30-year-old Vijay Kumar Rai had left home on July 27, telling his wife and two children that he will be back home soon. The "soon" is Wednesday night.
Army soldiers carry the coffin of their colleague killed in an attack by the the Pakistani troops during a wreath laying ceremony in Poonch. Reuters
But it will not be a cheerful Vijay, the family will welcome back at Danapur, an Army cantonment town 12 kms from Bihar's capital Patna.
Instead, it will be his body, lying in a coffin and draped in the tri-colour. For seven-year-old Vivek and two-year-old Neha and their mother Pushpa, life will never be the same again.
Vijay, a sepoy with the with 9th Bihar regiment, was among the five Indian soldiers shot dead on Tuesday by Pakistani intruders along the LoC in the Poonch sector in Jammu and Kashmir.
Among the dead are sepoy Shambhu Sharan Rai, 32, whose wife and four children too will receive his body tonight at their Army quarters in Danapur. By a strange quirk of fate, the lives of the two families have been interwined.
According to official sources, the bodies of the five jawans will be flown to the Hindon air base on a special AN-32 flight and reach Patna airport at around 8.30pm.
The Patna protocol officer and Bihar Regimental Centre commanding officer will receive the bodies at the airport before they are brought to Danapur.
In fact none of the two families were ready to accept the news when TV channels started flashing the killings till the Jharkhand and Bihar Sub-Area station headquarters and the Bihar Regimental Centre (BRC), Danapur confirmed about the slain soldiers' identity in the evening.
Vijay had joined the army as sepoy in 2002, following in the footsteps of others in the family. His late father, Nek Lal Rai, was a jawan of the 1st Bihar regiment.
It was Vijay's brother Lakshman, who is also posted with 9th Bihar regiment, called up Pushpa to break the shattering news.
"Vijay is no more. He was killed in Pakistnai fire. The body will reach by Wednesday evening," is all that he could mutter.
Pushpa's worst fears had come true. Ever since the news first broke, she was praying for the well-being of her husband.
She tried to call on his number, but there was no response, increasing her anxiety. And when Lakshman Rai called up to give her the news, she collapsed.
"The doctors are attending to her, but the tragedy is too big for her," said Rajkishore Rai, another of Vijay's brothers. Rajkishore rushed from Bihta, where he does farming, as soon as she got the news.
The two kids of Vijay are too young to comprehend what had struck the family, as a large number of people gathered at the martyr's home.
"He was supposed be on deputation in Danapur for six months, but he could not complete his tenure. Had he remained for six months, he might not have been among the victims," said Rajkishore Rai.
The scene was similarly poignant at the residence of Shambhu, a resident of Ara. His wife Sapna Devi and her three daughters (Priya, Priyanka, Preeti) and a son Piyush lives in Danapur's separate family quarter provided the army to continue their education.
Her father, Jai Ram Singh, who also retired from army, was trying to console her.
"I got the news from a colleague, as I was desperately trying to know about Shambhu ever since the news broke on TV channels about the Poonch attack. Now, I will have to take Sapna and the kids to Ara as she is unable to even speak due to sudden trauma," said Singh, adding he always wanted to marry her daughter to someone in the army, as he was himself in the armed force. Ara is 40 kms from Danapur.