On the afternoon of May 14 six years ago,Maneka received a call with the news she had been praying for for a fortnight. Her husband,a CRPF constable,had become the first climber from the paramilitary forces,and the first also from Haryana,to scale Mt Everest.
The thrill was not to last long. On the downhill trek the same day,Manekas husband slipped and went missing. After a failed search,trooper Sri Krishan,26,from Haryanas Basna village,was declared dead.
The news reached the family three days later. Six years on,Maneka continues to wait for the government to honour him,though she hasnt given up on the hope that he is alive. We are still waiting for him, says Maneka,27,showing a photograph with her husband waving the national flag atop the Everest. Her son Deepak,now seven,believes his father is out guarding the country against enemies.
Yet the family,along with villagers,has also sought a memorial to Krishan,apart from the Tenzing Norgay award,neither of which has been granted. And Maneka,however optimistic she is,mentions sacrifice when she describes lack of recognition. How could the government forget that my husband made the country proud? I will not give up till his sacrifices are honored, she says.
Other than a monthly pension,there has been no financial support from either the Haryana government or the Centre. Maneka received Rs 15 lakh from the CRPF as ex gratia but has been struggling since that one-time payment. She returned to her parents home in Sangahera village,5km from Basna.
In 2008,the CRPF offered Maneka the job of a constable and posted her in Ajmer. However,she could not cope with the simultaneous demands of the job and taking care of her child. She returned home four days later. If I get a job that allows me to take care of my child,I will readily accept it, she says.
Deepak was a few months old when Krishan was selected to a 10-member team for the 2006 mountaineering expedition,organised by the Indo-Tibetan Border Police. The family lived in Pinjore then and Krishan had to pass written and physical tests before he was selected as the teams only member from the CRPF.
Krishan left for the expedition on April 30. On May 14 came the call,from a friend at the base camp,that Krishan had posted the Indian flag atop Everest.
It was like Diwali for us. But three days later,we received a CRPF official who said Krishan was missing, Maneka said. Krishan was declared dead on May 17 after an unsuccessful search; the other nine climbers returned to Delhi on May 31.
As Maneka waits for an honour,CRPF sources say there had been a proposal to name a mountaineering expedition after Krsihan but the forces DIG (Sports),Khajan Singh,denies it. Krishan was highly motivated,strong and confident. It was our bad luck that we lost him, he says. Singh says the Centre turned down their recommendation for awarding Krishan the Adventure Award posthumously.
For Manekas brother Prakash,who teaches at a private school,the aim is to educate Deepak well. I want him to see him as an IPS officer one day,reopening Krishans file that is gathering dust in Delhi, he says.