On March 23, a day before she died in a Dornier aircraft crash, Lt Kiran Shekhawat spoke to her mother-in-law Sunita Devi for about 20 minutes. She had received her transfer orders and was to report to Kochi on April 10. After being away from her husband Vivek Chhoker for more than a year, she couldn’t wait to start living together in Kochi.
But on Sunday — the day Sunita was to leave for Goa to help Kiran pack her bags — she will now be attending her funeral.
The Chhokers got the bad news at 1.30 am on March 24. “It was Vivek. My husband picked up the phone and dropped it the next moment.
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Vivek had called to say there was a Dornier crash and Kiran was in the aircraft,” Sunita, the sarpanch of Kurthala in Haryana, said. The family, which has four Navy sailors, braced for the worst.
“Vivek travelled to Goa by train. On Thursday evening, it was confirmed that the body of his wife was located by Navy divers in the wreckage of the Dornier,” said Jayprakash Singh Chhoker, Vivek”s cousin and a retired store petty officer.
Kiran’s body, which was flown to Delhi at 4 pm on Saturday, will be taken to the village on Sunday morning, when the last rites would be performed with full military honours in the presence of a Navy band.
Kiran and Vivek had celebrated their second marriage anniversary on February 5. The two took almost a month”s break to spend time together. He drove from Ezhimala, where he is currently posted, to pick her up from Goa.
The two drove via Mumbai, Udaipur, Jaipur and Delhi, and spent a day in the village with Vivek”s family on February 22.
“She loved this village. Being a Navy sailor”s daughter, she had spent her childhood all over the country and was even in Japan for three years. But she was a mix of modern and traditional values.
On one hand, she would drive a Duster, and on the other, she would wear a ghunghat in the house and touch the elders” feet. She was my daughter; we were never like in-laws. She was the pride of my house and the entire village,” Sunita said.
Earlier this year, Sunita went to Delhi to see Kiran participate in the Republic Day parade, in which she was part of the first women contingent.
“She would get up at 3 am and do a 12 km drill. On Republic Day, I watched her march in the parade… I felt so proud… After the parade, she clicked pictures with me. Despite her busy schedule, she even came to the village for two hours,” she said.
Sunita still remembers the first time she saw Kiran as a bride. “I first met her in 2012 in Kochi. A year later, she walked into my house in a traditional Rajasthani chuda. She was a beautiful girl… tomorrow I will send her with the same Rajasthani chuda,” she said.