In just three days from today, it will be one whole year since that miraculous incident. Pradish finding Akshay’s spectacles at the same spot my raja beta was found, right beside the staircase wall, 2 months and 7 days after he had been martyred. While we as a family, in our terrible grief then, forgot to get a present for Pradish on his birthday, he gave us the biggest gift possible, when he placed those precious spectacles in Sangeeta’s hands. They were found intact and the muddy stains on them were washed away by our tears. I have said this earlier and it still amazes me, that the glasses had been waiting for our family in Nagrota, Akshay’s Karma Bhoomi, as if to return to us, a part of Akshay. Maybe it was also to make us clearly understand, how great his courage and sacrifice had been that fateful day. Akshay had moved in to rescue trapped families and taken on the terrorist team leader hiding inside a room. The terrorist had gone undetected until then because he had been using a silencer fitted weapon. We still do not know how many bullets hit Akshay in that gunfight but his death certificate says ‘multiple gunshot wounds’. We were also told that it was the grenade directly thrown at him that killed Akshay. His clenched fists and bent elbows that remained frozen in death, as we saw him in the morgue the next day, made it clear that he did not give up till his last breath. The satisfied expression on his handsome face, half-smile in place after such a violent death, was noticed by many. We have since been trying to take courage and guidance from his never-say-die attitude.
Night before last, many of us were lucky to witness the ‘Blue Moon’ that went slowly from red and dull to big and bright, an event that occurred 150 years since such an eclipse. Messages galore explained the phenomena and their effects. One urged us to focus on positive thoughts to maximise their effects. As we sat and watched from Sarit-Pratap’s home terrace, glued to the changing images of the moon, taking pictures, I strained to find Akshay up there among the stars. In my thoughts, he was smiling away in every image! It was then that Sangeeta whatsapped a canvas print of Akshay, larger than life, heart-stoppingly handsome and smiling. Maybe Akshay was sending those little signs that he is there watching over us?!
In sharing the positives with all of you concerned folks, Girish and I are happy to see Sangeeta eating a wee bit better, Naina less wistful and much more cheerful, and a visibly fat Bingo! Neha has overcome the twins birthday blues stage, and she and Pradish have been our calm and constant support, despite their long and busy weekdays. Girish has recovered enough to get back to work after 4 months. That the kids and elders in the family got together for a mini celebration when Akshay’s younger cousin Ankit declared, that he and his love were ready to be hitched, has been a wonderful start to the new year! It was the first happy celebration for us since Akshay left and as everyone dressed up, smiled and chatted, we are counting our blessings. Another of Akshay’s brothers has committed to his love and we as a family are all set to extend our close bonds and welcome more wonderful girls into our homes. As Naina’s ‘Big Dadi’ smiled and hugged Ankit and Aasma, we joked about how our family had extended its reach from down south to cover most of India and now only the ‘hills’ of North-East India, Kashmir and Uttarakhand remained to make ours a truly ‘united India family!’ Jokes apart, Prabha’s happiness and Ankit’s smiles matter a lot to us and we are certainly looking forward to all of Akshay’s brothers being there for the wedding later this year.
The other important sharing is on Major Akshay Girish Memorial Trust initiated in December to take Akshay’s brave legacy forward by motivating more young people to serve the Nation. Pradish and Girish have been the push factor here and plans are being put in place. We will soon be collaborating with educational institutions to hold workshops and provide scholarships for motivating young students to strive to join the defence and allied services that protect and serve our motherland. Many have reached out to us, offering support to our small endevour, and we hope that in the years to come, we can all join hands for unity in diversity and make our country stronger.
In January, Jain University, Bengaluru held its Annual Convocation and the first ‘Major Akshay Girish Memorial Gold Medal’ instituted by the University in his honour was awarded to ‘Akshaya’- a young woman who incidentally graduated with the same subjects as Akshay – Physics, Maths and Electronics! And strangely, I was wearing the same sari I had worn to Akshay’s Passing our Parade in IMA when he ‘graduated’ to wear the stars in his Olive Green Uniform!
Sangeeta and I had a long chat, one of many such, on such ‘signs’, maybe sent to us by Akshay or the Universe. One can always call them ‘co-incidences’ but we feel there is deeper meaning to such important events and not all happenings are ‘incidental’. To me, personally, these are tiny little tributes honouring Akshay and somehow, they soothe the ache in my heart. I share some of these with you all in my post. Akshay’s smiling poster greets us each day on our way home. Put up on his martyrdom day by locals of Sadahalli village, for some reason, it has stayed for months, unlike all other posters of people in political life which are taken down or replaced, week after week. Naina always looks out of the car window as I drive her home after school and her face lights up in smiles as she says ‘papa is still there!’ And even more special, our garden has ensured that Akshay’s picture has always had fresh flowers, throughout the year, even in the driest spells. Isn’t this a sign that his life was and will forever be inspirational?
I look up from my writing, drawn to Akshay’s picture and know I have to write about Major Aditya and the FIR against him. An FIR filed because he happened to be the officer in charge when soldiers fired in self defence to stop a mob of 200 plus stone-pelters who not only damaged their vehicles and injured 7 of them, but also tried to lynch a JCO to death. The army convoy was moving on duty from one place to another in Shopian when it was attacked. This particular incident comes soon after the government gave amnesty to thousands of stone pelters against who cases had been booked, after past ‘sponsored’ incidents. To those who do not know the devious machinations being played out in Kashmir, it was the State Government that had called in the Indian Army in 2010 to ‘protect the state’. The Army is apolitical and does its duty. Does that mean our soldiers do not have the right to self-defence?!
