One year. We made it through November 29th and 30th with images from last year flashing through mind space. This day, last year -the 1st of December 2016, Akshay’s final farewell in Bangalore saw a spontaneous surge of humanity come together. Pride, sorrow and gratitude in perfect harmony. We stood together to salute a brave young person who had put India above all else. As expected, painful and difficult days for each of us, and yet, communicating with all of you has helped us more than I can express in words.
After being through the unimaginable, we now feel that things can only look up from Nadir.
As part of the first year remembrance, Akshay and Chittaranjan were honoured on 29th November, in their Karmabhoomi, Nagrota,by their unit. Sangeeta, Neha, Pradish and Dhruv represented our family at the ceremonial wreath laying, bust unveiling and mandir-gurudwara pujas. The solemn ceremonies I am sure, brought solace to every member of the fauji family as well. Sangeeta in particular also got to meet close friends, and we were happy to see her return much happier than when she left.
At home in Bangalore, Girish, Naina, Sarit, Deshu and me attended an Honour function for Akshay at the local Government school. Organised by volunteers of Sadahalli village, we were pleasantly surprised and very happy to see local residents take ownership over celebrating Akshay’s martyrdom. Posters of Akshay lined the road and the function was attended by about 300 school children, many government and local panchayat functionaries and the DC. Everyone voiced their pride in our soldiers, expressed gratitude and hailed Akshay’s valour and sacrifice in defending the motherland. To see that respect for our protectors runs deep is reason enough, to hold on to hope, whenever negativity threatens.
As only he can, Akshay himself continues to guide us through life ahead. Here are verses of a poem from Akshay’s pen- when exactly he wrote it, I am not sure. Today, it seems to be a message meant for us. We have so much more to learn from our child.
The soul needs time
A short and simple while
For the pain in the heart
Hidden with all might
Hope must replace despair
Though all might not seem fair
Light must brighten up the dark
Though it might be hard
Faith must overtake hopelessness
Though it might seem helpless
Peace must overtake worry
Though it cannot be done in a hurry
But slowly, it must
Joy should replace tears
Though the pain is hard to bear
Fate has to be fought alone
Battles won and lost alone
And life must go on
Cruel as it may seem
For life is not a dream
Face it with courage
There can be no greater blessing for Girish and me that a child, like Akshay, was born into our home. So, this post is going to be forward looking.
And it is that time of year again- Akshay-Neha’s ‘Happy Birthday’ in a few days from now. This time, I am sharing with all of you, letters within a letter to the twins. I do hope that somehow, the contents of this post will resonate with all of you.
Dearest Neha and Akshay,
Even as I get down to writing this post in advance of your birthday, I am happy to have complete clarity on this joyous event in our lives. Your birthdays will always be celebrated together. God willed it that way, when he blessed papa and me with double the joys on 6th Dec 1985.
Akshay, after you made the supreme sacrifice last year, just 7 days before your birthday, as a family we were in so much pain. Yet, we were unanimous in deciding to celebrate your life and times, rather than going to pieces over your physical disappearance from our lives. Even Dadi, traditional, ritualistic Dadi, told me with so much pain in her eyes but strength of conviction in her voice, ‘Akshay ka janam din hamesha manana. Har saal, Neha ke saath. Woh mara nahi. Amar ho gaya hai. (Always celebrate Akshay’s birthday. With Neha’s, every year. He has not died. He has become immortal).
And celebrate we did, didn’t we Neha? Naina ended up cutting Akshay’s 31st birthday cake with you, surrounded by grandparents, elders, cousins and close friends. So, whatever else may change over time, nothing can change the fact that for us, you two always have, and always will, share your birthday celebration.
On that happy note, look what I found just last week! An old poem to you and Akshay that has resurfaced, thanks to a fb friend who ‘Liked’ it. I had found it in 2014, while spring-cleaning your room. Preserved since your 14th birthday. And true to form, it was Akshay who had immediately reacted to my post. You, my beautiful girl, one who ‘keeps a low profile in terms of being public,’ stayed quiet. Well, here it is again. The same poem by a bad poet- your mom! Akshay, wherever you are, you must be having a good laugh at your sister and mother?!
Finding this poem made me look for another letter I had written to you both on your 25th Birthday. I found it on email(technology the savior?). More precious is Akshay’s response to that letter. You were then in different countries and while you stayed quiet, he decided to write on your behalf too.
Dear Mumma and Papa,
I can’t express how much happiness n satisfaction it gives me n neha to have u in our lives… im at a loss of words to express how much we both cherish what we have from u and in u… and how much i depend even now on u both to take any decision that i do… actively or passively….
In any act i do in my life, be it love or career or just plain decisions, ur teachings and attitude of living life itself helps me make the right choices… stay focused and enjoy life while doin it all…. with ur presence in life… everything just becomes simple, painless… and satisfying…. and to see u both support neha n me, both of us in everything we have done in life, makes us such strong people… i have often thought n believe that u both are the most perfect parents any child could have… and we could’nt have asked anything more out of life itself…..
This birthday…. and also on regular days… it often troubles me that we are all not in the same country… missing neha ever so much and not being able to do anything about it… thinking of her and just wondering how she is and of all the beautiful times we have spent together. cherishing every moment of what we have….. i reallyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy miss her… and i want the best for her and want her to achieve everything she wants to in life… im sooooooo happy that she has taken the decision to come back.. and that we can get back to planning life more easily… and that i can just fly and see her at the drop of a hat…..
