In 1999, a war was fought at your doorstep. You may have barely felt a tremor of it. But in the dangerous mountain frontiers of our land, our men in uniform picked up their battered rucksacks and walked right into hell to save it from breaking loose. They were ordinary men like you and me, yet full of extraordinary courage.

I was eight years old that May, getting set to begin a fun vacation, like other Indian kids my age. But my father, fortunately or unfortunately, was one of those men called to the front lines to fight in the Kargil war against Pakistan.

Like you, I just wanted my dad to myself during the summer holidays. Instead we got only twelve hours with him. That May my mother, my sister and I had gone to see Daddy in Kheru, Srinagar, where his unit, 315 Field Regiment, was posted.

But he was given deployment orders just as we arrived. We never saw him again.

Had we known that those were the last twelve hours we would be spending with him, we would’ve done so much more with that time than just eating and sleeping with him before he put on his uniform early in the morning and left, forever.

Despite his cheerful exterior, he secretly regretted not seeing us for longer just as much as we did, or probably more. He wrote to Mummy:

Even though the meeting was short, only twelve hours, it was really nice seeing you. I’ll see you guys soon.

It was 2 July, and it had been more than a month since Daddy had been in Dras, Kargil. We had spent the rest of our holidays with our family in Siliguri, West Bengal, and were returning to Delhi from where we were going to take a bus or cab to our home in Meerut – our last family accommodation with Daddy. To our surprise, the

whole family came to pick us up from the train station in Delhi.

I was told the news later that day. I remember that scene clearly. As I walked into the bedroom full of adults, I saw the shadow of loss reflected on everyone’s face. I was a child, but I knew something was wrong and immediately turned to look at my mother.

She was sitting on a chair under a bright window, looking haggard. Her face was covered in her palms and her hair was uncombed. She was sitting crouched, her knees held tight against her. She looked like an abandoned child, someone I was about to feel like the very next second. That day I saw my father for the first time on TV – but it wasn’t my Daddy, just his passport-sized photo displayed with pictures of other war martyrs in uniform. Since then, the closest I have come to feeling his touch is through his torn combat uniform and the black badge with his name imprinted on it in white – Major C.B. Dwivedi – in English and in Hindi. 

This is an excerpt from the book ‘Letters from Kargil’ published by Juggernaut and authored by Diksha Diwedi. Diksha, who lost her father to the Kargil war, collected letters from the families of martyred Kargil soldiers to author this book. 

(Feature image source: Juggernaut)