June 21 was his birthday, and he spoke to his family members over phone. Little did they know that it would be his last telephone call.
Seven days later, on June 28, 1999, the family of Major Padmapani Acharya received a phone call from the Army, saying that he had fought bravely in Kargil and was no more.
It has been 14 years, and memories are still fresh in the Major’s family.
“You have to accept the inevitable and adjust accordingly. It is tough to digest, but we all are proud of him and miss him,” says his father Jagannath Acharya, a retired Wing Commander.
The courageous Major Padmapani Acharya was attached to the Rajputana Rifles, which had the task of capturing Lone Hill. It was at an altitude of 5,000 metres, and the enemy was positioned on the hill top, showering bullets.
Unmindful of the hail of the danger, he led his troops in conquering the peak. But Major Acharya succumbed to grenade injuries sustained on his neck and chest. He was posthumously awarded the Maha Vir Chakra, recalls Jagannath (74), who says the Kargil Day still disturbs him a lot.
Padmapani’s wife Charulatha and their daughter Aparajita live with Jagannath at Hasthinapuram on the Nagarjuna Sagar road. Incidentally, Charulatha was pregnant when the tragic news came. The child is now studying in class 9 at a local school.
The government has sanctioned a gas agency to Ms. Charulatha at Rajendranagar, and she is busy taking care of the business. A community hall and a road, too, have been named after the Major in the locality.
Padmapani’s mother Vimala Acharya recalls her son as a jovial person and a voracious reader.
“As a mother, I am definitely sad and hurt but as a patriot, I am proud of my son. He lives forever, whereas I will not. He made me promise that I would not cry when he left for the front,” she says. The Major did a course in Hotel Management, but he had a passion for the Army.
Despite the supreme sacrifice made by their elder son, the family’s tradition in serving the Armed forces continues. Padmasambhav Acharya, younger brother of Major Padmapani Acharya, is a colonel with the Rajputana Rifles.
“Now that the Army has opened its gates for women. I would love to see my granddaughter join the Army,” says Mr. Jagannath Acharya, proudly.