On Monday, eight days after Naik Mudassir Ahmad promised his son that he'd spend Eid al-Adha with him at their new home, the family awaits Ahmad's body.
After nearly 30 hours, a coffin draped in the tricolour reaches their home at Buchoo Village, Tral.
In his sixteen years of service, it was the first time Ahmad was sent to guard the most hostile territory in the world.
He'd celebrated his 37th birthday just days earlier and was killed — along with a nine-year-old girl — in the latest exchange of fire over the Line of Control.
The army said that the Pakistanis, without provocation, fired on the Indian posts in the Rajouri sector around 7.30 am and that Ahmad was grievously injured when a mortar shell landed in his bunker.
Just a week before his death, Ahmad confided in his friends that he was applying for retirement. His friend Fayaz Ahmad told Firstpost, “He'd planned to move into a new home. He wanted to raise his two sons, give them the education he'd always dreamed of.”
"His family could never support Ahmad's schooling," Fayaz added. "They were poor."
Ahmad joined the army straight out of school. He was inspired by his neighbours who also served in the armed forces.
"It was the best option he had. Many locals serve in the army. One of the villagers is an officer. In fact, one of his brothers is also in the army," a friend tells Firstpost.
Ahmad's father does not stir from his seat. He's surrounded by friends, neighbours and relatives. Tears well up in his eyes.
"He came home on 3 July," he says. "We didn't know we'd never see him again."
He begins to sob.
"Why did it have to be my son?" he asks.
Ahmad's sons Burhan and Mehran, unaware of the tragedy that has befallen their family, are playing with their friends from the neighbourhood.
"They don't know," their relative Arshid Ahmad says. "They're waiting for their father to return and take them to their new home."
Ahmad's wife Hafiza and his mother are inconsolable.
“You promised me you'd return," his wife Hafiza laments. "That you'd always remain with us. Why did you break your promise? What will I tell the children, who'd only spent a few months with you?"
Bashir, another friend of Ahmad says they spent the last month together.
"He told me he was content. That he wanted to retire with honour and dignity. He'd served his country for a long time. He wanted to spend time with his family. He was a very good person. He never looked for trouble. Everyone admired him. I've lost a great friend. I'll miss him. Always," Bashir said.
Ahmad is survived by his wife, parents and two brothers. He was the only breadwinner.
"I don't know how the family will survive," his uncle Farooq says. "God has taken their only source of support."
Published Date: Jul 20, 2017 09:07 am | Updated Date: Jul 20, 2017 01:26 pm