'His head was injured in the stone-pelting that happens regularly in Kashmir.'
'Do you know that even when people are throwing stones at my son, he is not allowed to open fire?'
'He has to wait for the government to order him to fire his gun.'
A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com meets the family of CRPF jawan G Subramanian, who was among the 41 soldiers martyred in Pulwama.
An hour before a Jaish e Mohammad suicide bomber rammed an SUV laden with explosives into a Central Reserve Police Force convoy in Pulwama, Kashmir, on February 14, G Subramanian called his wife Krishnaveni in Tamil Nadu.
"At around 2.30 pm that day he spoke to his wife, asked her if she had lunch and told her that they were moving camp, he might not be able to contact her en route, but would call her once he reached his destination," recalls his elder brother G Krishnasamy.
The next they heard was of the terror attack on the CRPF bus in which 41 jawans, including Subramanian, were killed.
Savalaperi is just off the National Highway that goes from Kanyakumari to Bengaluru, and as you drive into the village in Kovilpatti taluka, Thoothukudi district, you come across a board paying tribute to the 27 year old soldier.
"One of our villagers, who is also in the CRPF, phoned me to tell me that the bomb attack was on the convoy that my brother was travelling in. I started checking the news, but his name was not in the initial list of the dead," says Krishnasamy, left.
"We thought he must be okay as he had spoken to Krishnaveni only an hour earlier. Later, although his name was not on the list of the dead, TV news cameramen started arriving at our home and we knew that the worst had happened."
Both the brothers did their diplomas in electricals, but "while I went away to the Gulf to work, my brother wasn't interested in electricals at all, he always wanted to join the police force."
Although Subramanian joined a police training academy for three years, he could not get into the Tamil Nadu police. When the CRPF called for recruits, he applied and was selected.
He was selected in 2014 and posted in Chennai for a year of training after which he was sent to Uttar Pradesh for further training. His posting was in Srinagar, during which time got married on June 27, 2017 to Krishnaveni, his moraponnu, a distant cousin.
"He gets around 70 days of leave a year, so they must have spent about six months together. They got along very well, but it was not to be," Krishnasamy says, going silent, lost in memory.
"My son had come home last year and was wearing a cap to hide a head wound," remembers Subramanian's father Ganapathy. "When we asked him about it, he said someone had banged into him. He has an elder sister in Chennai and stays with her for a day or two on the way home. Only when she quizzed him did he say the truth."
"His head had been injured in the stone-pelting that happens regularly in Kashmir. Do you know that even when people are throwing stones at my son, he is not allowed to open fire? He has to wait for the government to order him to fire his gun, this is so wrong."
"A stone can kill you. My son had seven stitches on his head and he lied that someone banged into him because he didn't want us to worry. He didn't want us to be sad. Now look at what has happened."
"I worked in the Gulf for several years, but now my father is refusing to let me go," says Krishnasamy. His father, left, asks, "Who will look after us in our old age? One son has left us forever, I don't want my elder son out of my sight."
A journalist present informs Krishnasamy, "Infosys Chennai wants to give your brother's wife Rs 2 lakh. They have sent me a form for her to fill in her bank details. I am WhatsApping the form to her. Will you please fill it up and send it to a number which I have included in the message?" Krishnasamy nods absentmindedly.
Among those present is a jawan from CRPF Chennai who has come to collect details of the family. He too has a few forms and is filling them diligently.
"I have also served in Kashmir, three districts there are very critical," he says. "The terrain is very difficult. The highest mountains in the country are there. There is snow all year around."
"The BSF guards the border, but they cannot be everywhere at the same time. People cross the border at numerous places. The BSF does its best, the army does its best, we do our best and yet the arms get in," he sighs.
The soldier wants a current photo of Subramanian's parents and also their bank joint account number.
"We are not in a state to have our pictures taken," says Ganapathy. "I am only doing my duty, please do it sir," the CRPF trooper says gently, but firmly.
"Krishnaveni will continue to get his salary in her account. We just want to give something to his parents in an account both can access," the CRPF trooper says by way of explanation.
"I don't feel like it, but on Monday I will have to go to town. I have so many things to buy. You know we have to do so many rituals for my son. It is the least we can do and I want to do it properly. I will go to the bank on Monday and open a joint account," Ganapathi explains.
But the CRPF jawan cannot stay that long. Since both the father and mother already have a bank account in the local State Bank of India branch, Ganapathi's brother-in-law calls the bank manager and requests him to make the account a joint one.
The manager agrees readily. All the slain CRPF trooper's parents have to do is to make an application. The letter could be sent with someone so the grieving father does not have to leave his home.
"Our local MLA is also a minister, he came here with Deputy Chief Minister O Paneerselvam and Union Minister Pon Radhakrishnan," says Krishnasamy. "They gave us a cheque for Rs 20 lakh and promised to give Krishnaveni a job."
"She is a commerce graduate. I think she will get the job of village administrative officer, that is what the local government officers are saying," he adds.
As we leave Savalaperi, we notice that the village's welcoming arch has an image of Veerapandiya Kattaboman, the legendary 18th century Tamil king who defied the East India Company. The Englishmen sent him to the gallows and hung his body in public to deter others.
Subramanian's village has 400 families, and more than 10 villagers serve in the army and CRPF. "I don't think his death will stop our youth," says a villager, "they will continue to join the army."
An apt sentiment, coming from the land of Veerapandiya Kattabomman.
Photographs: A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com