles and aunts had become a habit. Explaining what I felt and getting them to understand seemed an uphill task. Thankfully, my parents, sister and grandparents understood my dreams (my kind of dreams).
Dealing with fever and hospitalization (Jaundice) while writing my NDA exam made my path towards the portals of “Cradle of military Leadership” even more exciting! Three years of ‘ragda’, sleeping in class and endless nights…. Then one more tough and exciting year at IMA…. Finally……after four years of being an infantry optee……I chose Engineers. (I still don’t exactly know why)…
A brief stint at Roorkee where we got our first whiff of freedom and then my first posting to my unit- 51 Engineers, at Nagaland, was beyond what I had asked for. I was finally at a place I deemed MINE………
My first Holi in the unit (which I can never forget) and those Chais (numerous numbers everyday) in the Langar(soldiers’ dining space) which tasted as sweet as love itself……everything is so vivid in my memory.
After Chakbama, Limakong, Moltuk and several such places, it was finally time for Chandigarh. Packing with the unit and the joy of travelling on the military special train…. Buying my first car (Swift – it really is) and driving through the empty roads in an endless moonlit night of Chandigarh….
All my dreams were coming true, slowly and surely….even more so as the unit moved to Niyari (Kupwara), all that I had visualized lay in front of me. The majestic mountains, chirping birds, snow gleaming white, transparent streams, the pleasure of living on a post (Bhatija) in 20 RR, climbing unsurpassed heights (Eagle OP, Camel), the opportunity to live like a Tiger (as a Lt)….it was all happening.
Then all of a sudden, I witnessed death from close quarters while moving in our CO’s QRT at Tangdhar….on first thought….was it an IED blast? Crying villagers engulfed by a pool of blood. We wasted no time, rescued the civilians climbing down treacherous slopes, finding the strength to lift and move people away from sure death. Not many made it to the hospital which was two hours away…some passed away in our arms. Still, the feeling of saving lives was unmatched. Relatives coming up to us…. with no words to thank for having done our duty…. images will always be etched in my memory.
The opportunity of seeing the josh, vigour and courage in men to work endless days and nights, in hostile terrain, in rain and snow, with no food or tea to keep warm, and finish a job as committed, for absolutely no incentive, instills the faith that there is still a world out there where self-respect matters most.
With all this and more that I will be experiencing, it all boils down to my Regiment that has given me so much more than money, material or a 9 to 5 job can….
It’s given me the dreams I always saw, the one’s that didn’t let me sleep. And I’m glad I followed them…..
By Capt Akshay Girish
My thoughts turn to more questions on Akshay.
How did Akshay stay steadfast on his childhood dreams….?
In a complex, confused world, from where did he derive his focus…?
How did he grow up to be so calm, so clear in his expression, so cheerful and helpful …?
How did he achieve so much and give so much…?
Did he know he could live his dreams…?
Once again, I seek your thoughts, ideas, maybe actions…How can we take from such real life stories and live better?
I look forward to your responses. Every idea is of value to me so please do post your thoughts.
Love and take care. Stay blessed.