Love in the times of war

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Here’s a sweet love story set in the background of the armed forces. And it’s for real, says Rashmi Oberoi, as her parents celebrate five decades of being together.

“Why, darling, I don’t live at all when I’m not with you.”
– Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms

Ihave vivid memories of “Love Is A Many-Splendored Thing” playing in the background… was it Andy Williams or Connie Francis crooning the beautiful number? I don’t remember, but I do know, that song had a powerful effect on me with its emotion invoking lyrics. Love can do that to you and more! There is no greater feeling than falling in love, being wooed and romanced, and each day blossoming into a love that is true and eternal.The bond just strengthens over time and is there to stay. A great love affair bespeaks of an emotional bonding, a physical attraction, a mental connection,unspoken words that mean much more than words, stolen glances, an inner radiance, and so much more.

On the flip side, there are those that ‘fall’ in and out of love at the drop of a hat… proclaiming love for a person with ‘I don’t know what I’d do without you’ one moment and ‘I hate you and want nothing to do with you’ the very next is really not love. The very essence of the word is lost in all this. In my many definitions of love; words like being unselfish, loyal, benevolent, respect, concern hold a meaningful place. And love should be shown…not just said inanely. It is to be felt…to be sensed.

So even in this fast-paced world of ours, where at times it seems as if love has gone flying out of the window…there are also times where you keep the faith and your trust in that one word stays focussed and flourishes into a virtue that exhibits human compassion, kindness, affection and magnanimity. Stories that make you believe in that one word and even if at times, things look bleak, the belief keeps you going and the light at the end of the long, dark tunnel shines through. A story of a brave soldier’s love has instilled in me that conviction.

An eternal love story
I narrate briefly the love story of this brave Indian soldier who was severely wounded during the war with Pakistan in 1965, when he was a captain with just four years’ service. At that time, he was serving in the much troubled Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir with his battalion. On account of the severity of his wounds, his right leg had to be amputated at the Military Hospital, Delhi. Thereafter, he was transferred to Military Hospital, Pune, for another operation and for getting an artificial leg fitted after the wounds had completely healed. The Artificial Limb Centre at Pune is adjacent to the Military Hospital and his stay here was for about nine months.

As per the custom in the armed forces, the better halves do often volunteer to assist in looking after patients in Military hospitals. In the Pune hospital, a very senior and highly respected lady belonging to the officer’s regiment, who herself was the widow of a renowned Army General, used to regularly visit the hospital and especially see this young soldier, as he belonged to the same regiment. Often, she used to be accompanied by her 20-year-old daughter, then studying in college. Although the officer and the young lady had met earlier, before he had lost his leg, it was only during the hospital visits that love blossomed between the two. As the Captain’s amputated leg healed, he started moving on crutches and thus became mobile. This enabled him to visit the young lady’s house often and meet her at the Army Clubs and the RSI on Saturday evenings and watch movies at West End. They were often escorted by another wounded officer who had lost his left leg.

Their fairy tale “Romance on Crutches” was soon the talk of the town. Their whirlwind courtships days are spoken of even today. They shared the ‘Honeymoon Special’ ice-cream at a Kwality ice-cream vendor… wined and dined at 3 Coins and secret rendezvous at ‘Latifs’, to scrumptious Chinese food at Kamlin, their love bloomed. Salim, a crippled beggar, who sat outside ‘Kwality’ and had only the upper part of his body that rested on a flat board with wheels would notice the love-birds and smile at them and give them his blessings…he would be tipped generously, and much later wept with joy when he learnt the couple had got married.

After the young officer was fitted with an artificial leg, his mobility became near normal. He also had no inhibitions about moving around on crutches or with an artificial leg in public; unfortunately, many such physically challenged persons do have such inhibitions. It was perhaps this grit, determination, humour and ‘cool’, coupled with his dash and drive and zest for life, which the young lady admired and fell for.

The Captain had found for himself a lovely person indeed – she was vivacious, an extrovert, fond of the outdoors, extremely sincere and honest, and a balanced person in both head and heart. Although the soldier sometimes wondered whether it would be right to woo a beautiful girl even though her paramour had lost one leg in the war, however, the young lady never displayed any negative feelings on account of this. In any case, the young man used to tell everyone and still does that “disability is never a loss of limb or an organ, but is in the mind itself”. In his own mind, he never wavered from this philosophy and instead took it as a challenge.

The young lady being a Maharashtrian and the Captain a Punjabi, was never a hurdle. The Captain’s parents were highly progressive in their outlook. Hence, there was no hesitancy or opposition from his family. The young lady also came from a modern family with liberated views. Her father was the scion of a well-known and reputed Maratha family from the erstwhile State of Kolhapur. Her mother was a Muslim lady, also from Kolhapur, belonging to the famous Polomaster family. Theirs too was a love marriage that started with love-notes being left for each other, hidden in the cycle bells. They had eloped and got married when she was studying medicine at Lady Harding College, New Delhi. News of them running away and secretly getting married had made headlines in the newspapers, way back in the 1930s.

This paean is for Daulat and Capt. Vijay (who later rose to be a Lt. General in the Indian Army). Now, as happy grandparents of three teenaged grandchildren from two daughters, theirs is a testimony of the success of a marriage built on a foundation of undiluted love, mutual respect and devotion towards each other. Such love is hard to find.

They recently celebrated 50 years of togetherness. I wonder if there has ever been even a single day in my life when I have felt less proud or more blessed with parents who have been in love each day of their lives…



Rashmi-Oberoi

Rashmi Oberoi

As an army officer’s daughter, Rashmi Oberoi was lucky to travel and live all over India, as also a few years in Malaysia and U.S.A. Keenly interested in writing for children, she wrote two story books – My Friends At Sonnenshine, which was published in 1999 by Writer’s Workshop, Kolkata, India and Cherie: The Cocker Spaniel, which was published in 2009 by the same publishers. For a few years she moved into the corporate world of HR but her love for writing took precedence, and she pursued her passion by writing articles and middles for newspapers, print and online magazines, including a children’s magazine abroad.

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