He was born in the shadow of massacre and spent his early years staring at an uncertain future like thousands of other Kashmiri kids growing up in the throes of terrorism.
Life held little hope for Kuljit Kumar, but there was an unexpected reversal of fortune when former army chief Gen JJ Singh (retd) decided to 'adopt' the seven-year-old son of a poor carpenter in 1997. Gen Singh was then a brigadier.
Sixteen years later, the boy who used to sleep under the bed for the fear of terrorists will on Saturday don two stars on his epaulette as a lieutenant.
And the honour of 'pipping' (unravelling) the stars on Kuljit's shoulders will go to Gen Singh and his wife Anupama, who are travelling to the Indian Military Academy (IMA) in Dehradun for his passing-out parade.
As a tribute to the general, Kuljit has decided to join the 9 Maratha Light Infantry, a unit once commanded by the former chief.
Gen Singh, who has two children of his own, said, "It's a big day in our lives. Kuljit has overcome all obstacles to give his life a new direction." Kuljit's mother, his fiancée and sister will also attend the parade.
Kuljit travelled with the Singhs wherever they were posted and stayed at the Army House from 2005-07 when Gen Singh was the chief. He went to the Army Public School here before joining the army as a soldier.
He slogged hard to make it to the Dehradun-based Army Cadet College (ACC), a platform for bright soldiers to make it to the officer cadre. He trained at the ACC for three years before joining the IMA.
Kuljit himself intends to adopt an underprivileged boy and give his life a new meaning.
The Singhs 'adopted' another child in 2006, James Kelengoto, an 11-year-old boy from the small town of Khuzama in insurgency-hit Nagaland. James had to go through a lot after his father died and mother remarried, leaving him and his four sisters to fend for themselves.
James has also joined the army as a soldier. He is determined to become an officer like his elder 'brother', Kuljit.