“Motherland comes first…” Major Amandeep Shergil declared at the onset of their relationship four years ago.
Puja and Aman met at a common friend’s wedding, their instant attraction amidst the glittering grandeur, seeping only deeper with passing moments.
“So, what do you intend to do further?” Aman asked her over desserts. The night breeze swayed along with the music on the wedding grounds and Puja was lost in the depthless emotions shining in his eyes adorning his rugged visage.
“I have a couple of job offers. I also intend to pursue my MBA.” She replied hoping her treacherous heart didn’t give her away.
“That’s amazing…” He took a stray strand of a curl that had escaped the confines of her high bun and rolled it around her ear. “…the olive-green saree has the best accessory, your smile”
Her breath had caught in her throat as he looked into her eyes and Puja knew she was completely in love with this stranger.
Their frequent rendezvous followed, binding their souls in a way the seams weren’t visible. That winter evening standing before the iconic India Gate, Aman went on one knee.
“With freedom in my mind and strength in my words.
Marry me and take our love skywards”
To Aman’s delight she said ‘yes’ and after he returned from duty a few months later, they were tied in matrimonial bliss.
Almost a year later they hearts swelled with the best news ever… Puja was expecting.
However, in the fifth month of her pregnancy, her worst fears came true. Aman was martyred in the line of duty, fighting insurgents along the border.
Devastated, she watched the tri-colour-wrapped coffin touching her belly as her baby kicked for the first time.
“Aman, love…” She whispered amidst the cacophony of gun salutes and wails. “…I am taking an important step soon. I know you will be proud.”
The next few months flew in a jiffy and when her son Jugraj was a year old, she cleared her SSB exam acing the interview. A couple of years later she was appointed lieutenant in the same unit her late husband once headed.
A press meet was held as she emerged with the new badge on her uniform.
“Lt. Puja Shergil, how does it feel?” a reporter asked.
Puja blinked back tears and brought out her wallet containing Aman and Jugraj’s photos. She kissed them and smiled.
“I am very proud of what I have achieved. But none of this would have been possible without the support of my family. This was what my husband would have wanted …” She looked at Aman’s photo yet again even as a surge of confidence swept through her soul. “…He loved to see me in olive-green. Said, the colour suited me a lot.”
Amidst silent chuckles, another reported asked, “But, your son is just a little kid…?”
Head held high; Puja replied. “My son is my heartbeat, my greatest strength, and motherhood is incredible. But despite everything, motherland comes first….”
SSB: Sahastra seema bal (reference: https://ssb.gov.in/)
Dedication: to the war widows who give up a lot more and move on in the same shoes with grit and determination.
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