Ur mail has just given me the wigglies in my belly…. missing the three of u and us together ever soooooo much…. im so proud to say that im not only the mummas boy but also the papas boy.. even now… and im owning upto it…. through all the soldierly-ness that i show… there is this side of me which is still a boy … ur boy….. and im gonna keep that forever…. I LOVE IT……
I know im writing too fast… and the thoughts are racing…. and the mail is not very well drafted…. but im almost shivering with the joy of memories…..
Thank you for everything mumma and papa…. thank you for neha too…. she’s perfect..
love u…… loads……………………………………………….
Akshay was the perfect one. And yet, he thought we were perfect. This is what my letter of 6th December 2010 had said.
Dear Neha and Akshay,
25 years….Gosh! Two and half decades since our tiny bundles of joy entered this world and it seems like just the other day that papa and I became parents! What can I say to two young people on the threshold of charting their independent paths…. making decisions…. be it for career or love and beyond….at around the same age I was, when you were first placed in my arms…. wrapped up in soft blankets ……I had looked at you for the first time with wonder and so many emotions…. and I remember, how in that one moment, all the difficult times, the ill health, the fears and stress due to a difficult pregnancy, had vanished forever.
Today, am missing you both more than I can express. For the first time, we haven’t even been able to send you new clothes or a gift on your special day. Do you remember the times I had penned poems and letters for you? Wondering what to give you this birthday- you are grown up and can buy yourself whatever you want! Last night, on the flight from Bangalore, was feeling both low and high at the same time. Low because you guys are far away and high because all the memories of your birth were mirrored in the mind and felt deep in the heart. It was as if time stood still while a vivid recollection played like a movie. You must have heard this story before, but, id still like to tell you details of how we were blessed.
I had been in the hospital ward so long …a whole month… after an un-diagnosed fever and PIH (pregnancy induced hypertension). The hospital staff and many patients had become friends. Avva, tata, dadi and chitti mama had been regular, worried visitors.
When Dr. Dey came it late at night on 5th December and told me he couldn’t wait any longer and risk my losing a baby, I strangely felt no fear. In fact, call it intuition or over-confidence, I remember feeling completely safe in his care and confident that my babies would be fine. Slept peacefully and was awakened at 5.45 am to a sense of urgency in the ward. Soon, I was rushed into the OT. I remember being helped onto the high bed and in seconds, anaesthetic peace took over. There was a hazy sense of floating above the team of doctors and nurses in the brightly lit room as they worked quickly and efficiently. Then a happy slumber!
Believe it or not, long before Dr. Dey was gently tapping me to wake from the anaesthesia, I knew you were a daughter and son! Déjà vu…..?! As Sonu and Chotu, you had arrived and you were the cutest, most lovable little ones ever! Its fast forward to your 25th…. and what a wonderful journey its been for papa and me. The doting, ever supportive grandparents and extended family have also enjoyed you and always been there for all of us.
Wish we could all have been together on this special silver jubilee Bday but that’s life, and each of us will walk where destiny takes us. I have been so lucky to have wonderful parents, papa, chitti mama and you both in my life. So many dear friends, other kids, teeny and many of God’s creations have given me much to be thankful for. I have also tried to be a good daughter, wife, mother, family member, friend, worker and person but there have been many times when I have fallen short. Papa of course has always made up for my faults. Just want you both to know that I love you very-very much and am so proud of you for being the most caring, loving, understanding kids- thank you for being our little ones. Am certain you will build excellent relationships, succeed in whatever you want to do, always be humane and contribute to greater good in this world.
Love you Neha and Akshay and know you do not need parental advice but saying what I feel from the heart. The two of you have shared a tiny, dark space for 8th months before breathing air….. then smiled, cried, played, fought and been there for each other for 25 years. Remember to cherish that bond even as you spread your wings over time and space and touch many more people’s lives. Know you will spread the smiles and be there for people who care and for everyone and everything around you.
Akshay, we are eagerly looking forward to seeing you in a new ‘husband’ role as we welcome Sangeeta into the family. Neha, we wish you a happy home coming and all that your heart desires – a new job and hopefully, a special someone too! Have fun kiddos and also be prepared at all times to take the rough with the smooth, for life is a journey- sometimes easy, sometimes difficult. You have already experienced some highs and lows and that is how it is going to be. However, at times when the journey is really hard and things look bleak, remember there’s light beyond every tunnel and a silver lining to each cloud. Keep faith and chin up and smile and say ‘all is well’!
Just in case am not around or destiny separates us, here’s a touching forward- one I want to wish for you this special day.
Lots of love and God bless and Happy birthday once again to our big little kids!
Mumma and papa
The letter, seven years ago, had quoted a now famous story of a conversation between a father and daughter in their last moments together. I had thought about my own mortality then, as parents often do, and written to the kids. Who knew then that Akshay would go first…and so early? Here, once again are the parting lines of ‘I wish you enough’ by Bob Perks
“I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright.
I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun more.
I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive.
I wish you enough pain so that the smallest joys in life appear much bigger.
I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.
I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess.
I wish enough “Hello’s” to get you through the final “Goodbye.”
Going by instinct, I do feel this connection with all of you this past year must also have a purpose. I do not know what mine is yet but maybe, one day, I will. Akshay lived his life making sure he gave more than enough to all of us, even as he pursued his own happiness. He also had a larger purpose and he probably knew that. Maybe it was Gods will that he was placed in service of the nation on that fateful day.
May each of us also find and pursue our purpose this life. Meanwhile, may God bless us all with enough. Let us all try and make the most of our time on earth.
Best wishes for Eid -e Milad and a Merry Christmas in advance.
As always, I look forward to your comments and suggestions.
Love and Regards,