My Story: Pinning My Husbands Stars On My Shoulders Was The Proudest Day Of My Life

Image Credit: Riya Cooks/ Instagram

My Story: 'Pinning My Husband's Stars On My Shoulders Was The Proudest Day Of My Life'

Riya was married to a young army officer soon after she finished college. However, she received the terrible news of his death just a year and a half later. Undeterred, Riya promised herself and her husband, that she would fit in his shoes.

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I grew up in Dehradun where the Indian Military Academy is located. Therefore, my passion for the Army came very naturally to me. I was in Class 12 when I met my partner from the same military academy. We started dating soon, and soon after my graduation, we got married in October 1999. Our families agreed to put aside the regional and cultural differences to get us married.

Once married, I moved to Ladakh with my husband. He was an officer in Engineer Corps and was associated with the Border Roads Organization (BRO) and was tasked with maintaining the road connectivity. Staying in those inhospitable and harsh weather conditions made me understand how difficult Army life was. I started respecting the organization even more after seeing how it functioned

After about a year and a half, I was at home to appear for my Master's exams when I received the news that my husband had died during a road clearing operation in the Manali-Leh region on March 4, 2001. His vehicle had crashed after skidding on an icy patch.

'Army Was A Way Of Life For Him'

For the first few days, I remember I was in denial, but the reality started sinking in when his mortal remains reached home. Being a civil engineer, he could have chosen any other career, but he always said that Army was a way of life for him, and not just a career. He was a family man who was strongly dedicated to his profession and his men.

When I received his body at the Patna airport, I could feel an inner drive pushing me to fill in his shoes. Initially, I never told anyone, and after a month, I shared with my parents that I wanted to join the Army. At that point, their support meant the world to me.

I reached out to the Services Selection Board (SSB) by the end of 2001, and by March 2002, I found myself in the Officers' Training Academy. I had not grown-up thinking that I would want to take up such a tough profession. It took me some time to adjust to the strict and disciplined life of the Army. We all had to go through extremely tough fitness training as well changed the way we conducted ourselves as cadets.

'My Stint In The Army Changed Me As A Person'

In September 2002, I got commissioned from the Officer's Training Academy as Lt Riya and proudly pinned my husband's stars on my shoulders. This was one of my biggest achievements. During my tenure, I served across multiple locations across the country and took challenging assignments with courage and positivity. Being a short Service Officer, I served for 6 years and finally hung my uniform in 2008 as a Captain Back then, there was no permanent commission for women officers, therefore, I moved on, however, I remember how emotional I was when I walked away.

Currently, I am working as a Business Consultant with an MNC. In my spare time, I love to create new recipes and food- styling I was also amongst the top 40 in the sixth season of MasterChef India. My stint in the Army changed me as a person and made me realise my innate strength. I perceive every challenge in my life as an opportunity to learn and grow.

If you too have an inspiring story to tell the world, send us your story at mystory@thelogicalindian.com

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