In the spring of 2016 seven-year-old Annu’s life changed forever when her dear father who was a soldier in the CRPF was slain in a terrorist encounter in the jungles of Central India. He died fighting the deadliest terrorist attack in the area, an attack that left the country stunned. The episode produced many martyrs, but also birthed families without a parent. One such family is Annu’s; they are still trying to come to terms with the heavy loss.

Annu stays with her mother and two other siblings in a quaint village in Jharkhand. Playful and lively otherwise, her face drops when we mention about her father. She was only 5 years old when he was martyred.

“Do you remember your Papa?”, we ask her.

“Not much, but there is a statue of Papa in the village and I see him every day!”, she says with a small smile. As a mark of respect to the late soldier’s sacrifice, the village has erected a statue in his honour.

She remembers playing Holi with him and particularly cherishes the day her father took the family out to the State Zoo.

“When her father died she was very young to understand what was going on, but now she knows that he will not be coming home again and with support from her siblings she is getting through the tragedy“, Annu’s mother tells us with eyes brimming with tears.

Though the wounds of the tragedy are still fresh, the mother is pulling out all stops to chart the way for her family, beginning with making sure education for her children is not compromised. It is what her husband put a lot of focus on, and what she strives for. This propelled her to change Annu’s school with 100 + students per classroom to another private school though it is in Hindi medium. The Government school, she tells us, is close by but the quality of education there is wanting.

How does she take such decisions on her own, we ask her.

“Earlier I used to discuss with my husband about everything but now it is me who has to take such decisions. I am responsible for my family“, she says revealing her inner strength. She is now the captain of the ship.

Annu dreams to be a police officer. When we ask how why she is quick to say “Papa wants me to become a police officer and that’s why I eat vegetables every day to become a strong girl!”, much to the amusement of everyone.

“Who do you love the most in the world?”, we playfully ask her.

“Papa! He was a strong man and loved us a lot. He is my hero,” she tells her before hopping on a cycle and riding away to play with her friends.

We leave the family hoping that the jovial nature of Annu and feisty spirit of her mother never wane and that they get through to their dreams with love, laughter and a tribute to the departed martyr.