Mumbai: Men die, but memories live on.
And when the deaths occur at war – defending one’s country – then those memories are proudly cherished and shared with great fondness.
On the 20th anniversary of the Kargil War, the family of two brave soldiers told us about that fateful May in 1999.
Squadron Leader Ajay Ahuja’s wife Alka recalled that her husband reported to duty on May 17 in Srinagar. They spoke on May 22, which was Ajay’s birthday and planned to meet in Srinagar. Unfortunately flights got cancelled from the next day and by May 26, 1999, the news of air strikes started to spread.
On May 27, 1999, around 4:30 pm, the Station Commander came to Ajay’s house in uniform. “When he came, I knew something was wrong. I was informed that Ajay had ejected from the jet but was missing. Around 8:30 pm, I was told that he was no more,” she says.
The lives of Alka and her son changed dramatically after that day. She was clueless what to do next. She took the job of a teacher at the Air Force School, Bhatinda. They later shifted to New Delhi. The same year, Alka lost her father.
Remembering Ajay, Alka proudly says, “Ajay's MiG-21MF fighter was hit by a Surface-to-Air missile FIM-92 Stinger. Ahuja's aircraft had been within the Indian side of the Line of Control when he ejected.”
“But Ajay was captured and tortured by the Pakistan authorities. This was revealed in a post-mortem report which was conducted at the Srinagar Base Hospital,” she added.
On 28th May, 1999 the body of Squadron Leader Ahuja was handed over to Indian authorities.
Alka said her husband was very dedicated towards the country. As a person, Ajay was a loving, caring and fun-loving individual. “I feel he is still somewhere near me and will come back soon,” Alka says.
Squadron Leader Ahuja was conferred the Vir Chakra posthumously on August 15, 1999.
Wife of late Major CB Dwivedi Bhawna said her husband’s death was most unexpected. “We thought it happened to others but never thought it would happen to us,” she says.
Going down the memory lane, Bhawna said her husband was a caring and loving man and devoted to the country. He called and wrote a letter to her every day. “His letter was never delayed,” Bhawna adds.
Major Dwivedi’s daughter Neha said when her family was informed, she couldn’t believe it was her father. “Initially, we found it difficult to accept the fact that he was no more. Once I came in terms with it, I immediately realised I should take responsibility of both my mother and my sister,” she said.
Neha remembers her father as a jolly, happy-go-lucky yet disciplined man. “He always tried to encourage people to join the forces and be there for people,” she adds.