Growing up in Dehradun, the army had always held a special charm for Riya Nehra. When she was in class 12, she found her prince charming in a dashing cadet at the Indian Military Academy. They started dating, and soon after he graduated, they got married in October 1999.
Although Somesh Srivastava is from Patna and she from Uttarakhand, there was no resistance from the families. Everything was fine. She accompanied him to Ladakh, where the engineer officer was on deputation to the Border Roads Organization. As platoon commander at the Taglang La pass on the Indo-China border, Srivastava was tasked with maintaining road connectivity.
In the early days, the couple stayed in a hut in subzero temperatures, but the glow of a new marriage kept them warm. “Staying in these inhospitable and harsh weather conditions made me realize how difficult life in the military was,” she said, adding that she had found a new appreciation for the force by seeing their work. in such climates.
About a year and a half later, she was in Patna taking her master’s exams when the news reached her. Captain Srivastava of the 15th Madras Sapper Engineer Regiment died during a clearing operation in the Manali-Leh area on March 4, 2001. His vehicle crashed after skidding on a patch of ice.
“The initial thought was denial,” Nehra said. “The first days were difficult. But after seeing his mortal remains, reality began to sink in. She said her husband, who was a civil engineer, could have chosen any career. But he used to tell her that, for him, the army was not a job, but a way of life.
She still remembers his warm smile. “He was a family man strongly devoted to his profession and to his men,” she said. “He was a religious man and he started his day with prayer. He would also do charity whenever possible.
The day she received his body at Patna airport, she felt a call. Although the tragedy shook her to the core, she also felt an inner strength to follow in her footsteps. But she didn’t tell anyone. After a month, she informed her parents of her decision to join the army, and they were very supportive.
But she had no idea what awaited her. She researched how to go about it and began to prepare physically and mentally. At the end of 2001, she contacted the Service Selection Board in Bhopal; in March 2002, she joined the Chennai Officer Training Academy. “I didn’t grow up thinking about joining such a difficult profession,” she said. “So it took me time to adapt to the strict and disciplined life of the army. We all have to go through extremely tough physical training without respite. Mental toughness was also one of the main areas of focus during training.
She used to get up early for exercise, followed by physical training and an obstacle course. She learned combat tactics, the handling of weapons, history and military laws. As she had the added trauma of losing her husband, the instructors worked harder to make her mentally strong.
“Once you’re in the military, it becomes your family and that family grows,” she said. “Every time I hit a roadblock, I was reminded that I had come a long way.”
In September 2002, Lt Nehra graduated from OTA and was proudly pinned on her husband’s stars, which she counts among her greatest accomplishments. She was assigned to the Ordnance Corps and assigned to Delhi. A short-lived officer, she completed the mandatory service period in 2007, remained for one more year, and retired as a captain in October 2008. There was no permanent commission, so she left. It was a moving day.
In the Ordnance Corps, she managed warehousing and logistics for critical stores and served in remote locations in Jammu and Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh. Nehra is now working with an Indian multinational outsourcing company as a consultant specializing in sourcing and procurement.
A side job, she loves creating new recipes and styling dishes. She was in the top 40 in season 6 of MasterChef India and intends to pursue a career in food. Her Instagram feed is filled with beautiful photos of her dishes. “My time in the military changed me as a person,” she said. “My perspective on challenges has totally changed. It’s been my superpower all these years.