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Reportage: Archana Masih| Photograph: Seema Pant

On Republic Day 2000 Subedar Rulia Ram stood in front of the President of his country to receive the Ashok Chakra, India's highest award for battle in peacetime, on his son's behalf.

While the citation was read out, he stood quietly and erect, remembering his son.

His younger disabled son -- who now looks after the gas agency the government offered the family after Sudhir's death, and his daughter -- now married -- had stayed home with their mother.

As the short narration concluded, the former soldier slapped his shoes and raised his right hand in a handsome salute to the President.

"I only helped him climb the first rung," Subedar Rulia Ram's voice wavers with emotion, "the rest was all his own hard work."

A few yards from their welcoming home in Banuri is a square dedicated to Major Sudhir Walia.

It's a spot Sudhir had passed by many times. As a little boy holding his father's hand, as a decorated officer of the Indian Army, as a martyr draped in the nation's flag.

Today, the location tells the amazing story of a subedar's son who rose from the floor of a village school to become one of the brightest officers of the Indian Army.

It's a story that is sad, yet inspiring, making you proud.

That is what heroism is all about.

Subedar Rulia Ram receives the Ashok Chakra frrom President K R Narayanan.

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

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