As children, we loved dressing up as jawans (soldiers) for January 26th and August 15th celebrations in India. Donning the uniform with utmost pride was something which many of us did but most of us soon lost interest or outgrew it. Only a select few grew up to join the armed forces, and earned the stripes with the responsibilities that came with it.
It takes great conviction, courage and selflessness to join this proud profession, after countless hours of studying and training, and being tested both, physically and mentally. Women in the Indian armed forces are no more a rarity and are marching shoulder to shoulder with their male colleagues, and inspiring millions of young girls. Our Naari for this edition is one such example for true gallantry, steel nerves and epitome of women’s unwavering faith as she stands tall and proud in her olive-green uniform as Lieutenant Swati Mahadik.
An ode to love
“I was his second love, the army was and is his first love and wearing the uniform is my way of being closer to him”, says a reflective Lt. Swati Mahadik. 17 November 2015, was the fateful day that changed everything for the Mahadik family. An army officer’s wife, a mother and a teacher, Swati like millions of other army wives, always remained prepared for the unforeseen, and yet the events of 17 November knocked the wind out of her. Her husband Colonel Santosh Mahadik was martyred while commanding a search operation against three Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists in the Kupwara district in Jammu and Kashmir. Her husband gained martyrdom doing what he loved the most, defending India’s borders and security. Lt. Swati recalls, “Santosh always reminded me to never mourn his martyrdom in white clothes”, which became one of the reasons for the teacher-turned-officer to wear the olive-green uniform.
“Fulfilling my duty and his dream”
“At the age of 37 when I decided to appear for the Service Selection Board (SSB) of the Indian Army, many thought it was an impulsive response out of shock. Honestly speaking, I was more numb than in shock”, clarifies Lt. Swati Mahadik. She knew that joining the Officers Training Academy at her age with the responsibility of two children was going to be no cake-walk but she remained steadfast in her decision to pay respect to her martyred husband. “Col. Santosh Mahadik lived and breathed for the Indian Army, and it was beyond everything for him and I love him for that. This is my way of carrying his legacy, and I know he would have wanted this too”, says Lt. Mahadik with a firm resolve on her face.
“The Army is everything”
It takes a strong heart to be a soldier, a lot of pain and patience, and inspiration that comes from within. The same holds true for Lt. Swati Mahadik when she passed her SSB exam and eleven months later emerged as an army officer from the Officers Training Academy (OTA) at Chennai. “The one person that I wanted to share this happiness with is not around anymore and studying and training for the job were never as difficult as having to live without him”, says Lt Mahadik hiding her pain . Amazingly, not only did she finish her training at the OTA but also won the best cadet medal along with two stars, testifying her abilities as a remarkable officer. “When it comes to being a part of the army whether you are an officer or a next of kin, each one of us has intense responsibilities and we must honour it whether it is me or my children,” is Lt. Mahadik advice.
“With great power comes great responsibility”
The year 10 Maharashtra state board textbook now even has a chapter on Lt. Swati Mahadik’s exemplary life journey, titled ‘Veerangana’. At being asked how she feels about it, in her unflinching characteristic demeanour she fires back, “I believe in the Indian Army, I believe in my husband and his commendable work in the armed forces, and there is no bigger an honour than inspiring children whilst fulfilling my duties.” The Indian Army is a gender-neutral platform, where you know you belong when you give your hundred percent. With the rising needs of the Indian armed forces, officers like Lt. Swati Mahadik will inspire other women to follow in her footsteps. Lt. Swati Mahadik is posted at the ammunition factory in Pune, battling to overcome her irrevocable loss, with each passing day by carrying her husband’s legacy forward. India News salutes and applauds the fearless warrior in Lt. Mahadik for her commendable services to the Indian armed forces, her grit and determination in the face of extreme adversity and sees her as an inspirational Naari for our young generation. Jai Hind!