This story is about Nidhi, the young 21 year old widowed wife of Naik Mukesh Kumar Dubey who died on 23 April 2009, just a year after he married Nidhi. Her world came crashing down that day, but she kept her mental composure and sanity. After all, she had a baby – a little boy- to look after. Hailing from a middle class family, Nidhi had done her schooling from Saraswati Shishu Mandir at Bina, a small town of Madhya Pradesh. She had played kho-kho at the state level and had also participated in various inter college competitions.

Even as a child, Nidhi was brave and compassionate. When she was in class II, the cycle rickshaw which took her and other small children to school overturned, and a smaller girl studying in kindergarten was thrown into a ditch which was about 10 feet deep. Nidhi rose to the occasion, and despite her tender years, went all out to rescue the child, and in the process, injured her hands and legs. Later in high school, she motivated her peers to form a volleyball team and participate in the school competition. Her leadership qualities once again came to the fore when she persuaded the local MLA to release funds to get a road constructed in the police colony, where her father, an ASI in the Madhya Pradesh Police Force was staying.

Death is tragic, but in Nidhi’s case it was doubly so. Soon after her husband’s demise, her in laws abandoned her. But fortunately, her parents and her brother stood like a rock in her support. And then she literally rose like a phoenix from the ashes. Working extremely hard, she found a job to support herself and her little boy who was growing up and had his own needs. Alongside, she did her post graduation. A remarkable achievement indeed.

And now she had another dream – to become a commissioned officer in the Indian Army. So, like the courageous woman that she was, she started preparing herself to achieve her aim. The Mahar Regimental Centre was most helpful in guiding and coaching her. Special permission was given to her by the Centre Commandant, Brig. E.V. Reddy, to attend SSB Preparatory and Personality Development Cadre (otherwise meant only for soldiers). She worked exceptionally hard to pick up the nuances of SSB under the guidance of Col MP Singh and his team of Instructors, who conducted classes with utmost sincerity and commitment. Col Nikhil Diwanji a veteran from Indore also guided Nidhi to refine her skills and helped in completing and filling application forms for Short Service Commission for Women (SSCW) Non-Technical (NT) Course for entry into the Army. But the criteria for selection was stringent and Nidhi could not make the grade in her first four attempts. But in her fifth and final attempt, success beckoned. She cleared Services Selection Board (SSB) from Bengaluru on 31 May ’16 and also cleared the medical fitness test for commission in the Army. I got to know Nidhi during the course of my visits to various places in Madhya Pradesh along with my husband Brig R.Vinayak, VSM, President of an Ex-Servicemen Welfare Association. Though she had cleared the exam, she was worried as only one vacancy was earmarked in the category she had applied for, but there were two claimants – the other being Swati, the widow of Late Col Santosh Mahadik, the erstwhile CO of 41 Rashtriya Rifles, who was Killed in Action (KIA) on 13 November 2015, while combatting terrorists in Kupwara District. We advised her to send an application to the Army Headquarters requesting for an additional vacancy, to accommodate her in 18th SSCW (NT) commencing in October 2016. Her request was viewed favourably and she will now be moving to the OTA, where she will be trained before receiving her commission. In her hour of need, the Indian Army stood by her, as it has always done for its personnel and families. This is what makes the Armed Forces the most respected and loved institution in India. But let us also commend the grit and courage of Veer Nari Nidhi Dubey and also those who helped her achieve her aim. Truly, Where there is a will, there is a way.

Dr Jailaxmi R Vinayak, wife of a veteran Brigadier, is an academician, a writer, poet and a classical singer. She has published books and contributes articles in magazines. She gives freely of her time to the welfare and care of the families of soldiers, especially those in rural and remote areas. THE RISING PHOENIX A STORY OF GRIT AND COURAGE Dr Jailaxmi R Vinayak 32-courage_14_19_ BEING A FLY GIRL.

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