- Shalini Jain
The night was dark. At a secluded place somewhere in the north, a battalion of 12 army personnel were selected to complete a task – the Dozakh task. “Dozakh” meaning hell, was not just a task but a mission to be accomplished. It was one of the most arduous, even by the highest standards of the army.
Major Shaswat Anand had just retired to bed, aware that he might be called upon anytime - in the middle of the night or in the wee hours the morning, notwithstanding the sleep deprivation or fatigue.
It was at times like these when he would pull out a sepia tinted family photograph - his parents, his eleven year old self and his seven year old sister, Sajal, the baby doll of the family and apple of his eyes. He recalled how his father was just like coconut - hard from the outside and soft from the inside. How his stern exterior would melt and he would be in a frenzy when either of his kids would get even so much as a scratch on their bodies. Just a tear from their eyes would make him go weak at his knees.
And yet, for his father, Colonel Somnath Anand, nation came first, above everything else. He had always prided himself on having the opportunity to serve the nation. Even the medals and awards received during his lifetime or posthumously were not commensurate to his passion.
Posthumously…his mind raced back to that fateful day of 16th July 1999 which was now etched in his mind. Unlike these days, there was no internet to give them minute by minute information about the Kargil War. Their father had promised to be with them to celebrate his wedding anniversary. Their mother was particularly looking forward for this celebration as it was one of the few anniversaries when they would be together since they had gotten married.
But life had other plans. Just two days before the special day, the doorbell rang at around 10 am. As he opened the door, his father’s close friend Colonel Rajiv Bhatia stood there with a few more army men. He had a gloomy expression on his face. Soon his mother and sister were also there. Colonel Bhatia could not meet his mother’s gaze and fixed his eyes to the floor. His silence spoke everything.
The martyr was given his last farewell with full state honour. As promised, his father had returned for his anniversary. Only this time, he was wrapped in the tricolor. His mother stood stoic, containing her tears. How could she break down in front her children! All she had now were Shaswat and Sajal, testimony of the love she and her husband had shared.
Major Shaswat’s thoughts turned to the present, “Dad, you must be a proud father today. It’s not just the physical resemblance, but even in your spirit to serve the nation, I….”. His thoughts were interrupted by a voice that instantly made him look up. “Captain Sajal Anand reporting Sir.” He smiled, corrected and completed his thoughts, “WE, are your reflections Dad.”