Major was looking forward to starting a family

NEW DELHI: Four days ago when Brigadier (retd) Chandrakant Sood called up from Panchkula to speak to his son Major Anuj in Kashmir’s Handwara, they briefly spoke about his possible homecoming after the end of lockdown. They also chatted about Anuj joining his parent unit, Brigade of Guards, in Gurdaspur.

On Sunday, as news broke that Anuj had been killed in a brutal gun-battle with Lashkar-e-Toiba terrorists in Kashmir, the family stoically fielded incessant calls from relatives and friends. One of those was from Anuj’s young wife Aakriti. She wanted to know how she could arrange a vehicle pass, needed during the lockdown, to drive from Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh, where she had gone to visit her parents, to Panchkula near Chandigarh.

“My daughter-in-law Aakriti could barely speak at first. She wanted to come immediately to be with us. But my wife and I were able to convince her to come when the mortal remains reach us on Monday,” the retired brigadier, who was with the Indian Army Corps of EME, told TOI.

The couple had got married in 2017 and Anuj moved to the Valley within four months of that. “They were planning to start a family,” Sood said. “Aakriti was working with a firm in Pune. She couldn’t be with Anuj as wives are not allowed where he was posted. But she was anxiously waiting for his return. Anuj was to come back from Rashtriya Rifles and join in Gurdaspur with his unit.”

Those who knew Anuj, 31, said he was fanatical about sports and found time to pursue it though he was involved so often with counter-insurgency operations. “He was a topper at Punjab Public School, Nabha, and represented the Army in equestrian events. He kept squash as his additional hobby even after he joined the Army in 2012,” said a friend.

“I remember when Rashtriya Rifles was being raised as a specialised unit to tackle militancy during the time I was in service, Anuj was very curious about it. He would ask me about it all the time.”

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