A year after the Galwan skirmish, Vanathi Devi, widow of Havildar K Palani, still remembers her beloved was not able to keep his promise of returning home but his final moments and heroic sacrifice in the fight with Chinese troops makes her feel proud of him.
Not only his sacrifice in the mountainous Galwan Valley but also those of others besides the lives of soldiers guarding the frontiers in high altitude region speak volumes of the untold sacrifices of the country's army men, she said.
"Even after a year, my life continues to be gloomy due to his demise. It is a personal loss for me and my two children. But, his sacrifice for India makes me feel proud of him," Vanathi Devi told PTI on Tuesday.
Her voice quivering, she said she still remembers the last conversation she had with him.
"He told me his (retirement) papers were through and he would return home in a week's time and asked me to go ahead with the house warming ceremony on June 3 which I did," she said.
Both hoped that they would reunite on their wedding day on June 6. But fate willed otherwise. On June 15, she was informed about his sacrifice at Galwan Valley.
"Our wish that we would begin life anew in our newly constructed home never materialised," Vanathi said.
Recalling the arduous life of a soldier guarding India's frontiers, she said, "most of us think a soldier's life is laid-back. But the lurking threat from enemies apart, there is then the health problems while serving at high altitudes (where the body is starved of oxygen)."
People realized the need for oxygen only during the second Coronavirus wave, claimed Vanathi who herself recovered from COVID-19 recently.
She contracted the infection after she performed election duty for the state assembly polls in April this year, but she recovered and resumed work.
Havildar (Gunner) K Palani, who was conferred the Vir Chakra posthumously, was a native of Kadukalur village in Ramanathapuram district and his remains were laid to rest with the State honours at the village on June 18, 2020.
The state government provided a relief of Rs 20 lakh and a junior assistant job in the district supply office at Ramanathapuram to Vanathi.
She had also received Rs 20 lakh from the Governor as a relief.
The Krishnan International school at Devipattinam, where her son is studying in the seventh standard and daughter in fourth, has assured the family that it would provide free education.
Speaking to PTI, Major (Retd) Madhan Kumar, a geopolitical analyst and co-founder of Armour of Care, an NGO, said: "Havildar Palani had a choice to stay back as he was due to retire. But he chose to join his colonel in resisting China's attempt to occupy our territory." Twenty Indian soldiers were killed on June 15 last year in the Galwan Valley in fierce hand-to-hand combat with Chinese troops, triggering a large deployment of troops and heavy weaponry by both armies at the friction points in eastern Ladakh.