“When Chitresh was posted in Nowshera sector he had to get up at around 5 AM in the morning for patrolling as a part of Bomb disposal squad in the Indian Army. He returned really late after working for hours at a stretch. The terrain was rough, even walking over the slope wearing heavy Bomb suit was a strenuous activity for even fittest of men, it was a hectic job. Since that was also our courtship period, he would call really late in the night once he was finally free. We talked for hours I had so many things to share to listen. We measured time in moments, those few hours, but I would also be worried. He was sleep-deprived. On 15th February 2018, when Chitresh called me, I told him to sleep well and not call so late in the night. After all, we were to get married within the next few days, and he was supposed to return on 28th Feb. I told him puri Zindagi padi hai baat karne ko. aage milana hi hai.
Never for a second, I realised we did not have our whole life, and it was only for that moment I was talking to him. That was our last call.”
Falling in love is perhaps the most beautiful feeling on the planet, the one that makes us believe in all things good. The young love is seductive, the pain and longings create a beautiful mythical world where love birds stay for a while away from miseries in the world. But how about young love where the brutal destiny of losing someone in the most extraordinary manner is the climax? No person deserves that. But many young women have witnessed it when they lost their lovers, fiances or husbands for the nation.
Story of Ankita Bhandari and Major Chitresh Bisht is one such story.
The warmth and innocence in Ankita’s voice will make you sad, ‘she never deserved this fate’ is the constant voice that plays in your mind when you talk to her. She remembers every second spent with Major Chitresh in a manner as if they have never been separated.
It was an arranged marriage. Common relatives proposed the rishta. Both the families belonged to Uttarakhand with common heritage and culture. They were willing but feared Ankita and Chitresh’s reactions who were two young ambitious career-oriented people working hard to achieve their goals. Earlier both of them had declined various marriage proposals but this time something clicked. Shy Chitresh and Chirpy Ankita could sense the vibes flowing between them. Their Roka on 28 April 2018 was a quick random decision based on Major Chitresh Bisht leaves who was posted in Bhatinda that time. It was just a warm intimate event just between both the families before the grand wedding. Laughter won’t stop and families met as if they knew each other over decades. Ankita shares
“I would not stop laughing on my Roka, and he kept on cracking jokes about how he must be looking funny that I am laughing so much. That was our first meeting. We agreed to marry each other without even seeing pictures. We just clicked. We could sense the deep underlying feeling of longing and affection that lingered when we talked together. During Roka, when everybody fed me laddus except him. The shy Chitresh insisted that he should also feed me laddus. Our families laughed while I was embarrassed. I even stared angrily at him, but it did not deter him. I was immensely happy, though. Those moments still linger in my heart and make me smile.”
He was a shy guy the one who was always focussed on his studies and career. Ankita was like a breeze of fresh air in his life. Major Chitresh family members recall how he was focussed and sharp since his childhood. He was always clear about his ambitions and goals. If he said something, he meant it and would go to any extent to keep his word. That is how much his commitment levels were. He was a gem of a person, he loved dogs would often ask Ankita if they could keep a dog after their wedding. Ankita also remembers how he loved playing squash. He was a great sportsperson one who loved sweating out and taking the best of his shots on the field. A person capable of only returning niceness in this world. No wonder he opted for Bomb disposal squad and saved numerous lives before one such bomb took his life. Ankita remembers
“Whenever we worried over the stiff situation at Nowshera, he would reassure us about how diffusing a bomb is a silly thing and almost equals to a child’s play. His mother always worried about him and he would come up with jokes and ask her not to worry. Once, he diffused around eighteen to twenty bombs and told me about it casually and I replied in one word ‘OK’ imagine! Now when I look back I realise what a hero he was; he was superman. Saving the world in disguise (his bomb disposal suit is indeed a disguise) he downplayed his role with his family, we never really knew what a dangerous job he was in. But he loved his nation and people more than any of us is now clear to us.”
