Simran Randhawa recalls using a toy phone to make imaginary calls to “talk” to her father, Major Sukhvinder Singh Randhawa, who was killed during an anti-militancy operation in Pulwama in 1997 when she was just 18 months old. Narrating her experience in her book ‘Cost of War’, Simran says it is easy to chant for war and action from the safety of one’s home but there is a price for every victory.
“I wanted to write a book to describe how a child feels after he or she has lost father. War does not just end with fallen soldiers. It also leaves behind the tattered lives of their families,” 26-year-old Simran, currently studying psychology in Canada, said. Her father, Major Randhawa, was awarded Kirti Chakra posthumously after he laid down his life but only after killing two terrorists on June 17, 1997. She was 18 months at that time.
Her mother, Lt Col R J Randhawa, was the first married women officer commissioned in the Army and the credit goes to Ranjana Malik, the then president of the Army Wives Welfare Association, who pursued her case through her husband and then Army chief Gen Ved Prakash Malik. “It was a case closely followed by Ranjana and I had a meeting with the then Raksha Mantri (Defence Minister) Mulayam Singh Yadav, who gave clearance for relaxing the rules and allowing her to be commissioned in the army,” Malik said at the book launch.
In the book, Simran talks about moments of her life where she missed her father and questioned those who indulge in warmongering. “…it is easy to chant for war and action from the safety of your own homes. It is easy to talk about the inaction of the Army or the government when you are looking at a TV screen and not a hail of bullets. “Every time you demand war, think of us. I think we, as a country, sometimes forget that there is a price for every victory. We forget until you pass by a war memorial and see the never-ending names, we forget until you see someone like me cry, and our lives ruined. I think sometimes we forget that there are lives that bleed for each victory,” she writes.
She remembered her visit to the National War Memorial where everyone sees a stone for all the fallen soldiers. “And towards the end you see rows of empty stones, waiting for soldiers to fall. What an ominous sight, to expect more bloodshed. In a way it is practical to have room for more stones, but in every other way, it is utterly heartbreaking,” she said. Having preserved her every single memory, Simran writes that people generally say that children forget with the passage of time. “Well let me tell you something, they don’t. They might not remember details or facts, but they remember how they feel,” she said.
“I remembered the feeling of loss. The feeling of calling out for someone who is just a memory now. I remember using a toy phone to make imaginary calls to papa on some imaginary military base that he is on. “A base that he couldn’t return from or call from. I remember looking at families and just knowing that something was missing…,” she wrote.
Former chief of Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) Lt Gen KJS Dhillon said the book is a feeling of a young girl who felt lucky to be born a premature baby, as that would mean she spent a few more moments in the lap of her soldier father. Former Director General of Military Operations Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia, while complimenting the author, said this not only the cost of war but the “cost of peace” for the nation, paid by the families of soldiers, sailors and air warriors.