“He was the pride of our village. We used to always tell our children to see Umesh and emulate him. But now, [he is] a mere memory,” said a grief stricken resident at Hebballi village near here.

The man being referred to is Umesh Savadatti (31), the Indian Army jawan who died on Monday at Leh, while on duty. He reportedly died of a heart attack.

His family and friends were grief stricken at the loss.

“He was the darling of us all, disciplined, yet humble. Just a few days ago he was here to celebrate Deepavali,” said Mallappa Savadatti, his nephew.

Savita, his wife of three years, reportedly fainted upon hearing the news.

Patriotic spirit

His best friend Suresh Morabad hailed the young soldier’s patriotic spirit. “When, he came here on vacation, he would tell us interesting stories about life and work in the Army. He would encourage the youth to join the Army. He would always say that the Indian Army is a best place to pay off one’s debt to our motherland.”

L.I. Lakkammanavar, government school teacher, remembered how Umesh, who was born into a well-to-do agriculturist family, joined the armed forces in 2000 despite opposition from his parents.

Procession

The soldier’s body arrived at the village on Thursday. The residents took the body in a procession. The gram panchayat office, where it was kept before the funeral, was packed with people who came to pay their respects. Dharwad tahsildar S.Y. Bhajantri was among those who paid homage.

His body was laid to rest with full state honours.

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