How did soldiers who fought the Kargil war see it? The letters they sent home offer poignant clues

Sometimes the most important people in your life do the unimaginable and leave you behind feeling so small that it gets difficult to breathe. Daddy is one such person in my life. He left his eight-year-old daughter feeling lost, guilty, proud, and empowered — all at the same time.

I felt guilty because the first time I realised that while my father was fighting a war, I was spending my summer vacations with my favourite cousins, was on 3 July 1999 — the day we got to know about his death. There was no way I could have called him on the satellite phone to say, “I know now daddy, it’s not the bad weather in the background; it’s war. It’s violence. Please don’t leave us, we need you.” This feeling stayed in my heart for years before I finally did something about it.

Writing is therapeutic and I realised it when I first put daddy’s story out for the world to read on AkkarBakkar. I could do it because I’m a writer and it was my website and it helped, I swear it did. But it also made me wonder about all those soldiers’ families who can’t write or read. It breaks my heart every time I think about the privileges only a few of us enjoy and are not grateful for in this society because really, the lack of it affects many lives. That story is the reason why I got the opportunity to write my first book and for me to say it’s a dream come true would be an understatement. Because how many 26-year-old daughters get to write a book about a war their fathers fought?

Letters from Kargil by Diksha Dwivedi is published by Juggernaut Books

Letters from Kargil by Diksha Dwivedi is published by Juggernaut Books

My father, Major CB Dwivedi, is till date the most progressive man I’ve known in my life and that hurts. It hurts because I still look for him in every man I meet and that’s impossible, there can be no one like him. There’s a reason why perfection doesn’t exist in this world — because it can’t. That’s how my oldest cousin broke the news to me when I was all of eight; he said, “Beta, God always calls good people to himself before time because he needs them.” I remember hating God that day because he had betrayed me by answering none of our prayers. My sister and I spoke with God every night before we went to sleep and it always included us begging him to keep daddy and his fellow soldiers safe “wherever” they were. Yes, we obviously didn’t know where he was.

So I firmly believed that God had betrayed us till he started answering all my prayers as I grew up. I, in all my innocence, announced to more people than one that I was God’s favourite child because I didn’t even have to pray anymore, I’d just think of things and they’d happen. I wasn’t wrong after all, the most perfect man in the world is sitting right up there still trying to pamper us — or so I’d like to believe. That was and is daddy. Our angel in disguise.

I still don’t know how he wore so many hats oh-so-admirably. On the field, he’d walk straight and stern, with his firm hands folded in the back, commanding his boys to shoot, to fall back, to gear up. He looked strict, I remember watching him command at Uri. My sister and I sat on our chairs watching him live. At home, one the other hand, he was our best friend who loved hanging out with us. When he was on leave, he was a house husband. He’d cook, teach, ride us around on his scooty, do everything to make up for the time he was away.

He pampered me and Neha di (my sister) a lot but more than us, he pampered mummy — he called her 'chota baby'. He made sure before he left, he’d turned his small town girl into an independent woman; it’s like he had prepared her mentally to take on the challenges after. But until he left, he made sure she didn’t have to do as much as lift a finger when he was around. He probably knew that she’d have to spend the rest of her life raising two little daughters while dealing with her lover’s death, the colossal shoes that no man can ever fill. While my sister struggled to study without him, I turned out to be the rebellious kid. Yes, she had to handle all of this single-handedly.

“Dear Diksha, I know you’re a brave girl and you’ll help Mummy and Neha di in their work” — I only came across this letter of daddy’s when Chiki (Sarkar, from Juggernaut Books) and I decided to basically rewrite Letters From Kargil in a month. The new structure was more personal, which also meant more writing. Much more writing. It seemed like a herculean task but after I read this letter, the rest of the journey became a cakewalk.

After all, I had spent years in thinking why I didn’t get as much attention from daddy as my elder sister, Neha, except the fact that she was actually the nicer kid out of the two of us. This was my chance to pay my tribute to daddy and every soldier who didn’t bat an eyelid in the toughest and the last 60 days of their lives in May-July 1999.

In the times of Facebook, Whatsapp and Snapchat, there’s a reason why we have moments where we miss letters written on paper. They feel personal and if preserved properly, they are memories for life.

Daddy had even taught my mother, my sister and I how to cherish memories while he was sitting far far away from us. In my first book and the most special one at that, Letters from Kargil, I tell you about him, about us and about the Kargil war through the eyes of the soldiers who were experiencing it while we got little pieces of it sitting in the comforts of our homes.

I was able to tell this story through many letters and journal entries from Kargil written by the brave soldiers to their loved ones. And I’d like to think this is the closest you can get to feeling what goes on behind the scenes in a war-like scenario.

Letters from Kargil by Diksha Dwivedi is published by Juggernaut Books

Updated Date: Sep 17, 2017 10:34 AM

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