“Look, my father has expired and I can not bring you lot of Dowry. I am completely against any kind of dowry but I am an assistant professor, will support you completely if we get married.
“Ok, Jhansi ki rani, I am not asking you any kind of dowry. In fact let me tell you one thing that except my rank and uniform I don’t have much to offer to you as well. I have a house and a vehicle all on loan.”
This was the first conversation Karuna and Lt Commander Dharmendra Singh Chauhan have had after a matrimonial site matched their profiles in June 2018 and they thought of talking together. It was truly a match made in heaven. The one which Gods themselves had chosen, may be because only the most extraordinary woman could have been the ‘better half’ of Lt Cdr DS Chauhan who was about to immortalise himself exactly in a year in the most extraordinary way for nation, for the pride of Indian Navy flagship ‘INS Vikramaditya’ and for his comrades. Gods knew only the woman with extraordinary courage, affection,patience and most importantly extraordinary love could hold a relationship with the God’s beloved Dharmendra who was meant to register his names in golden letters in the history of Indian Navy and inspire generations to come.
Could it have ever been an ordinary woman?
They could feel the instant connection, definitely a soul-connection where the souls knew each other since centuries. They talked for hours whenever Dharmendra’s ship would be in network zone. Karuna shared with me
“You know swapnil he loved writing.He wrote brilliantly. I wanted him to write more and I would ask him to do whatever he wanted to do after his retirement, I would tell him that I will earn money and you will only focus on your writing. Bus khichdi se kaam chalana padega because I can not make you good food along with my job.”
But they could only meet in September 2018 when Lt Cdr Dharmendra visited her at Agra. Being in Navy he would hardly be on lands,even in the network area. Being away from civilization most times of the year was normal to him but he would be restless after knowing Karuna and it was only in September that he could meet her for the first time. Karuna remembers
” He asked me to bring out my scooty and comfortably sat behind. I asked him to drive but he refused and asked me to ride. In fact I feel he would be the only husband in the world who liked his wife to drive while he could sit comfortably looking outside. That day also, I took him to Taj-mahal on my own scooty then we had a hearty meal at a roadside dhaba. That day was one of the most beautiful day of my life.”
November 2018 they got engaged to be married on 10th March 2019. Karuna was wearing green rajputi traditional attire gifted by her mother in law along with a huge nath,typical of Rajputi bahus on her engagement day. Lieutenant Commander DS Chauhan’s mother liked ‘Karuna’ instantly. The first thing she said when she saw Karuna on engagement day was ‘bahut khubsurat bahu mili hai hume.’
Karuna mentions today how thankful she is to Dharmendra for giving her second mother in form of her mother in law. The bond she shares with her today is more special than before.
Soon after engagement, Lt Cdr DS Chauhan got commissioned on INS Vikramaditya; the star ship of Indian Navy,pride of India. This was a super achievement. He was commissioned out of 46 Officers and it was also a huge responsibility. He immediately left after his engagement. It was only on their wedding day that they could meet next. But Dharmendra would call her whenever the would be on network area on the vast seas or at harbours. She shared how Dharmendra loved INS Vikramaditya.
“The sense of duty and love for the nation was too strong in him. I would always tease him by asking ‘Karuna or Vkd’ which was the short form of Vikramaditya. He always took 10 second pause before saying ‘this is not right. Both of you can not be compared. It is like you are the entire compartment of my heart and Vkd is the blood that runs through it to keeping it alive.
I can not tell you Swapnil how proud I am today. If ever he would have chosen Karuna over Vkd, perhaps I would have never been at peace.”
Pulwama attack occurred on 14th February 2019, just twenty five days before their marriage on 10th march. INS Vikramaditya is the only aircraft carrier of India and was kept on high alert at an unknown location. All communication system were shut down,there would be no network,nothing through which family members could connect with the crew that time. There was a war like situation. Both sides of families were tensioned,wedding cards were printed,marriage hall was booked but nobody knew about the groom Dharmendra if he would turn up for his own wedding. Karuna was super tensioned whether marriage will happen or not. It was on 1st March 2019 that Lt Cdr Dharmendra Singh Chauhan could connect with her through Indian Naval Headquarters. She says
“I could make out from his voice he was troubled. He said Karuna would it be okay if we postpone the wedding and do it once things are back to normal. I knew if this thing was painful to me it was equally painful for Dharmendra but I did not want to cause him more pain by not understanding his position and I told him it is okay if we don’t take pheras or he fills sindoor in my head. It is just a formality. We are connected through souls. We can marry anyday.
