Moms in combat boots

Fighting spirit Swati Mahadik

Fighting spirit Swati Mahadik  


Swati Mahadik and Nidhi Mishra Dubey see both closure and purpose in life through a career in the armed forces, as they prepare to become officers in the Indian Army. They say that they can’t think of a better way to keep the memory of their husbands alive

“It was not just an emotional decision,” says Swati Mahadik about joining the army. “As I accompanied my husband’s body from Kupwara to Satara, there was just one thought in my head: ‘I want to wear his uniform; when I look in the mirror, I want to see him there.’”

Colonel Santosh Mahadik, a highly decorated officer with a Shaurya Chakra and a Sena Medal, who was ambushed and killed in action, left behind Swati and their two children. The initial emotional reaction to her husband’s death turned into quiet determination and Swati applied for special permission to join the army, which was granted. If she cleared the Service Selection Board interview, she would be the first woman to join the Indian Army as an officer at the age of 37. Swati cleared the interview and will be reporting to the Officers’ Training Academy (OTA)soon.

Pradeep Brahmankar, a retired lieutenant colonel from the Army, in whose Academy, Apex Careers in Pune, Swati trained, said he was moved to admiration when he first met her. “Here was a lady whose husband was killed in November 2015 and she was in my office in February, asking to be trained to appear for the SSB. She joined us on February 22. Despite the fact that, during training, Swati would often be distracted, our team saw the potential in her. I could tell she is mentally very strong.”

What made her want to join the Army? “When I was with Santosh, I often felt that there was not enough time to do the things I wanted to do. The days just flew by. But, after him, each day felt like a year. I had seen the disciplined life of the Army and I wanted to get that life. Compared to the emotional pain I have experienced, I know the physical pain I may have to undergo in the army is nothing. I needed something to live for. I was ready for anything. It was okay if I made it, and it did not matter if I didn’t.”

Swati grew up in a village climbing trees, playing kho kho and doing yoga, so says she was not intimidated by physical challenges. But when she decided she to join the army, few people supported her. “Most of them asked me ‘Why do you need to go?’ There were just a handful who told me to go right ahead and that I had their support no matter what.” Swati says her daughter, who is now 11 years old, was confident her mom would make it. Her son, who is much younger, does not yet understand his mother’s new role. “All he knows is that he will join me after a year when he starts reading well. He is already practising that.” Swati will have to leave her kids behind as she trains to be an officer.

At 29, Nidhi Mishra Dubey is nearly 10 years younger than Swati. She lost her husband who was a Naik in the Mahar Regiment. When he died Nidhi was pregnant with their son. When Nidhi learnt that there was provision in the Army for the widows of armed personnel to join the forces, she decided to apply. “I saw how helpful the faujis were when my husband was ailing. I liked the camaraderie in the army. I have great respect for the vardi (uniform), as my father also wears one as he is in the police.” Fortunately for Nidhi, many things colluded in her favour, most of all the help and encouragement she received from the Army. R. Vinayak a retired Brigadier, who helped her out with her family pension, says how he was struck by Nidhi’s determination. “She had already applied unsuccessfully four times, but she kept at it.”

Finally, in her fifth and final attempt, with some mentoring from the Brigadier, Colonel Diwanji who also runs a training centre in Indore, and Colonel M.P. Singh who was the Group Testing Officer at the Mahar Regimental Centre, Sagar, Nidhi made it to the merit list of the SSB in May 2016. “She fared extremely well in the SSB rankings,” says Brigadier Vinayak.

Nidhi also says she is no stranger to hardship and she doesn’t fear the physical rigours of a soldier’s life. A lot of her decision to join the army was also fuelled by her determination to ensure her son joins the army as well. “All along, I have been encouraged, supported and cheered on by the faujis,” she says, “So this is the best possible thing I can do.” She reiterates that she achieved her goal because of her parents’ and brother’s unstinting support. “I couldn’t have done it without them,” she says. Nidhi will also leave her son behind at her parents’, as she readies herself to don the uniform and report at OTA in early October, along with Swati Mahadik.

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Printable version | Dec 12, 2019 11:49:36 AM |

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