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Reportage: Archana Masih| Photograph: Seema Pant

Tomorrow was Sudhir's birthday and Subedar Rulia Ram had gone to the Chamundadevi temple to make arrangements for a pooja.

The Kangra valley in Himachal Pradesh had been warmer than usual this year. The monsoon had abandoned them for a fortnight, breaking its normal rhythm of pleasant showers every four days.

It was hot when Rulia Ram left for the ancient temple on a late May afternoon. The weather got rough while he was away.

The electricity went out. The trees in his garden swayed wildly. The wooden doors in his brightly painted home slammed with a deafening sound with every gush of wind.

Rulia Ram was used to this weather. His family had lived in the mountains of Kangra for 150 years. He was proud of his land and understood it well.

A year after India won Independence he had trudged the same terrain to an army camp that selected him as a sepoy in the Indian Army. The job brought prestige and honourable money to his poor household.

For 28 years, he served his officers and his country on India's borders with China, Bangladesh, Pakistan and retired as a subedar in 1976.

Forty years after his retirement, when his oldest child Sudhir followed him in the army, Rulia Ram was elated.

Lieutenant Sudhir Walia was no junior commissioned officer or a subordinate like him, but an officer of the Indian Army.

His little boy, who had sat on a gunnysack in a government primary school, had become the first army officer from his village.

Tomorrow he would have turned 36 had he lived.

Subedar Rulia Ram in front of a wall full of pictures of his matryred son.

Also see: Kargil's first hero
The soldier who became a legend

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