Tina loved her father the most.

He was a soldier and she always looked forward to his holidays with the family in their hometown in Tripura. Tina enjoyed the little presents he got for her; a pretty pen, bangles, eatables, comic books and the likes. But more than everything she treasured the time she spent with him, dearest of which are the times they indulged their love for food at restaurants – a rare happening for Tina otherwise. It was over plates of their favourite foods that he told her stories of the army, asked her about school and studies and inspired her to work hard towards her goals.

She lost her father at the age of 14.

The news came to her while she was at in her Maths class at school, lost amongst the mumbo jumbo of numbers (she admits she doesn’t enjoy Maths and Science as much). Her grandfather suddenly emerged at her classroom door, and after a brief conversation between him and the teacher Tina was asked to leave for the day. The news was solemnly broken; her father was martyred while he was on a mission.

Tina wept throughout the 40-kilometre journey to her house. Since then nothing has been the same. But the passion to make her father proud burns bright in her eyes.

Today she is 15 and a happy, albeit shy child.

She stays with her maternal grandparents’ house since it is closer to the school and goes home every weekend to meet her mother. She doesn’t particularly enjoy the arrangement as she misses her mother, but academics are her top priority at the moment. Her father laid down his life for the country, and she wants to make her family as proud too.

“I plan to move back home next year after my 10th board exams, I am sacrificing a lot but my father wanted me to do well in my studies and that’s my goal“, she told us with a soft smile. She is also keen on learning taekwondo. Her father often showed her some combat moves, which inspired her to learn the art of self-defence.

It has been hard on Tina’s mother since her husband passed away. She confessed that her daughter could be studying in a better school had their financial situation been. The Government school that Tina attends is in desperate need of better infrastructure. But she will be shifted to a better school after her 10th exams to give her wider opportunities.

It was heart warming to listen to the story of a girl who despite everything has her eyes on the goal, unwavering, like her love for her father.