“When I grow up I want to become a soldier“, Suraj, the 6 – year son of a recent martyr tells us with confidence. His father was martyred in the brutal Sukma Maoist attack that shook the country a few years ago. And while Suraj has faced the repercussions of having a soldier as a father that doesn’t stop him from nurturing the dream of following in his father’s footsteps.

He hails from a small town called Jumai in Bihar where he stays with his mother and brother. After the martyrdom of his father, the family shifted to a maternal relative’s house to have better access to Suraj’s school.

“How important is it for you that Suraj and his brother get a good education? we ask his mother.

“Education is what will bring them closer to their goals“, she says with a sense of calmness. “We could have enrolled them in the nearby Government school but there is no environment for study there so my kids go to a private school“, she further says. Suraj studies in LKG in a private school nearby.

Suraj’s grandfather also tells us that the Government school is lacking committed teachers and supervisors, for on many occasions children have been seen helping with preparing the mid-day meals at school rather than studying. The teachers also consider Mondays to be ‘Teacher’s Holiday’ which means that they teach only 4 days a week and not five.

“Do you want Suraj to become a soldier like his father?”, we ask his mother and grandfather.

“I don’t have the courage to see the same fate for my grandson “, he says looking at his grandson who is busy looking at a photo album. There is deep pain in the man’s voice as he remembers his own son.

On asking Surajwhat he is looking at, he looks up with a smile bright and says, “Papa’s photos!”. The old family album is full of photos of the family, and his father who looks happy in all of them. There are also a few photos of him in his uniform. One particularly catches Suraj’s attention – it is one wherein his uniformed father is in salute position – and he immediately salutes the photo too.

It is heartwarming to see the small boy connecting to his martyred father through photos. He should have been making actual memories with him, but alas, he was gone before Suraj could know them well. This small episode makes it clear how much he looks up to his father and wants to become like him.

The family is hard pressed for money as they are making do with the lump sum the Government gave after the tragedy. It has been two years since and still, they are running from pillar to post getting documents in place for the pension cycle to begin.

“My sons are all I have and it is my dream to see them succeed as their father wanted them to“, Suraj’s mother puts it in the end. She tells us that her husband wanted Suraj to compete in the Civil Service exams.
It is the family’s unwavering faith in the future that keeps them together, and we are sure that Suraj will soon go charging for a better life for him and his family.