“It doesn’t get easier, You just get stronger.”
It was 2006 when a girl from Uttrakhand, Priya Semwal (who was a first year undergraduate student at that time) got married to Naik Amit Sharma and embarked on a new journey. The two were happy together and Amit was a very supportive husband. He encouraged her to complete her education after marriage, even though he himself had only studied only till class 10th. Mrs. Priya Semwal Sharma finished her graduation, pursued an MSc in Mathematics successfully, and then went on to attain a B.Ed degree as well! Within these years, the couple was blessed with a beautiful daughter, whom they decided to name Khwahish. Life was beautiful indeed. With such a strong academic background, Mrs. Priya decided to take up a job in 2012. At that time, her husband was serving with the 14 Rajput regiment in Arunachal Pradesh. She started tutoring students in a private coaching institute in Dehradun, and their daughter stayed with her.
Fate then played a cruel twist in the lives of this endearing family. In a counter- insurgency operation near Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh, Naik Amit Sharma lost his life. He was martyred. Everything came tumbling down for Priya and her (then) four year old daughter, Khwahish. Priya was distraught and was worried about their future; however when the going gets tough, the tough gets going. In this critical time, Colonel Arun Agarwal proved to be a ray of hope in Priya’s bleak life.
Colonel Agarwal was the commanding officer of the unit Naik Amit Sharma was serving before his death. When he got to know of Priya’s qualifications, he decided to advise her with what he deemed fit for her and her daughter. Colonel Agarwal suggested Priya join the defense forces as an officer-
“When I learnt Amit had encouraged her to complete degree and then PG (post-graduation), I thought she should become an officer. She was qualified and I felt that she will do it. Initially, she had some apprehensions but once she was convinced, there was no turning back. Probably, this is the first time an Army jawan’s wife has become an officer in India.”
This thought was a little too progressive for a simple family that Priya hailed from. The Colonel’s proposal for her career was met with resistance initially by the young widow’s family, especially her brother. It was difficult for them to comprehend why Priya would think of such a thing when she had just lost her husband. However, Priya was not that easy to be put down. She knew she had to do something for herself and her daughter, and she was convinced about her decision to join the Armed Forces. She was capable as well as determined. She knew there was no turning back now.
With hard work and focus, Priya cleared the CDS exam and the consequent SSB. She was asked to start training at OTA Chennai for eleven long months. Now came the bitterness of separation from her tiny one, Khwahish, who was and remains quite attached to her mother. It was decided that she would stay with her grandmother in Dehradun while her mother trained hard to become a brave officer. The duo braved all odds together. It took courage and strength, but Priya achieved her new dream. She successfully completed her training and was inducted into the Indian Army as a commissioned officer. Colonel Agarwal himself came all the way from the border to Chennai to witness this inspiring moment. In response to her commendable feat, (then) OTA commandant Lieutenant General S. S. Jog said-
“Priya’s story is unprecedented. It’s the biggest tribute she could pay to her martyred husband and the greatest service she could render to our nation”
Today, she is a role model for so many women in the country. She is independent and she continues to grow everyday as an individual. She paid a beautiful tribute to her brave husband and their love. It is women like her that light up a spark in even the dullest of lives.