Published: 28th July 2017
#DaughtersOfWar: "I have always wished that one day he would come to pick me up from school"
Major Padmapani Acharya died in the Kargil War, three months before his daughter was born, but his family has kept his memory alive and today, Aparajita Acharya is a proud daughter.
Some of those who lost their parents in the Kargil war were adults, some were adolescents, some teenagers, some toddlers, but Aparajita Acharya was not even alive when her father died- she was born three months later. She was born into a world where her father didn't exist, but fortunately for her, his stories did, stories that brought him alive for her and made her love him as deeply as any other daughter would.
"For as long as I remember, I knew my father was no more. There was no particular moment when I realised that I didn't have a father but I always knew him, so much so that even when I was just about seven, I wrote a poem about him in our school magazine," said 17-year old Aparajita, whose father is Major Padmapani Acharya, also a Mahavir Chakra awardee.
Aparajita says that she always gets told that she reminds people of her father, in looks and in behaviour, "I am him and people see him in me."
For as long as I remember, I knew my father was dead. There was no particular moment when I realised that I didn't have a father but I always knew him, so much so that even when I was just about seven, I wrote a poem about him in our school magazine
Aparajita Acharya, Major Padmapani Acharya's daughter
To lose your husband is an indescribable pain, but for a wife six months pregnant with her first child, the pain is almost unimaginable. Aparajita's mother recalls how someone called enquiring about her husband, and when she mentioned that she was his wife, the phone was disconnected. "The lady called twice again but hung up when I picked up the call, I became annoyed, I was wondering who this woman is and why she was calling about my husband. The fourth time finally my mother-in-law picked up and they told her the news, then she sat me down and told me," her mother, Charulatha said.
But the grief-struck house didn't have too long to mourn, a baby was on the way. "Everyone became busy taking care of me, so they had no time to be depressed or sad. I always remember having a happy family, they would always talk about my father, talk about happy memories, they never left even a single stone unturned when it came to keeping me happy and not letting me realise my father wasn't alive," Aparajita recalled.
Smiling at life: Baby Aparajita on her mother Charulatha Acharya's lap. Major Padmapati Acharya's photograph is seen in the background
Aparajita says she has never cried in front of her mother or her other relatives,"My mother has sometimes broken down in front of me, but I never broke down in front of her. They have put in so much effort to never make me feel the absence of my dad in anything, so I don't want to ever make them feel they have failed," the 17-year-old said.
Since she never really knew him, Aparajita doesn't miss her father's presence, but she did feel his absence in various instances of her life. "In school, the ID card would have father's name and mother's name and people would always ask about my dad. I requested that only my mother's name be mentioned, but the school said they couldn't make the exception just for me," she added.
"There was this one time where my friend was going through a bad phase with her dad, we were teenagers then so she used to rebel against her dad and then complain about it. Once I was consoling her and telling her to be more mature about it and she just snapped back at me saying, I didn't have a father and didn't know what it felt like. Such incidents did make me feel bad," Aparajit revealed.
It worries Aparajita that her classmates and peers have no idea about the Kargil War, "We are taught about the World Wars and the Independence wars, the Kargil war was the most recent and yet we are taught nothing about it. I try to do my bit to spread awareness about it in school and even otherwise but more steps should be taken to teach students."
We are taught about the World Wars and the Independence wars, the Kargil war was the most recent and yet we are taught nothing about it. I try to do my bit to spread awareness about it in school and even otherwise but more steps should be taken to teach students
Aparajita Acharya, Major Padmapani Acharya's daughter
She also spoke about how it's hurtful to see people belittling the loss of lives in a war, "Nobody's job profile says you should die for your job. Does it? This generation has to learn how to be more respectful for those who gave up their lives for the country. How many colleges or schools even observe Kargil Vijay Diwas?"
Today, Aparajita is a first-year student at the Symbiosis Law College in Hyderabad. Does she feel like her life would have been any different if her father had been alive? "Well, I guess I would have travelled a lot like other army kids and studied in different schools. But since he wasn't alive, I studied in one school all my life. Maybe I wouldn't have been as close to my grandparents as I am now and maybe in my teenage phase, I would have been a little rebellious too," she says with a giggle.
But the one thing that Aparajita really missed about having a father and something that she really wished would have happened, is for him to have come to pick her up from school. "I would feel bad when fathers came to pick up their kids from school. I've always nursed this wish, that he would come pick me up from school one day. Some day," she said with a lost smile.