Nobody is a fan of loose talk and I’m no exception. Recently, I happened to overhear two so-called ‘educated, suited booted gentlemen’ discuss a Terrorist Attack that killed our soldiers. In a matter-of-fact manner, they discussed how the slain soldiers’ families will get megabucks as compensation. “We should’ve also been a Military family” their conversation ended with a smirk.
I should’ve reacted, given it back to those guys, but I stood there – utterly tongue-tied. How and what could I possibly tell those men on their off the mark comments for whom the Military seemed to be just an 8 letter word.
My father was serving as a constable in the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). He had a major share of his postings in field areas. This would mean that we would live in our home town and not see him for months sometimes even a year or more. Growing up, I always had a set of complaints. He never made it to even one of my parent-teacher meets, never saw me participating in any annual events, never took me school book shopping. I do not have a count on how many of my birthday parties he missed.
I remember the days when dad was finally home on a month-long break. I was on cloud nine, as we were going to meet a year after. Bearing my incessant rant, dad paused and suddenly asked me “Nikki, what class you are studying in?” With a quaff down my throat and a whammy in my tone, I said, “Papa, 8!” There was an uneasy calm between the two of us. That evening we went to eat chicken biryani* on our puny scooter. Life felt real at that moment.
But the break went swift as air. While we went to send him off, observing me moist-eyed, he clichéd with a tight hug “Next year, your born day will be celebrated with me.” Horn honked! The train chugged and with heart-wrenching sobs, we had to bid farewell.
Days rolled. It was 14, Feb 2019! I turned 15 that day. Impatiently I waited for my dad to ring the doorbell at least this time.
It rang! Not the doorbell but the phone. The call was from CRPF officials informing that 40 personnel including dad were killed in a suicide attack in Kashmir. They also said that since bodies are dismembered and strewn they are not able to identify dad in it.
This news devastated and shattered us. A couple of days after slogans of ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’* rent the air as the coffin wrapped in the tricolour reached our home. Teary-eyed we filed past the casket. With profound grief, his last rites were performed at the cremation ground. After a month amidst grief and crisis, we got the news that Government has granted an ex-gratia compensation of ₹35 Lakh.
But wait gentlemen! Do you still think that these megabucks are a jackpot for us?
*Biryani: An Indian spicy dish made with seasoned chicken/meat/ fish or vegetables.
*Bharat Mata ki Jai: Victory to Mother India
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