Ambreen Zaidi’s book ‘The Warrior Widows’ documents the real-life stories of valiant wives of Indian soldiers – The Veer Naris as they are generally referred to. Ambreen has been the founding editor of the world’s first blog magazine Blogger’s Park and writes about the issues which need immediate attention. Presently she is running an organisation Changemakers that works in collaboration with various welfare groups of the Indian Army, where she and her team extend their services to war widows, orphans and people with needs.
The author chooses to call them Warrior Widows rather than war widows as they struggled, fought and dared to lead their lives bravely in the absence of their spouses supporting their family and some of them contributing to society in their own ways. Many of them are now commissioned officers keeping the memory of their husbands alive.
The book begins with a poem dedicated to the wives of the martyrs by Maj. General Ian Cardozo the first war- disabled officer of the Indian Army followed by a message of Damyanti V Tambey, President of War Widows Association.
When a woman marries in Army, she is preconditioned for a tough life, separation, postings at various places in quick succession and when her better half leaves for war or goes to the field area, she has to fend for herself and her children waiting anxiously for the arrival of her husband. Life is indeed unpredictable for her.
Anything can happen at any time. Death remains a part and parcel of Army life. But when it comes one realises the gruesome enormity of it. After coming in contact with the war widows of Jodhpur, when her husband was posted there Ambreen came in contact with many Veer Naris and that’s how Changemakers came into existence. India has approximately 27000 war widows and the number is swelling day by day. There are women who have lost their husbands in World War Two, Indo-Pak and Indo-China wars at a very young age. Most women hail from rural areas and are unaware of their rights and entitlements. They are uneducated, facing problems as they belong to a Patriarchal society.
The Central Government does release grants/pension and other service benefits but other inadequacies have to be addressed like psychological support, future guidance for children and sometimes denial of legal rights.
If the widow is not eligible for a pension, the family forces her to marry her brother-in-law, a custom known as Kareva marriage or Chaddar Andazi, much prevalent in Punjab and Himachal. It is actually not a custom but an obligation towards her deceased husband’s family. Thanks to Nirmala Sitaraman who has done away with the mandatory ritual of Kareva marriage. According to her, it was vital to retain the dignity of women.
The author feels that God Almighty handpicks exceptional girls to be Army wives. She wants to convey that war is ugly and produces nothing but disabled soldiers, widows and orphans. The trauma and horror of the war and the way it destroys lives and families leaving them emotionally damaged for a lifetime is worthless. Hence it becomes our duty as citizens to take care of our martyrs and their families as we owe the safety of our nation to them.
The book comprises 30 stories of war widows and is an interestingly soulful read. Written in simple language it does leave a deep imprint on our minds.