We are told that often in a state of exasperation Sona stands in front of her martyred father’s photograph and asks “What about us?” She might have been only two when he sacrificed himself for the country, yet she misses the presence of a father in her life.

Why did you leave us so soon?

I don’t even have any memories with you?

When will we see you again?

These are some of the questions she throws at his garlanded photograph. There are some holes in life that can never be filled; same goes for Sona’s desire to know her father better. She has grown up listening to stories about him, but can that ever come close to knowing your father in person?

Sona is born and brought up single-handedly by her mother in the mountains of Himachal Pradesh. A shy and introverted girl of nineteen she is full of smiles but it takes us time to break the ice and enter her world.

“I like the outdoors“, she says when we ask her about her likes and dislikes. “It is great fun playing with animals and climbing trees”, she says with a shy smile.

She admits that she is heartbroken for not clearing her 12th-grade exams owing to a single subject. Upon passing it she plans to either pursue graduation or study fashion design, though she is still hasn’t zeroed down on a line of study.

“There are so many opportunities these days, I am still figuring out what to do, but I want to become independent and look after my mother who has done so much for me”, she says with a resolute smile.

Sona’s mother has moved mountains to give her a good life, starting with good education. Even as an uneducated woman Sona’s mother understands the vitality of the pen – the eldest daughter is a graduate and married, her son is training for SSB, and her third daughter is studying in a nursing school and soon to be married. Sona is the youngest.

“Sona’s father left us suddenly and left me with a lot of responsibilities. I tackled them all one by one, starting with building a permanent house for us for lifelong security“, she puts in.

Financial struggles are not over yet over for the family. The meagre monthly pension of Rs.9000/- the state provides is nearly not enough to cover the expenses of the house. She had to shift her daughter to a public school owing to this financial crunch, but there hasn’t been any loss of enthusiasm for educating her child well.

“I have done everything on my own, but have received a lot of emotional support from my relatives and my children. We don’t have much but we are happy with what little we have“, she puts in with a smile.

She becomes emotional while talking about her martyred husband. It was a rude shock for the family when his mortal remains reached their doorstep when he was expected to come home for his holidays.

“He put service for the nation before his family, and we are proud of him but miss him every day. Sona is unfortunate to have never known a father“, the mother adds.

“But he is my hero and I will make him proud“, Sona concludes while giving a big hug to her mother.