Ankita met Chitresh for about three to four times in person because Chitresh was always busy with his courses or training. She remembers her first meeting rather a date (she calls it her only date ever) after Roka and shared
“In June 2018 almost one month after our Roka our families decided to catch up in Dehradun to discuss and plan for our wedding. It was a short trip for three days. We would leave early in the morning, hop in the city for the wedding venue, caterer and more and returned by evening but on the third day, our family did not accompany us when we decided to hunt for a makeup artist. They left it on us and that is our only date together he took me to all his favourite spots in the city he has grown in, his school, IMA and even a Maggi point on top of a hill on way to Mussoorie. That was a sight to behold, we clicked pictures ate Maggi. It was a lot of fun, by the time we got down we realized that we have clicked only the hills and there was not even a single picture of us together. That time too, I told him it is okay we have all the time in the world, we will click pictures in our next visit. I never knew ‘Maggi Point’ was only for once.”
Pulwama attack happened on 14 Feb 2019, the entire nation was in shock. on 16th February 2018 during a regular patrol, Major Chitresh Bisht discovered a series of IEDs in a sensitive area. Every second was precious, he knew it. They were not completely prepared for it because it was only a patrolling mission and they could have easily waited for the backup and more sophisticated equipment but Major Chitresh knew how each passing second was bringing the grave threat closer and he immediately needed to diffuse the Bomb. With utter disregard to his safety, he first ensured the safety of his men before moving ahead and it was because of this selfless act of the true Officer that rest of the men were only injured when the last bomb exploded after the successful diffusion of other bombs. He sacrificed his life but saved a great number of lives along with many families of soldiers under his command from being destroyed.
At the same time, in another dimension, back in Dehradun and Ahmedabad both sides of families were out on distributing wedding cards as only fifteen days were left in the wedding. Ankita was playing driver to his parents. She tried many times to contact Chitresh that day but she has not been able to figure out till now why his phone was off since morning because the incident happened at around 3PM. He never switched off his phone. She also left many messages and never received any reply. It was around 6 Pm that she received a call by an Army wife from Chitresh’s unit who she knew personally. She asked Ankita if she knew about the whereabouts of Major Chitresh. Ankita chirpily said that even she is not able to connect but as soon as she connects she would let her know. The lady kept the phone after that, only to call again after fifteen minutes. This time trepidation surrounded Ankita’s soul and she intuitively felt something was wrong with Chitresh. That lady asked Ankita to hand over the phone to her father when Ankita insisted on knowing the news she said: “Ask your dad to connect with major Chitresh’s father.”
That was it.
Ankita’s life changed forever after that. That lady later confessed that despite trying a lot much time to break the news to her she could not. Ankita’s happiness was so prominent that she did not have the heart to do so.
On 16th Feb 2019 once Ankita’s father gathered information about the incident and informed about it to his wife and daughter the sadness engulfed the wedding bells in their house. The house which was bubbling with wedding activities suddenly acquired the silence of a graveyard. They all sat together in their drawing room for hours without uttering a word. They did not even talk to each other. They were numb unable to process the information. Not one light was switched on that day and they kept sitting in darkness till the time the news broke on TV and neighbours, friends, relatives started visiting them at around 11 PM. Ankita’s friends rushed to hug her but she was completely numb. Media people were haggling outside her door and she hated it. Ankita and her family had not cried even once but when Ankita’s friend started crying she broke down like a forsaken. Those were tears of hopelessness.
They did not attend the funeral of Major Chitresh Bisht because her parents worried over her reaction and they also had no courage to attend the last rites of a son whose arrival they were eagerly waiting as a groom. They reached Dehradun after 7th Day and till then nobody had slept neither ate much. There were melancholy, miseries and anguish surrounding them for those seven days. Things changed a bit once they reached Chitresh’s house. Ankita shares
” When I reached Chitresh’s place I was perplexed about their reaction but Chitresh’s father rushed to meet me,hugged and cried over my shoulder. With great affection he took me inside the house which I dreamed of entering as a new bride in red bridal sari but destiny played a gruesome joke and changed everything. He said no matter what you will always be our daughter. When I stepped inside the house I felt utter calmness. Something consoled me,put me at ease and it was there where I slept peacefully after seven long days of despondence.”
Ankita Bhandari, today works with IIT and trying her best to keep up with the pace of life. She still feels Chitresh’s presence around, sometimes at the window in her car and sometimes in her dreams guiding and giving her hope when she truly wants to give in. Sometimes she finds it unbelievable that just in the span of a fortnight her life turned upside down and an uncalled destiny cruelly embraced the life of an innocent. She never deserved that. It had only been a while that she had learnt to live fully.