Memories in martyrs' homes

Independence Day tribute to heroes who laid down their lives for the country

Lt Col C N Nanjappa with wife Nayana and daughter Neha. Nanjappa was on the China border when his helicopter crashed.

Families of soldiers who lay down their lives for the country live in pain and anguish, but cherish fond memories. 

Metrolife brings you moving stories of how they are coping since the departure of their loved ones.

Gentleman officer in a chopper crash

Lt Col C N Nanjappa

Lt Col C N Nanjappa lost his life on April 21, 2011, while on duty in Sikkim. He is survived by his wife C Nayana Nanjappa and their daughter Neha, now eight and a half years old. That day, as she was looking out of the window, two Gypsy vehicles pulled up. Her heart sank.

“Neha was just a year and a half old when we heard the news of his passing,” she recalls. The government provided the family with accommodation in the army quarters in Bengaluru for three years, and Nayana later moved into a rented house. “We recently moved to Mysuru and have decided to settle down here. It was tough for me to live alone in Bengaluru. Mysuru is closer to my hometown in Kodgagu,” she says.

Mysuru is connected her to her mother who lives in Kodagu and her parents-in-law who live in Bengaluru. “It is in the middle and I can shuttle between both families,” she says.

Looking back, Nayana says Nanjappa gave her confidence to handle tough situations. “I heard he wasn’t keen on getting married because of the uncertainties involved in the army life. He would always say things are unpredictable,” says Nayana.

He was eventually persuaded by his family to marry. “Our first posting was in Jodhpur and that’s where I learnt to become independent,” recalls Nayana.

Nanjappa encouraged her to learn driving. He would host parties at home even when he could easily do it at the mess. “He wanted me to learn cooking for a large group and learn to interact with people. That helped me a lot. He always asked me to be bold and brave,” says Nayana.

His philosophy: “Move on in life and don’t get stuck in the past.”

Nayana can’t hold back her sorrow when she talks about his qualities. “He was a good husband and would have been a great father. He loved kids,” she says.

Neha gives her strength and hope. “Whenever I am upset, she does everything she can to cheer me up. This moves me,” she says.

Lt Col C N Nanjappa died on April 21, 2011 in an helicopter accident in ‘OP Falcon’. He was commissioned on June 8, 1996 and earned his “Army Aviation Wings” on May 29, 2002.

Braveheart who survived Siachen snow for six days

Lance Naik Hanamanthappa

Known as the ‘miracle man’ for surviving six days under heavy snow in Siachen, Lance Naik Hanamanthappa Koppad breathed his last three years ago.

He is survived by his wife Mahadevi and daughter, both living in Hubballi. Mahadevi spoke to Metrolife over phone.

“He is still with us. This thought has guided me so far and made it easier for us to face all odds,” says Mahadevi. Hanamanthappa last saw his daughter on her first birthday. “He would come for a month every year and that’s the only time we got to spend with him,” she recalls.  There’s a sense of pride in Mahadevi’s voice when she starts talking about her husband. “I wanted to join the Army or marry an Army man since I was 12. A soldier from our village died and I was impressed with the love and respect people showered on him. I have held deep respect and fascination for the army since then,” says Mahadevi.
She grew up watching films showing the army life. The Vishnuvardhan-starrer ‘Muthina Haara’ remains etched in her memory.

Hanamanthappa was committed to his work. “Every time our daughter asks about her father, I tell her that her that he is in the snow in Siachen and she could go there when she grows up and bring him back. I always tell her positive things about her father and the army,” she says.

The government has granted some land and Rs 25 lakh to Mahadevi. “They also promised a house and a job, which we haven’t got yet. We live in a rented house and I am still hunting for a job,” she says.

Mahadevi wants to get more people to join the army. “I am always attending programmes and talking to people about it. In fact, I consider myself fortunate to have lived with a great soul like Hanamanthappa,” she signs off.

Hero who fought terror in Mumbai

Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan

It’s been a decade since Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan died, fighting terrorists who attacked the Taj Palace Hotel in Mumbai. His parents K Unnikrishnan and Dhanalakshmi, who live in Bengaluru, have come to terms with his absence.

 “We have been living with our pension and don’t expect anything from the government. I feel families who lose their loved ones to war must not drag their names to seek compensation from anyone. They should instead work towards retaining the honour and good name of the martyrs,” says Unnikrishnan. The couple draw strength from friends and family.

Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan, a commando of the elite Special Action Group of the National Security Guards, died on November 26, 2008, fighting terrorists of the Lashkar e Tayiba. A fully armed group attacked the Taj Palace Hotel in Mumbai, shooting indiscriminately at guests and staff. Unnikrishnan rescued 14 hostages before he breathed his last.

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