For Central Reserve Police Force commando Rakeshwar Manhas patience was the key to his survival as he spent five days in a Chhattisgarh jungle after being taken captive by Naxals following an ambush that killed 22 members of his team.
"I did not lose hope in the most difficult situation and I maintained my cool," said the 35-year-old who returned to his home in Jammu on Friday.
Manhas had gone missing during a deadly encounter with Naxals in Chhattisgarh's Bijapur district on April 3. The gunfight left 22 security forces personnel dead and several others injured.
He was released from captivity by the Naxals on April 8.
Manhas was accorded a rousing reception by his family and villagers after he reached his native Barnie village on the outskirts of the city.
He said his mother's prayers kept him alive while in enemy's custody.
"I was not even sure if I would be released. I owe my second life to my mother. Her prayers gave me the fresh lease of life, as no one so far has come back alive from the captivity of Naxals,” Manhas said
His mother Kunti Devi said, "I prayed to Mata Vaishnodevi for the release of my son. My prayers were heard and he came back to me safe and sound. It was blessing of Mata that he is alive today," She said.
As Manhas reached home, his family heaved a sigh of relief. His Daughter Raghvi was seen hugging him.
His wife Muni said the ‘bad phase' of their life has ended.
"I am happy that my husband is back. It is because of the prayers of the family and hundreds of countrymen that he is with us today. I thank all of them," she said.
The villagers expressed admiration for the soldier for his grit and determination while in enemy's captivity.
"We are proud of him. He has been fighting for the nation. We are happy that he is back in his village," said Dheeraj Chand.
Manhas says he feels sad for the families of the fallen jawans.
“We cannot forget their supreme sacrifice. Each one among them is a hero," he said.
Mahnas is hopeful to join the force soon.