They were men with dreams for their families, waiting to fulfill them until a cruel act brought their lives to a brutal end. Today, Sanjay Kumar Sinha and Ratan Kumar Thakur - two of the 40 CRPF soldiers who were killed in a suicide attack at Pulwama on Thursday - have become tragic reminders of the dangers that security personnel face every other day in a country plagued by cross-border terrorism.
Sergeant Singh's family and friends had reacted with disbelief when a telephone call to their home in Taregana Dih alerted them to the incident on Thursday. It gave way to sorrow, followed by a burning desire for vengeance. "We want strong retaliation from the government. There should be another surgical strike. How long will we go on losing our people to terrorist attacks from across the border?" a friend asked.
The sergeant's wife, Babita, has been crying ever since she heard the news - oblivious to repeated attempts by their two daughters to comfort her. After all, he had left home for Kashmir only last week after a month-long vacation.
Sergeant Sinha's father, Mahendra Prasad, is weighed down by concerns about the family's future. "My son has been martyred, but the government should consider what our family is going through. Sanjay has two grown-up but unmarried daughters. Before leaving, he had said that he would finalise the marriage of the elder one the next time he's here. I have no idea what we are going to do now," he said.
Mr Prasad, who was also with the CRPF in his youth, wants the government to provide them with the means to survive.
The condition of Ratan Kumar Thakur's family in Bhagalpur is just as tragic. He has left behind a four-year-old son and a wife who is expecting their second child. "Ratan had told us that he would call by evening, soon after joining work in Srinagar. But we received a call from his superior instead, and it was to inform us about this terrible news," said Niranjan Thakur, the CRPF constable's father.
Constable Thakur's salary had made his family aspire for better living standards, and it was only recently that they shifted to a rented accommodation in Bhagalpur from a nearby village. "We had hoped to ensure a bright future for his younger brother, who is doing a BA course, but now I am ready to let him join the force too. The enemy must be taught a lesson," his father said.
But, vengeance aside, life has given them a lot to worry about. "I shudder to think of Rajnandini (constable Thakur's widow). She is still young, and has a long life before her. How will she bring up her children now?" he asked.