Of the 20 years of her existence, Tuisha Singh has not spent more than six years with her father, who is in the army. She goes to the nearby Tambaram Cantt, to roll around on a fauji bench in a fauji park, every time she feels homesick.
Giving voice to poignant stories of Tuisha and other women as part of a special series called ‘Defence Daughters’, Facebook page, ‘Veterans of India-Stories’ has been documenting humbling anecdotes from fauji kids, that will touch a chord with every army kid, and every body else.
Expressing themselves as proud daughters of defence personnels, the page has compiled poignant anecdotes, childhood fears and funny adventures of these fauji kids.
The series is also a reminder of how army kids come with their own set of baggage – having to shift cities every few months, having to subconsciously posit yourself as “strong” and tearing up over letters sent from across the border.
Sonakshi Mehta was presumed dead, after her mother’s pregnancy fell in trouble from the stress of the news that her husband might have been dead.
Sonakshi’s father was part of the contingent performing peacekeeping operation in Sri Lanka.
“The baby was technically dead for two days. On the third day she went to get the baby removed. But, I was back. The faintest heartbeat was present. They say that I am lucky for my dad, but I think it is the other way around,” she writes.
What began as a project inspired in part by the popular, ‘Humans of New York’ Facebook page, this series is a part of ‘Veterans of India- Stories’ (VOIS), a page that aims to document stories from defence veterans about their experiences.
Nachiket Pande, the creator of the page is an army kid himself.
“My dad served in the army for 25 years and as a kid hearing his stories was mesmerizing,” he says.
As a kid coming from a defence background, I was always excited by these army stories about what happens in the field, and how is life there, compelling stories about insurgency, militancy, cross border firing.Nachiket Pande, Page Creator
Rendering a human face to the otherwise stern, in command, and disciplined image that one holds of army men, this page has since November, touched upon several emotions of these veterans.
From near-death experiences on the battlefield, to operating on soldiers in the ‘71 war, to a plethora of powerful emotions during the passing out parade, the page captures the poignant and the grotesque, the blood-chilling and the soul-stirring.
The month Pande thought of curating these stories, the war of words between the government and army veterans over the One Rank One Pension scheme (OROP) had gained prominence.
“Their respect and honour was being questioned,” he says and adds quickly, “I felt there was a need to find out a way to help reinstate that honour and give them the respect they deserve,” he said in an interview with The Bayside Journal.
Some of the stories, therefore, came from Jantar Mantar, where army veterans had staged protests in connection with the raging debate over OROP.
The page in its own way has been working towards identifying, recognising and humanising stories of unsung war heroes, who more often than not live in the caves of anonymity.