A pal of gloom descended on the home of Havildar K Palani as his family waited for his body to reach Tamil Nadu's Kadukalur village. "The final rites would be done at the family's native village, subject to COVID norms. The Army would give the guard of honour," District Collector K Veera Raghava Rao told NDTV.
The Havildar, who died for India in the face-off with Chinese soldiers in Ladakh on Monday, had last visited home in January.
In the months that followed he missed many a milestone, including joining his family when they moved into their new house in Ramanathapuram district, where he had hoped to live peacefully after his retirement.
He was due to retire next year after serving the country for 22 years. "Palani could not join the family for house warming on June 12, nor for his birthday on June 3 due to developments in Ladakh," said a family member.
Coming from a humble background, Palani had joined the Army right after graduating from school.
"He had earned a BA degree through distance learning while serving in the Indian Army," said his brother Idhayakani, who is also a soldier and is currently posted in Rajasthan.
The Havildar leaves behind his wife, a daughter and a son. Palani had wanted his son to also join the armed forces.
Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami, leader of Opposition MK Stalin and several other leaders have condoled Palani's death.
The Tamil Nadu government announced a relief sum of Rs 20 lakh and offered a government job to an eligible member of the family. "We have handed over the relief announced by the Chief Minister," the collector said.
At least 20 Indian soldiers died in the hand-to-hand combat in which some casualties were also suffered by the Chinese in the high-altitude Galwan river valley.