Gabbar Singh Negi's house in the Lalpani area of the town suddenly came to life on Tuesday night as the news of the safe evacuation of 41 workers trapped at Sikyara tunnel reached his kin who had been glued to the TV set waiting the whole day for the good news.
Gabbar Singh, who was among the trapped workers, was lauded by Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami for keeping up the morale of his fellow workers during the rescue operation which lasted 17 days.
Whenever Dhami spoke to the trapped workers during the operation, Gabbar Singh came on the line on their behalf to give him updates on their health condition.
As the news about their evacuation broke on TV, his relatives clapped for him, lit diyas, and burst firecrackers to celebrate his freedom.
There had been no Diwali celebrations at his home this year as the tunnel collapsed on the morning of the festival of lights.
"Our Diwali was celebrated on Tuesday night as we heard the news. I thank god for what he has done for us. My husband has won the battle of life with the almighty's blessings. I also thank the prime minister and the chief minister for throwing all their might into the operation to secure their safe exit," Gabbar Singh's wife Yashoda Devi told PTI.
"It was such a relief when he informed us on the phone about his well-being," she said with tears in her eyes.
His elder son Vikas Negi, studying in class 12, praised the central and state governments and said they had given a big gift to the family by returning his father safely.
Gabbar Singh's father-in-law, 80-year-old Dilip Singh Choudhary, who had come to his daughter Yashoda Devi's house after the incident, said he had never heard of or seen such a successful rescue operation in his life.
"The speed and manner in which they worked is incomparable," he said.
Sunita Kotnala, a neighbour, said she salutes the patience and courage of the workers who held themselves together despite being stuck in the tunnel for days.
Gabbar Singh, originally a resident of Charekh village of Dugadda block, came to Lalpani (Kotdwar) about 12 years ago and settled with his family.
Yashoda Devi said her husband has been working in big construction companies for almost 20 years. Before this, he also worked in the construction of the Delhi Metro.
He also worked on various construction projects in Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu. He went to Uttarkashi in 2018 to work with construction company Navayuva where he works as a foreman, she said.