Friends, relatives, colleagues and total strangers joined C. Manjula as she organised a function in memory of her son Flight Lieutenant K.Praveen, Shaurya Chakra who lost his life last year in Uttarakhand

Nothing can take away the pain of C.Manjula who lost her only child, Flight Lieutenant K.Praveen, in a chopper crash in Uttarakhand on June 25 last year. “The mourning of a mother never ends,” she said while receiving guests at the P.T.Rajan Hall on June 30. It was her birthday but she planned the day for her son. His 28th birth anniversary falls on July 7.

The venue for high profile marriages was packed with people invited by Manjula who booked this hall because she had always dreamt of conducting her son’s marriage at this venue. But destiny had other plans.

“I have lived these past 12 months with tearful memories. Today, I will not cry,” she said. Emotions of loss and longing are not easy to conquer. Ever since the phone call that brought news of her son’s death during a rescue mission, Manjula has lived through different layers of pain. It took her more than six months to get back to her work as a Superintendent in the Railways. And even today, she says, she sometimes goes about her daily activities in a fog of pain.

Death ends a life. But it cannot end a relationship that the survivor continues to keep. As a mother, Manjula holds onto the most beautiful and precious relationship and tries to find comfort and acceptance in memories. “Sight and touch will never be ours again,” she says, “but when we celebrate his life, we see him in motion.”

Manjula had brought along Praveen’s belongings. From his childhood drawings to class notebooks, autograph diaries and slam books, personal notes and letters to his certificates and degrees, every cup and trophy that he won, his badges and medals of honours, his IAF uniform, shoes, belts and caps, the keyboard he played, his photographs and newspaper clippings – every item was displayed to the visitors to tell them something about Praveen.

“I find him here, just the way he left us,” she said, adding, “he could have done so much more, that is why I want the youth and children to be motivated by his life.” People, young and old, went past the mini exhibition that told the story of a young man who lost his life in the service of the nation. The top brass from different fields and professions including the Post Master General Madurai circle, the Divisional Railway Manager (Southern Railways), the Deputy Commissioner of Police, Madurai, bank managers, Praveen’s school and college teachers and flying officers from Barrackpore – everybody responded to Manjula’s invitation.

Welcoming the visitors and mingling with them, Manjula said, “It is Praveen’s function and he is watching. All those who have come either on invitation or voluntarily have come to keep his memory alive. “My heart fills with pride when people mention his name.” she said.

The three hour programme went on without a glitch with people paying tribute to Praveen’s achievements and his mother’s courage. More than two dozen of his teachers and 80 students who are rank holders in the class X and XII board exams were honoured on the occasion.

At the end of the function she provided a hearty meal to all those who came. Manjula had been planning and working for this function for the past 12 months. “Now I do not know what I will do from tomorrow,” she said.

There are many moments when she wants to go back in time and hold her son’s hand again. May be she has to slowly learn to think about what else she can do keep Praveen’s memories alive.

(Making a difference is a fortnightly column about ordinary people and events that leave an extraordinary impact on us. E-mail soma.basu@thehindu.co.in to tell her about someone you know who is making a difference)