Gauri Mahadik, who will be joining the Army as a tribute to her late husband Major Prasad Mahadik, recalls the time she spent with him.
‘One day, I donned his cap to click a selfie. I immediately heard a firm ‘no’ from the background as my husband screamed at me saying ‘I have earned this defense cap and it’s not easy. If you want it, go and earn it’, recalls Gauri Prasad Mahadik, wife of late Major Prasad Mahadik, from her collection of memories.
Gauri heard the dreadful news of losing her husband in a fire incident in Tawang district of Arunachal Pradesh near Indo-China border on December 30, 2017. The incident shook her but also instilled an unwavering determination in her to pay a befitting tribute to her husband by wearing his stars and uniform.
“Rather than crying and mourning over his death, I decided to join the Army. I just thought of having all those stars on my uniform,” says Gauri, adding that she has been used to seeing her husband in uniform that she hasn’t been able to cope with not seeing him around in the uniform.
Theirs was not an extraordinary love story but a regular matrimony union and Gauri had hardly spent one year with him in their four years of relationship. “We found each other through matrimony and met twice. On the second meeting, he asked me ‘will you marry me and I said yes’,” recollects Gauri, who believes that her life has taken a 360-degree turn since she has known Major Prasad Mahadik. Gauri will be enrolling herself in 49-week training at Officers’ Training Academy (OTA) at Chennai and will be inducted into the Army as a Lieutenant in 2020.
A qualified Company Secretary (CS) and law graduate, Gauri left her plum job at a law firm and topped the Service Selection Board (SSSB) exam in the widowed category, which is exempted from the age bar. Now, Gauri is determined to try her level best to shoulder her responsibilities towards the country and the organisation. “I have to carry his white collared image and legacy, one mistake from my end is a black spot on his name and I can’t do that,” she swears confidently.
Losing your partner within two years of marriage can be terrifying and Gauri is no exception. She misses him terribly and his memories often bring tears to her eyes. “I miss him in everything I do, he meant the world to me. But I have to be strong for him, he loved seeing me smile and never would want to see me crying,” she expresses with emotions. Surprisingly, Gauri can be seen donning mangalsutra and a red bindi, an exception to Hindu customs for widows. “So what he died, I have all the rights to wear this. It is my pride and a memory of my husband,” she asserts proudly.
Certainly, society has a lot to contribute over traditions and cultural taboos on a widow but women like Gauri take the first step to break the stereotypes. “Woman’s identity is not just the mangalsutra but it’s her life and how proudly she says that I am a wife of so and so. People, at times, don’t agree with me and they judge me,” she avers.
In those tough times, Gauri reveals that her parents and in-laws have been extremely supportive and they still respect her decision of joining Army. “My mother and mother-in-law are the two progressive women I know. They are very supportive,” she smiles. However, for her mother-in-law she adds, “she was like ‘beta khoya hai, bahu nahi kho sakti (I have lost my son, I can’t lose my daughter-in-law)’. But, both my father and father-in-law appreciated my decision.”
An affectionate fiancé and then wife, Gauri used to record all the calls she would have with her husband and capture all the little moments she would share with him. “He would scold me but I would still do that so that I could listen to his voice when he is on duty away from me. And, see... that all I have now when he isn’t there and is never going to come back,” she expresses.
As they say, God gives his toughest battles to his strongest soldiers, Gauri considers herself an exemplary soldier and stands rock solid to fight the battles of her life ahead. “Probably the god has some different plans for me and maybe there is something good that he had plans to happen through me,” she sighs off.