A poignant story from an Ex-Air Force wife

Discussion in 'Members Corner' started by Ray, Aug 6, 2013.

  1. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

    Apr 17, 2009
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    A poignant story from an Ex-Air Force wife


    I have often thought of Narayan and Lekha and wondered why our paths crossed!

    In 1995 we lived in Arjun Vihar, Dhaula Kuan. One day a watchman of the campus, knowing that our annex was vacant, asked if we would let an army havaldar stay in it. He elaborated that the soldier’s child was being admitted to AIIMS for a surgery. We told him that we could consider it. Later that day Havaldar Narayan visited us with his pretty wife Lekha, who looked barely 19 or 20, carrying their 1 year old son. Vijay had a congenital heart problem that needed surgery. But what needed immediate attention was his head which was twice its normal size. He would first be treated for his head before the surgery.
    Havaldar Narayan was with the Rajputana Rifles in Bikaner and was being attached to a unit in Delhi to attend to his child’s health requirements. Arjan Vihar and AIIMS are not too far out.

    Seeing the child’s condition we decided they could stay.

    When we saw them commute on a bicycle, we gave them the use of my moped. Occasionally, we met the family and we were relieved to see that Vijay’s head size had reduced.

    They must have been with us for 4 or 5 months when, suddenly one Sunday morning, Narayan rushed to our door for the moped keys. He said the child was not well and needed to be rushed to the hospital. Later he phoned to give us shattering news … little Vijay was no more. He could not afford to fly with the body to his hometown in Kerala. With no family, no friends, but with the help of some kind souls they buried their son in a nondescript cemetery, in what would remain an unmarked grave.

    That night they returned to our home, a shattered couple. We held them and wept with them as they cried their hearts out. We forced them to eat dinner with us and then we comforted them as they talked about their dear son. The next day Lekha stayed with me while our husbands were at work. She spoke only Malayalam which I did not understand. I could only hold her very tight by way of comfort.

    Havaldar Narayan, in the meantime, was busy. He had to complete all the paperwork and formalities related to his child’s case. He had to ensure that the balance of funds lying with AIIMS, sanctioned by the Army for his son’s operation, would be duly refunded to the Army. He had to sign out of the unit he was attached to in Delhi, and buy train tickets to reach his wife back to Kerala. His unit in Bikaner had now moved to Siachen, and he had very little time to report for duty. That night, after dinner with us, they took leave.

    In less than a week, Havildar Narayan was back on his way to report for duty. He spent a few hours with us before he resumed that journey to Siachen. He was not allowed to grieve the loss of their son as a couple together, as parents.

    It hit me then that a soldier has no time to mourn a personal loss, no time to comfort a grieving wife. His sacrifice is supreme. This brief but poignant encounter has made me understand that the call of duty outdoes personal grief.

    To understand a soldier’s life one must wear his ammunition boots!

    About the author

    Ms Jaya Kalyanaraman was born in the Air Force and married into it. In a career spanning twenty years she has had varied experiences from being a radio artist to writing for newspapers and magazines and producing news capsules for Doordarshan on subjects of social relevance. For the Air Force Day telecast on Doordarshan in the year 1994 she wrote, produced and directed Maiden Flight which was a docudrama on the induction of women in the AF.
    She now lives in Bangalore with her husband who retired from the AF in 1996, and does voluntary work with Snehadaan which cares for HIV-infected children.gen

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