Khelhub doesn’t have a shred of memory of his father. The youngest of three siblings, he was only three years old when his father was martyred. While on the one hand the pain of losing a parent is minimised for him, that of never having known his parent is maximised.

And you notice that when you meet Khelhub, a boy of fourteen.

We arrive at his family home in a small town in Manipur (North East India) on a rainy afternoon in May. It is typical for rains to engulf this part of the country while the rest of the country is begging for it. The child isn’t back from school yet, but his mother greets us and offers us tea.

After a round of pleasantries, we start with the tough conversation.

“He left us too soon,it is pitiful that Khelhub never got the chance to know his father. There is no substitute for that, but I am trying to give him the best. His father is his hero”, she says with a smile.

We learn that she was 32 when the tragedy struck. With three mouths to feed and a roof over their heads to be maintained, she didn’t have the luxury to mourn for long. She supplements her husband’s pension with working multiple jobs and manages her house without support. Her focus is to provide good education to her kids, even though she is uneducated.

When Khelhub comes back home from school and sees us he is overwhelmed by the presence of strangers. His mother had already told us of his shy nature. We gently break the ice and get talking about his school, friends, and drums!

Yes, he is keen on learning to play the drums and make a career out of it. He sometimes plays them at school but he wants to take up coaching classes to master the craft.

“I am interested in music and like the way drums sound. It makes me happy”, he tells us but adds that it is academics that he needs to focus on.

Khelhubis in 8th grade. He is active in school activities, but little weak in academics, he admits. According to his teachers, he is a disciplined boy and with guidance can do better in his studies. But he is working hard to make his parents proud.

“Mother tells us that our father wanted usto study well, and it is my aim to fulfill his dream. He is my hero, and I want to make him proud”,Khelhub says with a glint in his eyes.

Do you miss your father? we risk asking him.

“It’d have been nice to have a father”, he says longingly, before taking our leave to play with his friends.