THE TORCH BEARER
The first thing we noticed when we entered the living room of Preet’s home were photos of her father in his soldier uniform. Second, we noticed the striking facial similarities between Preet and her martyred father.
“Not just the face, but a lot of her reminds us of her martyred father”, her mother told us looking adoringly at her daughter, who sat next to her shyly. “She has his integrity and bravery to stand up for what is right. And same to same eyes!”, her mother said happily.
Preet is 17 years old and the eldest child of the family, which after the demise of her father in 2016, is reduced to her mother, her brother and herself. They reside in a town in Punjab.
When we asked her about her father she reminisced about the happy times they spent when he came home for holidays. “I was very close to him, and we would joke a lot. I also used to complain to him when Ma made me do things I didn’t want to do”, she stole a glance at her mother.
“But our lives changed in June 2016 when the news came. It struck hard. We are still trying to come to terms with the loss”, her mother added.
That was also the year Preet had appeared for her 10th board exams. Since then she has successfully completed her 12th board exams. She has enrolled in a city-based college for BSc in Physiotherapy.
“After my father’s demise I was very scared and even aggressive at times, I could not fathom life without him, but it is due to my mother’s love and strength that I recovered and did well in my exams”. Apreet considers her mother her best friend.
The tragedy was a learning curve for her, her mother opined. She also mentioned that Apreet grew up very fast and is now aware of her responsibilities as the eldest child.
“I have a younger brother who looks upto me and it is my responsibility to show him the right path. My mother is also getting older and it is my duty to look after her now that Papa is no more ”, Preet said with tears glistening in her eyes.
She believes that her foremost duty is achieve to her dreams and then help her brother achieve his. One can see the determination in her eyes; she might be only seventeen, but she knows that to get to the top she must work hard. It was also her father’s dream to see her succeed in life.
“The only thing left with us are his words, his memories”, her mother said emotionally. He wanted give the children all the comforts so they could study well, and to that effect even turned down a voluntary retirement offer from a colleague.
“I have to work hard for the children he often used to say, now I see the same attitude towards work in Preet and it makes me very proud”, she concluded.