“While we celebrate martyrs, why not celebrate jawans while they’re still alive?”

“Vasanth came to Bangalore 10 days before our wedding; he was an officer in the Indian army. We stayed together for a year until he was posted to Sikkim. Vasant missed out on all the big moments in our life–he wasn’t there when I found out I was pregnant or when our first daughter was born. But I always knew that for him, the country came first.

I was pregnant with my second daughter when the Kargil war broke out. Vasanth sent me a letter saying he was heading to the war front–I didn’t hear from him for 2 months. But then, I got news that Vasanth was in the hospital; in that moment, I didn’t know what to feel. I only breathed a sigh of relief when Vasanth finally called to tell me he was okay.

But in no time, he was back at the border. He’d come home once in 6 months but even then, he’d wake at the slightest sounds and it’d take weeks for him to get used to our kids hugging him. He was a soldier in and out; being away from the border didn’t change.

But in no time, he was back at the border. He’d come home once in 6 months but even then, he’d wake at the slightest sounds and it’d take weeks for him to get used to our kids hugging him. He was a soldier in and out; being away from the border didn’t change.

I was shattered. People said things like, ‘Oh god, you’re so brave’, ‘We salute him.’ He was even awarded the Ashoka Chakra. But all I could think about was that my daughters were going to grow up without ever really knowing their father. And while everybody was garlanding me on my dead husband's behalf, I thought–‘While we celebrate martyrs, why not celebrate jawans while they’re still alive?’

Their widows are in the limelight for a week and nobody knows what happens to them after that. That thought hit me hard–I decided I wouldn’t just sit and cry. So 3 weeks after Vasanth’s martyrdom, I performed a play that highlighted the issues faced by jawans’ wives. I remember Vasanth would always tell me, ‘You should do something to help our war widows’; he’d seen firsthand what had happened to the wives of his comrades after their passing. So, in his memory, I founded an NGO called the Vasantharatna Foundation–to empower war widows.

I once met a widow who had 4 young children to fend for. When she reached out to me, she didn’t even have a roof over her head. So, we connected her to District Soldiers Board Officers who granted her a plot of land. Today, she’s an independent woman raising her daughters.

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