A decree of fate stole the sunshine from her life way back in 1971 when the enemy reportedly took her 28-year-old husband as a prisoner of war (POW).
But 36 years later, a small ray of hope flickers for Damyanti Tambay, who, along with 14 other relatives of POWs, will spend the next two weeks visiting jails across Pakistan, saying a prayer to be reunited with their loved ones.
Damyanti, 59, who leaves for Pakistan today, told HT, “I want to give myself one last chance. Then I will accept whatever destiny has in store for me.” The Pakistanis shot down Flight Lieutenant Vijay Vasant Tambay’s Sukhoi-7 in the 1971 war. Tambay had told her that he may or may not return. Damyanti recalled how she responded to that, “I reminded him, Vasant, ‘V’ is for victory. Do your best.”
Damyanti was given the Arjuna Award for outstanding performance in badminton, and the sportsperson in her will not give up easily. As part of a six-member delegation, she had visited Pakistan’s Multan jail in September 1983 in search of her husband.
It proved fruitless but her spirit remains hardy. “If Vasant was destined to stay alive, then he will be alive. I have prayed for 36 years. It has never been easy but I have never let hope fly away,” she said.
Damyanti and 14 other relatives of Indian POWs reportedly in Pakistan, met the Defence Minister A.K. Antony on Thursday with the request that the government should help them fix up a meeting with the Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf.
The defence minister assured the relatives that the government would take all possible measures to arrange for such a meeting through the Indian High Commission. The delegation will be visiting several jails in Pakistan including the ones in Karachi, Sukkur, Multan, Sahiwal, Faislabad, Mainwali, Rawalpindi, Swabi, Dargai and Lahore.
It includes relatives of Wing Commander H.S. Gill, Squadron Leader M.K. Jain, Flight Lieutenants R.M. Advani, Sudhir Goswami and M. Purohit, Majors S.P.S. Waraich, A.K. Suri and Kanwaljit Singh, Captains Ravinder Kaura, G.R. Singh and Kalyan Singh Rathod, Subedar Assa Singh and Sepoy Jagir Singh.
The relatives urged Antony to set up a separate department under the defence ministry to deal with issues pertaining to missing defence personnel.
No one knows if they will ever see their loved ones again. A grateful nation can only pray with them. Damyanti asks for nothing more.