Born and raised in Delhi, I had a big social circle with many friends. After completing my studies, I worked briefly and got married in 1985. I moved to Ghaziabad with my husband and ever since, it has been home. In 1986, we welcomed Samir in our lives and he became the epicenter of my world. I remember keeping a small diary with me to record his activities throughout the day. He was very active and there was so much to write about him! He was a versatile student, sharp and intelligent. My house is full of certificates of his achievements. In fact, one day I asked him to arrange all his certificates and documents properly in a folder. He did that and wrote his name in large fonts. My younger son, Sushant, idealized Samir. Their bonding as brothers was unparalleled. They never fought, which surprised me sometimes. Such was their understanding and love. Like me, Sameer too had many friends. He had a knack of making people comfortable around him.
When my boys were in school, we went to Amritsar during a vacation. While witnessing the Beating Retreat ceremony at Wagah Border, Samir was inspired by enthusiasm of the soldiers and a cheering crowd. It left such an indelible impact on him that he started preparing for Defense Services and in Class 12th, he appeared for the NDA exam. After his board results were out, the NDA merit list was announced and he had made it to the Academy. He also cleared SSB. There was a retired Colonel of the Indian Army who we knew and Samir went to him for advice. He said,” Either become a fighter pilot or join the Army”.
When he came back, he said, “Mummy, I will be a fighter pilot.”
Like a concerned mother, I asked him to keep filling more entrance forms. And like an obedient child, Samir studied and prepared for all the exams in which I wanted him to appear. One day, when I entered his room, I saw him staring at the ceiling with a book open in front of him. He was so lost that he didn’t realize I am standing there.
“What are you looking at?”, I asked.
“Mummy, I feel like I am flying…”, he whispered.
I closed his book and said, “Fly first and then when you come down, study again.”
He insisted,” I know where I have to go and what I have to do. Why lose focus of my dream?” I understood that his aim is clear.
He chased his dream and joined NDA. In 2008, he got commissioned as a Pilot. When he wore his uniform, I cannot express the joy my husband and I felt. He was the first member of the family to have ever joined the Defense Services, let alone the history that he had created by becoming a fighter pilot.
Once when we were in Gwalior, we went to see the technical area. It was also the time for Samir’s sortie and an officer ushered us to the runway so that we could see him. That was the first time I saw him flying. I still remember the name of his aircraft – Mirage 142, because this is also our house number in Ghaziabad. It felt as if he was home. That’s how much he loved what he did. He got married to Garima in 2016 and we were a happy family, satisfied with what God had bestowed upon us. Our fondness for each other overwhelmed me sometimes and Sameer used to pull my leg, saying,” my mother can cry over anything, anytime. Sacred rivers flow from her eyes”, and I used to tell him that tears of happiness are truly sacred.
Little did I know that they wouldn’t last long.
On 1st February 2019, I was at a friend’s place when I received a call from Samir’s course mate. He spoke slowly, “Aunty, can you come to Bangalore? Samir has met with an accident.” They were posted in Bangalore then. On hearing this, I immediately left for home. I didn’t want to think of any unbearable truth turning into a reality. When I reached home, people had started gathering outside. We had lost him in a crash.
Everyone in the family knew but I kept asking if Samir is okay. I asked them to switch on the TV but nobody did. I packed a lot of clothes in my suitcase and said to everyone,” I will come back only when he’s absolutely fine.” No one said a word. I think they knew that I was living in a state of denial. What I could see written on everyone’s face, I didn’t want to hear in words.
It is only when we reached Bangalore and saw his course mates waiting to receive us, I was forced to face the reality. I insisted that we take him to Ghaziabad one last time. The same home where we welcomed him the first time. We have dedicated a room to Samir’s belongings and photographs. I sit there for hours and cherish all the time we had together. His certificate folder still has his name clearly written in big fonts and I recall every incident that I wrote in my diary, while pages have given in to the vagaries of weather. Sometimes I wonder why do I remember such small details about him? Is it because I had to lose him so soon and live with his memories?
When Samir went to NDA, I was asked how could I allow my child to join the Defense Services. They said it is dangerous and risky. But every scripture says that life and death are always in the hands of God. No human can alter anyone’s time on earth. And in an unknown fear, I couldn’t have held my son back from catching his dreams. Both my boys did what they wanted to. Samir became a Fighter Pilot while Sushant chose to be a Fashion Designer. Absolutely different professions but same passion!
I strongly believe that as a mother it was my duty to let my children do what they wanted to do in life. If Samir was to be with us for such a short time, the only thing that makes me smile is that I let him touch the sky, and I don’t regret it.