Both my children were very young at that time. We were in Visakhapatnam. My husband Commander Devashish Chatterjee was coming home after 2 months. I was very happy. I was busy preparing all his favourite dishes since the morning. In the evening he called me from his base, informing me that he was leaving for Operation Vijay.
He came home just for 5 minutes to say good bye. It was 11 in the night. Children were off to bed by the time.
Devashish did not have time for dinner. He gave me a ‘good bye’ kiss on my forehead and said, “I don’t know whether I will come back or not. It’s a call to save my mother nation. You have always been a dutiful wife, the best mother and my pillar of strength. I am confident you will give raise our children as finest human beings as a single parent.”
I did not shed a drop of tear. I thought, if he died, I would be a proud wife of a martyr. This was not the first time. Merely after 15 days of our marriage in 1987, he had left for Sri Lanka where he shot down 4 LTTE terrorists. He also sustained bullet injury in his leg.
I did not know his whereabouts during the days of the Kargil War. I used to watch BBC World News the whole day; in the evening I would visit a temple nearby.
During those days, the civilians treated us with a great deal of respect. The shops and public call booths refused to take money from me, saying, “Madam, साहब हमारे लिए जान की बाज़ी लगा रहे हैं; आपसे पैसे कैसे ले सकते हैं? (Your man has put his life at stake for us. How can we accept money from you?)”
When my husband came back alive after 3 months, there was a big celebration in the town. Civilians honoured him with garlands and lifted him on their shoulders. I am a proud wife of a defence officer with Veer Chakra.
Today this nostalgic moment brought tears in my eyes. Time has wings indeed. My children are grown up and proud of their baba (father). My son is a BITS topper in mechanical engineering; he is now an engineer with Exide industries in Kolkata. My daughter is a graphic designer and animator in Baroda where we live.
My soldier husband is enjoying his post-retirement life. He spends time gardening, smoking pipe, playing golf and sharing his memories from Kargil and Sri Lanka.