“We are already soulmates. Our country needs you more.”
On 7th of March he called again to confirm that it looked like he could attend the wedding since one ship was crossing Vikramaditya and he could board it to finally reach Delhi and then Agra at the wedding venue. Both the families rushed to distribute wedding cards on 7th March for a wedding scheduled just two days ahead. Many could not be informed. The barat of hardly 15 people reached beforehand the groom but it was a beautiful wedding, the happiest day for both of them but instead of choosing to go for a honeymoon they decided to spend the next fifteen days of Dharmendra’s leaves at Ratlam at his mother’s place. When I asked her why did they not go for a honeymoon? She said
“It did not matter Swapnil. I thought Dharmendra also gets to meet his mother only once in a year and I am so glad we chose to spend that precious time with Maa. Today she at least has the memories of pampering us as newly weds,feed us,laugh at our jokes and more.”
26th April 2019
Karuna was very happy. Dharmendra had told her during their last call that he would call her on 26th April next when ship would be in network zone and looks like she could join him for a thirty days in May. They will plan about it. She finished all her daily chores in rush, eagerly waiting for his call in the evening. She indeed received a call but it was not him. Somebody was asking her about her father, he was another Indian Navy Officer.
“Can I talk to your father Ma’am?”
“No! I have lost my father several years back.”
“Can I call your elder brother?”
No! You can not. I am the eldest one in my family.my brother is young.”
“Then is there any other male member in your family I could talk to.”
“No! There is no one. Please tell me what happened.”
By then Karuna has panicked. She knew something bad has happened. The naval officer on the other side of the phone informed her that an accident has occurred with Lt Cdr Chauhan when INS Vikramaditya compartment caught fire. She rushed to the location where Dharmendra was admitted in the hospital. It took her an entire day and she kept praying all throughout her way but when she met him the next day he had immortalised himself in the history of our glorious nation. She got to know that the engine room of INS Vikramaditya caught fire following a blast in one of the steam pipes. The blast damaged the fuel pipe causing the fire in the engine room. Lt Cdr Chouhan sensing the gravity of the situation swung into action giving directions to his men to bring the fire under control and prevent any damage to men and material. Lt Cdr Chauhan was leading the operation himself taking actions at a frenetic pace. But he eventually laid down his life in the line of duty. He could have saved his own life but 1400 other lives on the ship mattered more to him.
“I lost him when I desperately prayed to God not to take him away from me. I said to God, you took away my father,my grandfather but don’t take him away from me. Because I can look after the world but he is the only one to look over me.
When she returned to Ratlam, Madhya Pradesh at her mother in laws place for the second time after marriage, she entered with her husband’s coffin.Her mother in law hugged her and cried till her tears dried up. She kept repeating ‘Babu agle janam me meri hi kokh se janam lena.’ which was broadcasted all over the nation through satellite channels.
Her mother in law calls her son Lt Cdr Dharmendra a ‘Sher’ and her daughter in law Karuna ‘a sherni’
“Eventually I accepted we all have to die one day and to embrace death while serving the nation is dream of every soldier. But how many soldiers get to die like this? Only a few chosen one. My husband was one among them.The entire Ratlam city came out to bid him adieu. I could not be prouder.”
Today, Karuna stays and works in Agra. She keeps on meeting her mother in law whenever she gets leave. She still puts bindi and sindoor because her Dharmendra loved her bindi and she wants to be the way he liked her the best. She also kept Karwa Chauth for Dharmendra because she believes it will keep Dharmendra at peace wherever he is. Her mother in law also supports this. Karuna says she still feels his presence around him. She writes poetry now and feels as if Dharmendra is guiding her because it was actually him who liked to write. She feels she had to stay on the planet till she fulfills all the duties of Dharmendra and once it would be completed she would also leave for the heavens where he is awaiting her. She ends the conversation by saying
“But you know what is the first thing I will do when we meet? I will punch him. Who does this?”
The following article is based on the conversation with Mrs Karuna Singh Chauhan,the proud wife of martyr navy Officer Lt Cdr Dharmendra Singh Chauhan and the information based on public domain. Today is his first martyrdom day. I know he is in peace and proud wherever he is.
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