It was a day soaked in tears for all of us at Nineteen. Forwarding a tribute written by one of our unit daughters…..

This time it’s hit too close to home.

I’m suddenly just taken back to when we were in Gurdaspur. Us kids creating havoc and crashing Ashutosh Uncle’s house more often than anybody else’s. I’m transported back to the times when he pulled pranks on us bacchas of 19 and just everyone else in the unit. Whether it was throwing a bucket full of water on Vilas uncle or scaring us by cutting off the power while we were inside his house. Oh man, the stories are endless. He spoiled us like no one else. I’m sure I’m speaking for everyone. There wasn’t a single second in a party or any other gathering when he didn’t have the wittiest, funniest jokes rolled up his sleeves. He single-handedly was the life of all dinners and the wonderful get-togethers. And he loved our company. Hanging around with the kids was something he utterly enjoyed or at least he made us believe that he did.

I met him later when I was no longer the ‘junglee’ (courtesy Geetika Aunty) kid and was just finishing school. He was still the same old Ashutosh uncle, making us all laugh our asses off, telling me stories about Dau which Dau otherwise would have never shared himself. Being slightly inclined towards photography, I was in awe when I visited his house in Bhopal, full of marvellous photographs he’d clicked over the years. Splendid photographs. He was bloody brilliant at it.

We’d grown up seeing Ashutosh uncle and Pallavi Aunty constantly pulling each other’s legs while also making sure that they’re inseparable. They loved each other ardently. This time around I got to meet his daughter and boy was she loved. My heart aches when I write about him in the past tense. Gut-wrenching, heartbreaking, devastating, terrifying – no words can explain what all of us are going through right now, what Aunty must be going through right now. I just wish the Raising Day could’ve happened this year. All of us would’ve gone back to the place where it all started, for me at least. I wish we could ask him to share more hilarious stories of our fathers. I wish we could witness him effortlessly making our mothers laugh like always. Oh how I wish we could see him one last time, there was so much to learn from him still.

I’ve never dealt with such a personal loss ever. 19 has always been my family, the one I literally grew with and Ashutosh uncle was unquestionably a HUGE part of that family. A man of ethics. While in uniform, he was one of the most dedicated, indefatigable officers and it’s an irreplaceable loss, not just for us but for the entire Armed Forces. When our fathers were out in the fields, we would worry about each of them, because that’s just what families do. It’s just too terrible to hear the news of him passing away, his picture being broadcasted everywhere. It’s almost unreal, this entire thing. I can’t stop crying. None of us can.

I wish we could all just meet in the Gurdaspur mess for one last time, immaturely wish ‘good evening’ to all the uncles and aunties, dance around like fools in that huge ass garden, indulge in our super chef, Harphool Singh Bhaiya’s desserts and just BE there. Right there, surrounded by the members of 19. Surrounded by the strongest most valued people I know. Ones who made us feel so loved and protected. The people I’m extremely proud to call my family.

I’m sure Simmy is there wagging her tail, waiting for you. Rest in peace, Ashutosh uncle. We love you and we terribly miss you already, Uncle. You’ll forever be beautifully engraved in our hearts and memories. We are so PROUD of you and will always be. Rest in peace all the martyrs. We’re forever indebted to your service.

Love,
The Bacchas of 19

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