“Mishti wake up ! It’s 7:30 already. We’re really short of time” I shouted the third time to wake her up.
“Mummaaaa … Only 5 minutes” she spoke in her garbled and sleepy voice.
“No more 5 minutes. Get up right now. You’ve a competition Mishti ! You want to look good right !” I came near to the bedside and lifted my 4 years old daughter in my arms.
Hearing this she got up immediately and snuggled close to me and said “yaa Mumma … I’ll be a soldier.” Her sweet voice echoed in the room.
Mishti had a fancy dress competition in her school and she decided to be a soldier. I was running really late. For Mishti’s competiton, I took an off from my office and decided to ferry her to school in our car. On occasions like these, I believe being a single mother is an extremely difficult job. To me, this did not came by choice, but by chance.
I was twenty three when Iqbal and I got married. He was an officer in the Indian Army. Even before my marriage, army soldiers never failed to amaze me for the kind of life they live, away from home away from family. Iqbal was one of them. One day when my Dad introduced me to Iqbal , I knew that this introduction was not all I was going to share with Iqbal. Indeed, I felt a deeper connection. And later, by the end of the same year, Iqbal proposed me to which I could not say no. I was a simple girl with simple dreams. I never thought of having an extraordinary life instead I always wanted to have a normal life like any other girl would dream of. A loving family and a decent paying job, that was all I wanted before I met Iqbal. They say, love changed everything and truly love changed my perception about life. Even though I was well aware of the fact that Iqbal would not be able to give me so much time, I still couldn’t resist falling in love with him. Iqbal was on a reputed post so he used to stay 6 months with us and 6 months on the border.
“Khirad, I won’t be able to give you all my time and you know that. My duty doesn’t allow that. I want you to think twice before saying yes to me. You will have other options, who would probably give you more time than me. I would say, think about it, take some time and then answer.” Iqbal said to me while he was proposing me on the India Gate, bent on his one knee and holding a ring in his hand. To his status, he was quite romantic. His voice was something I could never say No to.
Finally, he could not dodge the apprehensions anymore and we got married. Immediately after that, he had to leave. The initial one year was really difficult for both of us as we were actually learning to live like that. We have had our share of time too but that did not last for very long. Two years after our marriage, I got the news that Iqbal died during a bomb squad operation. The team could not save him. I was in the labour ward when the news reached us. Mom didn’t tell me as my pregnancy was already complicated and she did not want to distress me before the delivery. Doctors had to make innumerable cuts in my body to get Mishti into this world. Mishti was in my arms when I got to know that I lost Iqbal. The blood froze inside my nerves and my mind went blank. I thought I would call Iqbal and would give him the news myself. But I guess I got Late, or instead, he was in a hurry to leave. I did not cry and I did not lose my calm. This won’t be true to say that I did not feel any pain. It pained a lot. I felt as if a part of me died with him. But I knew I had to live for this little life in my arms. Had it not been for Mishti, I would have been dead by then.
“God’s plans are better than ours,” my mom said and cried.
“Iqbal is in a better world” I replied with a poker face and kissed Mishti. I had nothing to complain about. After all, I chose this life willingly.
Coming back, Mishti had a fancy dress competition today and she chose to be an Army officer. I arranged for the Army dress for her. However, she insisted on wearing her father’s Army cap. Although it was lost on her tiny spherical head when she demanded (like her father) I could not say no to her. She is as stubborn as her father. We reached the school on time. I rushed out of the car with Mishti and went into the rehearsal area to the back of which green room was there. I got Mishti ready and gave her the cap too. But while she was rehearsing the cap kept on Falling from her head.
“Mishti don’t let the cap fall okay! Be very careful. It’s papa’s blessing to you” I told her and she happily lifted up the cap and wore it again. All through the rehearsals, she made sure that she did not let the cap fall.
“Be ready kids. We’re going to start okay! Wish you all the best. Go super confident.” Naina ma’am, Mishti’s class teacher came and announced.
Mishti looked very cute in the army dress with her tiny ponytail hanging from her head over which she was wearing Iqbal’s cap with such affection.
Minutes later, the lights went on as I sat in the audience watching the show. One by one the kids performed. Some of them became cricketers, while some became angels. Most of them became superheroes. However, Mishti was the only one in the army dress. Perhaps, what she and I can feel about the army nobody else can. Even though Mishti was too tiny to Understand the importance of the army dress and the cap she was wearing. She has worn it only because she would look like her father and truly she was looking like Iqbal.
Now it was Mishti’s turn. She walked up to the stage with her tiny legs and came under the spotlight.
“Hello everyone ! My name is Mishti and I’m a soldier today, just like my Dad. Mumma has given me this cap. It is my papa’s cap, see !!” Mishti said and as she jumped in excitement to make the audience see her cap, the cap fell down from her head.
“Oops! I did it again. Sorry Mumma” Mishti said, Immediately forgetting about the performance. Her face dropped down. For a second the auditorium fell silent but then her class teacher clapped and along with her the audience clapped too.
The smile returned to her face and she wore the cap again.
“Mumma says this is papa’s blessing. I love you, papa ! Bring some chocolates when you come back! Jai Hind” she spoke everything impromptu whatever came from her heart. I was sitting there and smiling. How would Iqbal felt if he would have been here? The auditorium burst into a thunderous applaud and Mishti came running to me.
Winning or losing was not something I was concerned about. Rather, it was the joy of her performance which was overwhelming for me.
I looked at her and felt so proud.
“I have my Iqbal even today,” I said and looked at Mishti with a smile.