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Martyrs’ widows turn officers to begin new life

Widows of two soldiers who died in the line of duty, turned a new leaf in their lives by becoming officers themselves.

india Updated: Sep 09, 2017 22:05 IST
Rahul Singh
Rahul Singh
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Martyrs' widows,Women army officers,Lieutenant Swati Madhok
Lieutenant Swati Mahadik and Lieutenant Nidhi Dubey, widows of martyrs who became officers themselves on Saturday.(HT PHOTO)

Three hundred and twenty-two cadets passed out of Chennai-based Officers’ Training Academy as new lieutenants on Saturday. But two of them were extra special.

What sets Lieutenants Swati Mahadik and Nidhi Dubey apart is that they are widows of soldiers who died on duty. Swati lost her husband, Colonel Santosh Mahadik, in an anti-terror operation in Kashmir in 2015. Nidhi’s husband, Naik Mukesh Kumar Dubey, died in service in 2008.

Colonel Mahadik was posthumously awarded the Shaurya Chakra – India’s third-highest peacetime gallantry award - for spectacular bravery that saved the lives of several men under his charge.

“It’s a mixed feeling. I wish I could go back to my old life with Santosh around. But that’s not possible. So I tell myself donning the uniform is the easiest way for me to be close to him,” Swati told HT from Chennai.

The first thing she did after the passing out parade was to take her children, Kartikee (12) and Swaraj (7), out for a meal. “I wanted to spend time with the kids. They said I reminded them of their father in the uniform,” said the 38-year-old.

Lieutenant Swati Madhok with her two children. (HT PHOTO)

Nidhi Dubey is 32. Cadets join the academy in the 20 to 25 age group, but rules are relaxed for army widows.

Lieutenant Dubey’s brother, Neelesh Mishra, hoped his sister would inspire army widows who think life is over for them after losing their husbands.

“Look at Nidhi, she’s an officer now. For us, nothing can be more inspiring,” Mishra said.

An exhaustive account of Colonel Mahadik’s courage has been documented in India’s Most Fearless, an upcoming book from Penguin authored by this correspondent and news website Livefist editor-in-chief Shiv Aroor.

In the book, Major Pravin Kumar, who was part of the operation with Colonel Mahadik, reveals details of the mission hitherto unknown.

“While Col Mahadik was being airlifted to Srinagar, I received a call from his wife. She had already heard,” remembers Major Kumar, then adjutant at 41 Rashtriya Rifles headquarters. “Her question still haunts me: ‘Zinda rahenge ya nahi rahenge? Bas itna bata do’ (Will he live or not? Just tell me that).”

“She called again a short while later. This time, she asked me how many rounds had hit her husband. I mustered my strength to inform her that he had taken 7 bullets. She hung up the phone.”

“The 40-km runs can be very difficult. I couldn’t cope with the training initially. But then I would think of Santosh’s sacrifice and get inspired, and my course-mates were very supportive too,” said Swati, recalling how a buddy lady cadet would massage her feet after cross-country runs.

First Published: Sep 09, 2017 21:02 IST