It has been over two decades since the Kargil War but Kanta Devi remembers every last word of her conversation with her son before he left home for the battlefront.
He had said that he was the son of the country and not mine, an emotional Devi recalled on Vijay Diwas. She was here to visit the Kargil War Memorial to pay her respects to her son, Grenadier Udhaymaan Singh, who sacrificed his life for the nation during the 1999 conflict.
"I feel happy and proud to see that everyone is paying respects to my son but I did not want to lose my (only) son. I feel so much pain," she told PTI.
Grenadier Singh was part of the 18 Grenadiers during the war and his regiment, along with two other battalions, was given the responsibility of recapturing Tiger Hill from Pakistani intruders.
The battalion launched an attack and reached the top of the hill but faced intense firing from the enemy. Grenadier Singh suffered a fatal gunshot and succumbed to injuries.
Tears rolling down her cheeks, Devi recalled when her son came home on vacation for the last time.
"When he came home on vacation, I told him that I wanted him to resign from service and stay home. He asked me what would happen to the country if every mother wished the same? He told me that he was the son of the country now and not mine," she said.
Devi said a mother can forget everything but not her son.
"A mother's pain is such. I have two daughters but only one son. How can I forget him?Sometimes I think I should forget him because he won't come back but how can I? I remember everything about him," the sobbing mother said.
Referring to the Vijay Diwas, Devi said this is her first visit to the War Memorial.
"I feel happy on this day as well. This is the first time that I have come here and I feel good. The whole country feels good but I also feel sadness. I cannot listen to patriotic songs. When they played one here, it made me remember him, he was tall and handsome," she added.
"There is a lot of sadness. At the same time, I feel proud that my son saved my country. I have nothing to do with Tiger Hill but he saved it (for the nation)," Devi said.
For the families of the jawans who laid down their lives protecting Indian territory from intruders, the Kargil Vijay Diwas -- the day on which the nation commemorates its victory in the Kargil War -- is an occasion that invokes feelings of both pain and pride.
As India celebrates the 24th anniversary of its triumph in the Kargil War, the families of those killed in the conflict remember their loved ones with pride. The feelings of sadness, however, have not waned.
Charu Lata Acharya, a Veer Naari, feels that the Vijay Diwas is a celebration of the sacrifices of soldiers like her husband -- Major P Acharya of the 2 Rajputana Rifles.
"On one side, you feel that you have lost your loved one, your husband, who promised to be with you for life but, being a fauji's (soldier's) wife, I feel proud that the motherland was before his family," she said.
Acharya said she feels proud not only of her husband but of all the soldiers equally.
"I feel really proud," she added.
The Vijay Diwas is an occasion to celebrate and not mourn the sacrifices of the soldiers, she said.
"Some people keep a fast according to their religion, some celebrate Diwali. For us, our family, this is our Diwali and Pongal. This is our celebration. We do not mourn our soldiers' sacrifices, we celebrate. We are proud of their sacrifice," Acharya said.
Manmohan Pandey, the brother of Captain Manoj Pandey -- who was tasked with clearing the route to Khalubar Top for his battalion and fatally collapsed at the final bunker after completing his mission -- said the day evokes a feeling of pride.
"Coming here, seeing those points, I had the same feeling that I had when he (Captain Pandey) achieved martyrdom. It is a feeling of pride. If there is anything we feel inside, it is pride," he said.
Pandey, who came with his children, said he wanted to show them who the real superheroes were.
On his third visit to the memorial, Pandey said "I get a feeling of pride and bravery (whenever I come here)".
"We cannot give anything other than our respects to them. They have given us a lot. They have left us but they also inspired us. Our future generations will keep getting inspiration from them," he added.
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