Mujhe papa ki bahut yaad aati hai

Tears spill down 8 – year old Ananya’s cheeks as soon as she says this to us. It is a sweltering June afternoon, and we are sitting with Ananya and her mother in their living room on the outskirts of Meerut, Uttar Pradesh.

As soon as she makes the heart-wrenching statement the room stiffens. Everyone’s faces contort in pain and helplessness at the state of the young girl who will never see her father again. She then runs to her mother and buries her face in her bosom. This is the reality of the families of martyrs who trade their lives for the security and peace of a nation.

Ananya was six when her father lost his life for the country in the Pulwana attack in Jammu and Kashmir in 2016. As soon as she saw her father wrapped in the tricolour she lost her consciousness and although the family did not want to tell her about the reality, they eventually had to.

“She has shown a great amount of strength ever since we told her the truth”, her mother says, caressing Ananya’s hair;her gush of tears has now turned into sobs. “She was used to talking to her father over the phone every day after school but now she doesn’t expect his calls anymore”. But like we just witnessed, she still gets emotional when her father is mentioned.

Otherwise, Ananya is a joyful child, who likes to play hopscotch in a park nearby; enjoys going to school, and likes Environmental Studies more than English. Her favourite thing to do is to dance and we learn that she wants to be a professionally trained dancer. But her dream is to become a teacher since her father always said that he sees a teacher in her.

Her mother is certain that Ananya’s full potential can only be tapped if she is admitted to a good private school; and the plan is to enroll her in a better school by next year, provided the financial condition stabilises. The well-educated mother understands the importance of educating her kids. Ananya has two siblings and she is the middle child.

“It was no small feat to make sure that my kids don’t become depressed because of the tragedy. I would try to make the environment at home as normal as possible to pull the children out of the bereavement”, Ananya’s mother tells us when we ask her how difficult it was to manage the expectations of her children. She also explains the difficulty she has faced in the last two years because of zero support from her in-laws. She stays with her children in a rented house and relies on her brother to take care of paper work for her husband’s pension.

“We have no property and only depend on my husband’s pension, but I am hopeful that with God’s grace slowly everything will fall into place”, she concludes with a smile.

By the time we are done with our interview, Ananya has run off to the park to play hopscotch with Rupali, her best friend. “Anu is a restless girl”, her mother says with a burst of laughter. Albeit the tragedy that made the family vulnerable in an instant, the family is putting itself back together with positivity and love.