For all those whose hearts are bleeding for the ‘innocent stone pelters’, know that the people of our country can see through your dirty political games. You are the ones directly or indirectly instigating and putting these youth in danger while trying to divide us and make our nation weak. What would these ‘leaders’ have done if their own children had been among those army men under attack? Do we really expect our sons and daughters in the Defence Services to fight with their hands tied behind their back when ‘innocent mobs’ attack them? Major Gogoi dealt effectively with a dangerous situation without firing and he was crucified by these same ‘leaders’. While they and their families have always been protected, these leaders have preferred the deaths of good soldiers and even better human beings, because that helps them stay in power or brings them back to power. That is all that matters to them. The next time there is a massive earthquake or flood, maybe our soldiers should just stay in their barracks.
Given a choice, which side do you want your children to be on – pelting stones in some protest or defending our nation? If, God forbid, my son had been killed while he pelted stones at our soldiers, I know I would have felt sorrow, but no reason to defend him.
We now know from experience how difficult it is to go on after losing Akshay. As if it wasn’t bad enough for parents and grandparents to deal with being alive while the young one had to leave, little Naina has to hug herself when other fathers cuddle their little ones. ‘I miss my papa she still says…. where is God house? I can’t see the stars from my bed so how can he see me? Through the roof?’ Sangeeta not only has to deal with sleeplessness and bad dreams but also go around displaying and explaining a death certificate that puts down ‘cause of death’ as ‘multiple gunshot wounds’. Not just to be accepted as legal heir but also to try and get something as a simple as a Visa, so Naina and she can go visit her sister’s family, during school vacations in summer. Even the grandparents have no way of giving away to Sangeeta, a small piece of land they had gifted their grandson, without submitting these ‘certificates’. Nothing happens without reopening wounds. In writing this, I am not blaming the system. All I am hoping for is that by understanding what loss of this magnitude feels like, people ensure honour and respect to all those, who like Akshay, fought and gave their all selflessly, for the rest of their motherlands children to continue with their lives. Having a debate over who is right in such cases is the worst form of dishonor to the braves who protect and defend our nation. Such painful experiences would have been faced by so many parents, spouses, siblings, kids. The grace and dignity they show in smiling through their pain and loneliness makes them shining beacons of hope.
To end this post, the first one of this year, I would like to once again go back to how I started writing this blog. Two days after Akshay was given his final farewell from earth on 1st December 2016, I posted the letter below on social media and sought your suggestions on writing his story. You have all held our hands since the last 14 months and we are truly blessed to have you on this journey.
In the people who have showered love, understanding and support, written about Akshay and other brave soldiers, paid tributes in events and instituted awards in his name, we count our blessings everyday. The first picture in this post is by Wg. Cdr. Sudarshan who also wrote ‘Monologues of a Martyr’ as a tribute to Akshay.
I once again seek your suggestions in what I should write about this year. Would you like to read about other unsung heroes and their families? Or, how we can strengthen relationships and support each other? Or both? Do let me know your thoughts.
With faith that goodness will prevail, hope that we will all find our purpose in life and strive to achieve it, before being called away, here’s wishing you all laughter, love and contentment. Thank you for reading. Stay blessed.
1. Here’s the link to the article Monologues of a Martyr by Wg. Cdr Sudarshan:
2. After Akshay, the note that started it all. My path towards Finding New Meaning.
Dear Fellow citizens, extended family and friends,
Our hearts overflowing with pride, sorrow and love, I, as Martyred Major Akshay Girish Kumar’s mother, take the liberty of connecting my family with you all through this forum. With humility and gratitude, I thank each one of you for your presence, your messages and calls as we honour Akshay’s ultimate sacrifice with that of his six co-martyrs in Nagrota.
Never in a million years could we have been prepared to deal with the depth of loss we feel, and yet, in the last four days we have become one massive family because of Akshay. Draped in our tricolour, he has made sure that our strength and resolve to stand together to overcome our enemies is getting stronger every hour, every day. We as a nation are getting to know our truest and tallest heroes.
While congratulating the media for making Akshay so dear to all of you, with your permission, I would like to tell Akshay’s factual story. In standing by us at this time, you deserve to know. I will need time to do so because I would like to start at the beginning- from his birth at 8.05 on the morn of 6th December 1985.
Short of his 31st birthday, he has become larger than life and taught us the real meaning of love, duty and sacrifice. While Girish and I have been blessed to be his parents, Akshay is proving to us that first and foremost, he is the child of our motherland. Neha his twin sister (the only one, along with me, who can claim to know him 9 months longer than anyone else!), Sangeeta his most beloved wife, his grandfather and grandmothers, his many ‘bro’s’, and all who have known him well, were echoing the same sentiment these past few days. How has our little boy become bigger than all of us….our brightest star, our guiding light…..?
I think he will be the story teller and I will learn a lot more about my son as I start writing.
We do not want this to be about political or intellectual debates. All we hope to do is be true to Akshay Girish. Even as I write this post, I am asking you, as well-wishers, if you feel I should go ahead.
Once again, I thank you all for sharing our pride and sorrow at Akshay’s martyrdom.