A year ago, she had bent towards his coffin and whispered ' I love you' in his ears. Today, she is ready to don the same uniform that her husband sacrificed his life for.
Nikita Kaul Dhoundiyal, the widow of Major Vibhuti Dhoundial, has cleared her Short Service Commission (SSC) exam and interview, and is now waiting for the merit list.
Sitting at her in-laws’ house in Dehradun, she says, “I filled the SSC form six months after Vibhu's martyrdom. It was my way to heal. When I wrote the exam and gave the interview, I could feel what he would have felt when he wrote his SSC. I connected with him, his fears and his anxiety. Somehow that gave me strength.”
Major Vibhuti Dhoundial, posted with 55 RR, was martyred on February 17, 2019 in an encounter with terrorists in Pulwama. He was 35. The 20-hour gun battle had claimed the life of three other soldiers.
When his coffin, wrapped in the tricolour, came home to Dehradun, people lined up on the streets to pay homage to the young soldier. But little had anyone known that his widow, who had that day saluted her husband and asked people take inspiration from him, would walk the talk.
"I took time. I first needed to accept what had happened. Vibhu was very progressive. He wanted me to do better than him. So whenever I had any anxiety or doubt about my decision to join the Indian Army, I would close my eyes and think about what Vibhu would do. He was instrumental in my decision to join the army," Nikita said.
The army relaxes the age limit for war widows if they want to join the service, but the selection process remains as tough as it is for others.
"I worked very hard to qualify. Now I want to excel in the one year of training. I want to be an officer who everyone can be proud of, Vibhu can be proud of."
Nikita currently works with a Noida-based MNC but will be quitting soon to join the Officers Training Academy in Chennai. What she will miss there the most is her husband's cupboard which still has his uniform, his lip balm, his lighter and even his tooth brush.
"The interview board asked me how long I was married. I said, ‘two years’. They said, ‘But we heard you both were married for nine months…’. I said, ‘Vibhu is not here physically but that doesn't mean our marriage has ended’."
Nikita had met Major Vibhuti Dhoundial while she was doing her MBA. This is all she is willing to say about her love story.