Flight-Lieutenant Sudhir Goswami, Indian Airforce

Flt Lt Sudhir Goswami(right in photo)

During the 1971 Indo-Pak war Flt.Lt Sudhir Goswami was based with Squadron 5 "Tuskers". In October 1971, Poonam Goswami(16) had been married for just 15 days to Flight-Lieutenant Sudhir Goswami(24). The newly-weds were in Simla on their honeymoon, when Sudhir was called back on duty. "We were barely getting to know each other," says Poonam.

Sudhir disappeared on December 5, while flying over Sargoda in Pakistan. For long the Goswamis kept Sudhir's nameplate and Poonam's father even went to Pakistan and Afghanistan in his search. Each time he returned it was to find Poonam at his doorstep, eagerly waiting for news.

The family painstakingly collected newspaper clippings of 1971 and tuned into Pakistan Radio. There were reports that Sudhir and some other officers had been captured by the Pakistani authorities. Poonam was determined to wait for the "fun-loving guy" she had married. "Before he went on his last sortie he gave his friend Rs 200 for a Banarsi sari that I had asked for," she says.

On November 27,1999, Mrs Poonam Goswami, wife of Flt Lt S.K. Goswami was presented with the "Emblem of Honour", a scroll of citation and given Rs 1 lakh by Air Chief Marshal A.Y Tipnis as a token recognition of the sacrifices made for the country by Flt Lt S.K. Goswami. Mrs Poonam Goswami was in tears as she voiced her anguish "the Chief says reconcile. It is so simple to say that, but for the families it is very hard to overcome this dilemma," she said. As the years passed Poonam adopted a disabled child. They now live with Poonam's mother.

On July 14, 2001, the families of four POW's held a Press conference in Agra to urge the visiting Pak President Pervez Musharraf to heed their plea and release all POW's. "Sudhir was posted at the 5 Squadron in Agra. We were yet to get an accommodation and were sharing a flat with his friend at the air base. I would see him off at the airfield each time he went for a sortie. On December 5, when he left I never realised that I would never see him again,'' she recalled, tears in her eyes.

Poonam Goswami, displays a photo of her husband Flt Lt Sudhir Goswami at a press conference in Agra, India, Saturday, July 14, 2001. Poonam was hoping that the July 14-16 India-Pakistan summit meeting in Agra between Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, would ensure the release of her husband.

Poonam recalled her husband's last words before leaving her, a new bride of just one month, for war on December 5, 1971. "Remember, no news is good news," he had said. Thirty years on, she is still awaiting good news and her husband's return.

Trying to hold back her tears, Poonam Goswami said, "He was flying in a Canberra with ejectable seats. He is still safe." Eternal hope that refuses to die down even after the air chief asked her to "reconcile herself to reality".

Mr Surinder Kumar Goswami, father of Flt Lt Goswami, said his son's plane was shot down near Sargodha on December 5, 1971. The same day radio Pakistan, Lahore, had broadcast that the plane of Flt Lt Goswami had been shot down and he had been captured alive. Since then nothing had been heard about his son.

Poonam has unshakeable faith in her husband being alive. "From Pakistan Radio and newspapers we learnt that he ejected and landed on Pakistan side. But they are not giving us any proof." "My father travelled to Afghanistan and collected newspapers where it was reported that he was a prisoner with Pakistanis. My father also met some Indian civilians who were prisoners there and who met my husband in the jail there. In 1987, we were also told by some people that he was in Miawali jail," she said.