Netra, daughter of late Lance Naik Hanumanthappa Koppad, was playing with the new set of toys she received from a well-wisher, when this Correspondent visited her house in Betadur village in Kundagol taluk of Dharwad Hanumanthappadistrict. The three-year-old was also throwing tantrums at her mother, Mahadevi, so that the chocolate supply was available on demand.

A huge portrait of Hanumanthappa welcomes visitors to his house. The villagers now remember the braveheart soldier, who was martyred on February 11 last year, as ‘Betadur Tiger.’ Many posters and banners have come up in and around the village and at his final resting place ahead of the first death anniversary of their hero.

For villagers Hanumanthappa is ‘Betadur Tiger’

His close friend and Naik Basappa T (Retd) recalls the love the ‘Betadur Tiger’ had for the village.

The Samadhi of Hanumanthappa

“When he came on leave the villagers celebrated. He cared for everyone and always wanted more youth from our area to join the armed forces,” says Basappa, who recently retired from the Indian Army (12 Madras Regiment), after 17 years of service.

“We still believe he is around. In the history of Indian Army, nobody has ever survived like the way Hanumanthappa did after being buried under the snow for so many days. We feel he is now protecting all of us,” says Basappa, who too had volunteered for a Siachen posting, but couldn’t proceed beyond the base camp, owing to health reasons.

Mahadevi, now 27, says she has become stronger with her priorities hovering around her daughter, Netra.

Netra talks to her father at the samidhi

“Netra is now aware of who her father was. Whenever she wants to see him, I take her to Hanumanthappa’s samadhi. She talks to him. I get inspiration every time I visit his resting place,” says Mahadevi.

Hanumanthappa’s daughter Netra

“Since ours is a large joint family, I am always engaged with household work. Everyone is supportive here. Whenever I make jowar roti, I miss him a lot. Hanumanthappa loved them and he insisted everyone should eat jowar roti for strength,” says Mahadevi, who has now been getting many invitations from organisations to give motivational talks.

She says she has already started dreaming of Netra joining the Indian Army. “I will make her an officer. I want her to be posted in the Siachen Glacier and serve our country. I know women are not allowed there, but things will change when Netra grows up. There is no better service than working for armed forces. There’s no better sacrifice than dying for the motherland,” says Mahadevi.

Mahadevi hopes to get a job in Hubli

She says she has begun the hunt for a job so that she can be independent and support the needs of Netra when she grows up.

Hanumanthappa’s wife Mahadevi

“I have passed 10th class and keen to get a job in and around Hubli or Dharwad. I am hoping that I will get some help,” she adds.

Hanumanthappa’s mother Basamma (70) and grandmother Pakkiramma (98) too want the youth of Betadur village to join Indian Army.

“We know he (Hanumanthappa) is with us. Now, we want more youngsters from this village to join the Army. They are all inspired by Hanumanthappa’s story,” says Basamma. She is the boss of the house and even Hanumanthappa’s pet dog Shiny, too knows where to report to, when summoned.

At Hanumanthappa’s resting place, Netra was constantly telling every visitor her father is sleeping there. It was inspiring to see schoolchildren offering their pranams at the Samadhi.

And, the ‘Betadur Tiger’ is sure to inspire many generations to come!

(The writer is the Content Consultant with Mathrubhumi (English Online) and tweets @writetake.)