Reportage: Archana Masih. Photograph: Kind courtesy, the Batra family. Design: Dominic Xavier, Rajesh Karkera
It was dark and cold. The men crawled, quietly. A wrong move could take them to their death down the rocky ridge and Batra, who had earned an instructor's grade as a commando, was determined not to lose any men.
He was deeply upset when a terrorist's bullet meant for him had struck his man behind him during his first posting in the terrorist-prone region of Sopore in Jammu and Kashmir.
'Didi, it was meant for me and I lost my man,' he had told his elder sister over the phone.
But tonight his guide was the framed motto of the Indian Military Academy, Dehra Dun, that he had brought home to Palampur, Himachal Pradesh, at the end of his training.
The safety, honor and welfare of your country come first always and everytime.
The honor, welfare and comfort of the men you command come next.
Your own ease, comfort and safety come last, always and everytime.
The motto had been molded into his heart as a Gentleman Cadet. There was no better time to live by it than now -- when India was at war and he, in his first major battle.