By Gaurav Sharma
Who can deny that an army man’s life is tough? Most of us ‘struggle’ hard serving customers and bosses in our routine jobs, all the while cribbing and cringing over light drizzles of petty rebukes showered by the immediate superiors.
At the other end of the spectrum, there is a league of men, an incomparable class of individuals who do not think twice about laying their life for a higher purpose. To them, serving the country comes as naturally as worship to the devout.
The Indian army has men of extraordinary courage who deal with most unpredictable, harrowing circumstances with the utmost precision and élan, always with minimal fuss. The true worth of deep and profound words such as sacrifice, honor and prestige are known only by those who have experienced a sense of higher belonging.
Lieutenant Colonel Sankalp Kumar belonged to such a coterie of great men. At the same time he ‘transcended’ greatness through the unalloyed devotion towards his Matri-Bhumi. It would be quite apt to proclaim him as a lion among lions.
Almost ten years before he was martyred by militants during a fidayeen attack in Uri in December 2014, 35-year-old Kumar had braved a similar terror attack in Srinagar. He managed to fight out the injuries, with fragments of AK-47 bullets still lodged inside his stomach.
The horrific terror encounter did not stymie Kumar’s enthusiasm one bit. In fact, the incident served only to boost his warrior spirits. While most men would have dropped their plans of even entering Kashmir after such an incident, Kumar voluntarily asked for a field posting in Valley. Duty held paramount importance in Kumar’s life.
In an emotional interview to NewsGram, Priya Shukla, Kumar’s wife said, “He had an insurmountable sense of duty towards his country. No one could stop him from performing his duty.
There were times when he was suffering from painstaking physical ailments, but when the call to serve the country came, for Sankalp everything took a backseat.”
Apart from his overwhelming drive to protect the border, Kumar was also a family man. He is survived by two lovely, beautiful daughters, Manna and Shana.
“Whenever he would come back home, Sankalp made sure that he spent valuable time with the family. He cooked for the girls, took them out for cycling and swimming and watched cartoons with them. It was like he became a child with the girls,” Priya said.
Sankalp’s teary-eyed parents admired their son’s sense of responsibility towards everything, be it the nation, the family or a stranger on the streets.
“What Sankalp has endowed upon us in 10 years, no child can give in a lifetime,” his father S.K Shukla told NewsGram.
A few days after the terrible tragedy struck the Shukla family, Kumar’s mortal remains were consigned to flames with military honours. A 48-round gun salute with 16 military rifles was sounded at the cremation site.
Afterwards, Kumar’s home state, Jharkhand announced a meager ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh as compensation for the martyred soldier’s family.
Although no amount of money can ‘compensate’ for the loss that the Shukla family has suffered, the ex-gratia amount is a disgrace to the glorification of a martyr who was so passionate about protecting people from terrorists. It is in no way close, forget in line with the sacrifice and the services rendered by Kumar.
It is shameful and utterly disrespectful that an army officer should be ‘commemorated’ with such a slap on the face.
It has just widened the void for Sankalp’s wife and kids. The abundance of senseless rules in the country make life miserable not only for the civilians but also leave an indelible mark on the lives of the family of defense officers.
The ex-gratia compensation by the Central government for martyred soldiers is not too respectable either. An amount of Rs 10-15 lakh for those killed in enemy action and border skirmishes hardly does justice to the lifelong ordeal the family of the martyred officer suffers. If anything, it adds is insult to injury.
The plight of widowed wives and bereaved parents do not stop there. The wife and kids of Kumar have to leave the government housing accorded to them within a short span of 3 years.
“Earlier, there were no issues of security. The girls have been used to living within the army quarters. Now we have to quickly move into civilian housing. I am really scared for the safety of the girls,” says Priya.
Indeed, making such a rapid transformation with no support calls for an immense level of mental strength. However, the loss of a husband and a father is not something one can hope to recuperate from in a jiffy.
Priya still has not gathered the will to open Kumar’s belongings–his kindle, laptop, mobile-phone, shaving-kit, among other things, are lying locked in a box. She is unable to open Kumar’s memorabilia for some unknown fear.
Manna and Shana sleep with their heads on Kumar’s pillow, comforting themselves through the lingering scent of their father.
Each night before going to sleep, Manna prays, “God please send my father for the night. You can call him in the morning for duty.”
The deprivation of one’s father at such a young age would shatter the will of most people. But Kumar’s girls are no ordinary children. Like their father, Manna and Shana are strong and resilient and brim with zest for life.
Both girls want to become fashion designers in the future.
Kumar’s wife is now the bulwark of the family. Still trying to come to grips with the tragedy, she constantly reminds herself of Kumar’s love, something that will put everything into place.
The world we live in does not offer us the solace of time to heal our wounds. Even as Kumar’s family tries to find their place in the outside world, memories of Kumar will have to find their appropriate place as well.
Although the vacuum can never be filled, perhaps love can be the soothing balm or the anodyne for annihilating the darkness of isolation.
This cannot be brought in better perspective than Priya’s own words: To heal means to surrender to love…I will be healed because I have been truly loved.