"I was in Class 9 and it was a dull Geography period. I desperately wanted to fill my lungs with fresh air. My prayers were answered when the peon arrived with a register and a serious mien. After all, he had important news in his hands. The teacher announced a shooting competition. There was excitement in the air and anxious moments and twitters all around.
I participated in the event and bagged the first position. No one was more surprised than I at this turn of events. Soon after, I was selected by Pauri Garhwal SSB for a three-month training in guerilla warfare. I was a strong contender and bagged first position again. It was suggested that I join the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) when I turn 18.
For me, this was a dream job. Kiran Bedi was my role model and so was Kavita Chaudhary who essayed the role of a police officer in Udaan - a serial telecast on Doordarshan. I joined the forces at the age of 18 despite tough resistance from my mother and other relatives.
During my postings, I came to realize the primal response when you get into a dire situation is to fight to live. The valour and bravery part, which glorifies such stories, only comes afterwards. While we were on patrol in Srinagar (J&K), a bomb was thrown at our group. We tried to run for cover but there was no escape. It was scary but we were trained to fight it out. This training, however, did not prepare me for the next challenge - finding a suitable husband.
I was of marriageable age and my parents set out to look for a groom. It was an uphill battle. I hail from a village in Uttarakhand where having a bahu who serves in the forces is outrageous. I was fortunate to marry into a family of enlightened minds. My father-in-law had served in the Army and was delighted to have a family member devoted to the nation. My husband asked whether I would quit my job if it interfered with my family life. I told him that we would handle such a situation if it arose.
The first challenge came when my son was born and I was posted elsewhere. Leaving my six-month-old baby with my mother-in-law tore out my heart, but I had to do it for the service. I kept getting posted to various nooks and corners of the country and had to stay away from my family for long periods. After my second child, the joy of motherhood doubled as did the responsibilities. I couldn't have continued without a supportive family.
Life was tough, but the thought of giving up never crossed my mind. I still remember travelling for long hours just to be with the family for one night. Today, when I am staying with my teenaged kids in Haldwani, I don't know what the future holds for me. The only thing I know is that I was born to serve the country and so far I have struck a balance."