Back in November 2016, India lost a daring soldier, Bengaluru lost a brave citizen, and Sangeeta Akshay Girish and daughter Naina lost the man they both loved in the form of Major Akshay Girish Kumar.
He was one of the casualties of the Nagrota terror strike in November last. Friends said he had saved over 16 lives, but sadly could not save himself in time. Sangeeta, Girish’s wife was there the day he died. Almost a year later she penned a beautiful moving post to describe what had happened the day, when the terrorists attacked the Natgrota Army base camp and when their lives were turned upside down. Amidst the flow of words she reveals, Major Akshay had wanted her to tell it like it was - that day.
Read the post below:
It was 2009. The first time he proposed, it didn’t happen the way he had planned. I was visiting him in Chandigarh with a friend. We drove to Shimla but there was a curfew there. The restaurant he had booked had closed early and he had forgotten to get the ring. So he went down on one knee with a red pen drive that he had in his pocket! In 2011, we got married and I shifted to Pune. Two years later, Naina was born.
He would be gone for long periods for his professional assignments. Since my daughter was young, our families suggested that I come back to Bangalore. But I stayed on. I loved the world we had created and didn't want to leave it. Life was an adventure with him. From going to meet him at 14000 feet with Naina to sky diving as a family, we did it all.
In 2016, he got posted to Nagrota. We were staying in the officer’s mess as our house was not yet allotted. On November 29th, we suddenly woke up at 5:30 am to the sound of gunshots. We thought it was training but there had not been any intimation. Soon even grenades went off. At around 5:45am, a junior came in to tell him that militants had taken the artillery regiment as hostage and he’d have to change to combat clothing.
The last thing he said to me was “you must write about this.”
All the ladies and children were put in a room. Sentries were stationed outside the room and we could hear constant firing. I sent a text to my mother-in-law and a conversation continued between her, my sister-in-law and me as the morning wore on. At 8:09 am, he texted us on the group saying he was in the firefight. Around 8:30 am, we were shifted to a safer place. We were still in our pyjamas and chappals.
The day wore on and there was no news. I started getting jittery and had a sinking feeling. At 11:30 am, I could not help myself and made a call. One of his team members picked up the phone and said “Major Akshay has gone to a different location”. Around 6:15 pm, his commanding officer and some other officers came to meet me. He said “Ma'am we have lost Akshay. He was martyred around 8:30 am.” My world collapsed. I was inconsolable. I wish I had texted him. I wish I had hugged him goodbye. I wish I had told him I loved him one last time. But we never expect things to go wrong. I sobbed like a baby, like my soul was being ripped apart. Two other soldiers were martyred but they saved the women, children and the men who were held hostage.
I got his uniforms, clothes and all the stuff we collected over the years in a truck. I tried hard to fight back my tears. I haven't washed his regimental jacket and when I miss him a lot, I wear it. It still smells of him.
At first, it was difficult to explain to Naina what had happened but now her papa is a star in the sky. Today, I have set up my own place with the things we had collected. He is there alive and speaking to us through the pictures and the memories we created. We smile through our tears because we know that’s what he would have wanted us to do. Like they say, if you haven't felt your soul being torn apart, you haven't really loved with all you heart. Though it hurts, I will always love him.
Sangeeta and Naina Akshay Girish
One of the lines that stand out for us revealing the injustice of a young life taken away too soon was this: “I haven't washed his regimental jacket and when I miss him a lot, I wear it. It still smells of him.”
Another instance which reminds us of the fraility of life was how Sangeeta hoped she had had that one last conversation with her husband. “My world collapsed. I was inconsolable. I wish I had texted him. I wish I had hugged him goodbye. I wish I had told him I loved him one last time. But we never expect things to go wrong. I sobbed like a baby, like my soul was being ripped apart.”