Gopi was warm, affectionate, a great dad and a caring husband, whenever he could be physically around. Though it was my dream come true to be an Army Officer’s wife, the long separations, weird schedules and at times not being able to even converse with him on the phone when he was away on field postings, had taken its toll. I maintained that ‘his work was his first love’ while he insisted that ‘while his work was his passion, I was his life’.
“Playing with words as always, Gopi?” I accused him once again as I made my way to my parents’ place in Kerala, while he headed to the Valley. I was due to go into labour any day with our second child. However much I whined on the surface I knew that he too wanted to be with me in this delicate phase but that it was not possible.
And so began the contrast in which the way we led our lives.
While I lived in complete calm as I occupied myself to pass my time waiting for the new arrival, Gopi led his team from one operation into another fighting insurgents and terrorists.
We both knew that the nature of his work was substantially toned down before it reached my ears.
One fine afternoon the pain began. My parents informed Gopi that they were taking me to the nursing home, only to get replies in monosyllables. This was strange but given the difficult environment he was in and the delicate nature of his work they understood and did not press him with questions, they anyway had me to deal with. “You did not even ask for me, Gopi? I am tired of being the one who has to understand all the time!” I grumbled as I struggled as another wave of labour pain shook me. “You should be here, holding my hands,” I screamed yet again in the grip of another shooting pain.
However, within an hour after I was admitted Gopi’s calls started coming in, every 20 minutes to be precise. He would speak to the doctor to know the status of my labour, or to my parents enquiring whether I was much distressed, but mostly he asked to speak to me.
Though none of his calls lasted more than a minute or two he did help me greatly in braving those menacing 36 hours, at times whispering sweet little nothings from our pasts, and at other time urging me with “You are strong, my Rani Laxmibai.” I wanted a girl and in one of his calls he said, ‘My queen, your days are numbered, for after the arrival of my princess she will definitely be my Numero Uno!’
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I remembered that the telephone line was extremely disturbed and every now when my pain was a little less I would ask if it was raining there. He would skirt the issue and redirect the conversation to my part of the world.
After 36 hours of difficult labour and about a hundred odd calls from him, he was finally congratulated on being the proud father of his little princess.
“I told you it will be a girl.”
I could feel the pride and happiness in his voice and really wished that he was there with me…us.
As if sensing my thoughts he suddenly said, “I so wanted to be there Vani.” I knew he meant every word of what he had said.
It was only the next day that I realised that the ‘disturbance’ over the phone was not rains; it was the sound of guns and shelling. Gopi was leading an operation where they had to extricate six terrorists who were hiding in a villager’s house. His operation lasted for 36 hours too. Gopi was awarded the Gallantry award for this operation.
He flew down to Kerala when he could. One evening I asked him, “I would have understood Gopi, even had you not called.”
He said, “Vani, the situation there was in control. My moves were planned and bearing results. I had to know of my other part too, whether the most important person of my life was doing okay!”
Now what had I said earlier about ‘the army life taking its toll….?’ Please strike it out. If I had to pick a hundred times over, I would only settle for Gopi.