Nikita Dhoundiyal, the wife of Martyr Major Vibhuti Shankar Dhoundiyal, on Saturday, donned the uniform of Indian Army as Lieutenant Nikita Dhoundiyal. Lt. Gen YK piped stars on her shoulder at a ceremony held at the Officers Training Academy in Chennai, Tamil Nadu. Nikita Dhoundiyal Martyrs Widow
She lost her husband in the 2019 Pulwama attack. Vibhuti Dhoundiyal, who was posted with 55 RR (Rashtriya Rifles or National Rifles) was martyred on on Feb 17, 2019 in a terrorist encounter. But this did not break Nikita, instead she became stronger.
The day the soldier's coffin arrived at his home in Dehradun, wrapped in the national flag of India, people queued up to pay homage to him. That day, his widow saluted him, whispered 'I love you' into his ears and asked everyone present there to take inspiration from him. No one knew, two years later, she would herself step forward to serve the nation in the army's uniform.
Nikita Dhoundiyal decided to join the Indian army after her husband's death
Dhoundiyal needed time to overcome the loss. It had been only nine months since her marriage when her husband left her. Six months after his martyrdom, she filled the Short Service Commission form. It was her way to heal. When she wrote her exam and appeared for the interview, she could feel what her husband must have felt when he went through the same stages. She connected with him, his fears and his anxiety. That gave her the strength she needed.
The Martyr widow had a husband who wanted her to do better than him in her career. So whenever she doubted her decision to join the Indian army, she would just think what her husband would do. He always stood by her and supported her choice. Though the army relaxes the age limit for martyr widows if they want to join the service, the selection process remains just as difficult as it is for others.
Dhoundiyal cleared her SSC examination and interview in 2020. She worked hard to qualify and desired to excel in the one year of training. "I want to be an officer who everyone can be proud of, Vibhu can be proud of," she had said, talking to a leading daily.
Nikita met Vibhuti when she was pursuing her MBA. Even after losing him, she believed that her marriage had not come to an end. Interestingly, when the interviewers asked her how long she had been married, her answer was "2 years". Baffled, they said, "But we heard you both were married for 9 months...". To this, she replied, "Vibhu is not here physically but that doesn't mean our marriage has ended".
Nikita was working with a Noida-based MNC but quit to join the Officers Training Academy in Chennai. Back then, she knew that she will miss her husband's cupboard the most. It still had his uniform, lip balm and lighter and tooth brush.
Dhoundiyal's story is inspiring on all levels. She teaches us to convert our pain into strength and not give up even when the times are tough. She lost someone she loved dearly but that did not prevent her from giving up her dreams. Rather, she became more determined and is now a member of the army.