Early on Tuesday morning, I received a call from my editor in Mumbai, to write a short profile of Lance Naik Hanamanthappa Koppad. He had survived the deadly avalanche that struck his makeshift post and displaced it hundreds of meters ahead of its original site.
Koppad is a hero, not just for serving in a place which is considered to be a badge of honor among soldiers, but also for surviving for very long under the 30 feet blue ice that can kill in seconds. Even the fleeting touch of a weapon's trigger could lead to frostbite, and an amputated digit. He had survived the unthinkable — something we may never be able to find out how. These are not rocky and green mountains of Kashmir, neither are they the plains of northeast. He had survived in the world highest battlefield and we wanted to know what possibly could be the reaction of his family.
Special rescuers had fought adverse weather conditions to reach the spot, where Koppad, along with nine others, was performing his duty to guard the frontiers of his nation.
It is nothing short of a miracle that they found Koppad alive, and more so without broken bones or frostbite. Yes, his condition was critical, but he had survived all those days without food and fighting constant danger of frostbite and asphyxiation — buried deep inside 30 feet of snow.
SP Dharwad provided the leads, after which I reached Koppad’s wife after making countless calls. For all those hours in the morning and afternoon that preceded the phone call, I knew exactly the kind of questions I wanted to ask. But the moment I finally got through, I failed to muster the courage to ask the questions.
Madhavi, wife of Hanamanthappa Koppad, was elated. I could hear, on phone, her one and a half year old daughter Netra crying, maybe because many people had entered the house to celebrate the news. The space must have been too small to accommodate people; it is sight I have encountered too often in my life.
Her broken Hindi made it difficult to understand what she wanted to say, but there was happiness in her voice, I could feel. It was a happiness which lasted for too short a while. But she was brave, courageous and spoke of the debt her father-in-law and Koppad’s father was trapped in. Her husband wanted to pay that debt and live a simple life in the village after his retirement. He wanted to get their daughter enrolled in an army school and give her good education.
All the previous conversations between Koppad and wife have been pinned about the future of their girl Netra and the family debt. The future of the girl was an ordinary dream of an extraordinary soldier, who like thousands of others risked his life to save the lives of others, and guard our frontiers. For their ordinary dreams, they pay a price, for which no nation in this world can repay them.
The policy makers and rulers of this country should think about the lives of its soldiers who risk their lives every day braving the odds for the nation that pays them peanuts. The life of Kopped symbolised that tragedy.
Born on 1 June 1982, in Betadur village in Dharwad district of Karanatka, Lance Naik Koppad got married on 22 April 2012. He had joined the army in 2003 as a soldier, and is married to Madhavi and they have a daughter Netra, who is one year old.
There is a possibility that the all ill-judged appeals to demilitarise the Siachen glacier will now occupy our prime time, but until Pakistan authenticates the front line in the region, it would be a waste.
On Tuesday, when I spoke to Ramappa Koppad, the father of Lance Naik Koppad, he said that he had lost all the hopes about his son being alive. But his hopes were revived when someone called in to say his son was alive. That happiness was short-lived not just for him but for a nation of a billion plus people, who were praying for his recovery.
That son has died now and he has left not just the debt but also the responsibly of feeding two people on his aged shoulders.