GADAG: For the past 17 years, whenever a soldier gloriously embraced martyrdom, laying down his life defending the motherland, he has received a token of gratitude from a garlic-seller from Karnataka, who has made it his life’s mission to offer his final salute to the departing hero.
Ishwar Yavalur, the 49-year-old man from Tadabidi village in Yadgir, who sells garlic for a living, makes it a point to visit the homes of martyred soldiers, console their family members, and be a part of the funeral. Till date, Yavalur claims to have attended the cremation of around 35 martyred soldiers.
“Whenever I visit the homes of martyred soldiers for their funeral, I lay a garland around them, break a coconut and console their family,” Yavalur says. Martyrdom is often considered the ultimate glory and sacrifice for a soldier. “If death strikes before I prove my blood, I swear, I will kill death!” This famously inscribed thought from the diary of Captain Manoj Kumar Pandey, who laid down his life in the defence of our country during the Kargil War in 1999, beautifully encapsulates the emotion that pervades the mind space of the soldier.
Joining the Army as a soldier was a dream Yavalur had always cherished, but the travails of poverty back home hindered his path. Moreover, he was forced to quit his education in the 3rd Standard.During the Kargil conflict, I wanted to meet the martyred soldiers’ families, but I was young. My family members also dissuaded me from travelling because of our financial problems. I still regret that,” Yavalur adds.
But his passion for the Army did not fade away. In whatever little way that he could, Yavalur involved himself in varied activities that kept his zeal alive. He began collecting photographs of soldiers, watched a lot of soldier- and war-related movies, and above all, came up with the noble thought of visiting martyred soldiers’ homes and offering them his gratitude.
Accordingly, he took part in Lance Naik Hanumanthappa Koppad’s funeral procession and cremation for the first time.Thirty-two-year-old Lance Naik Koppad of the 19th Battalion of the Madras Regiment had initially survived a massive avalanche at the Siachen Glacier, and was rescued on February 8, 2016, six days after the disaster. He, however, passed away a few days later.From thereon, Ishwar Yavalur began his quest to participate in the cremations of as many martyred soldiers as possible. He also visited the homes of soldier Sandeep Shetty from Devahalli, Hassan (martyred February 22, 2017) and Subedar Veeresh Kurahatti from Karamudi, Gadag (martyred December 25, 2019), besides those of 32 other martyred soldiers in Karnataka.Besides, Yavalur offers daily pooja to the photos of martyred soldiers at his home, along with his wife and two children. His house has no pooja room, but these photos grace the hall.
“I take time off from my job of selling garlic, when I learn of soldiers being martyred. I visit their place a day earlier, console their family members and stick around till the mortal remains arrive. I leave only after the cremation,” he says.Explaining how he’s able to manage all this despite his financial condition, Yavalur says, “I make Rs 100-200 a day, after selling garlic in the nearby villages, of which I save Rs 20-50 to utilise for my visits.”Unable to realise his Armyman dream, he now wishes that his daughter Prarthana serves in the Indian Army. “I want to turn this dream into reality and want to see my daughter protecting the nation,” he proudly states. His wife Bhagyamma is also proud of him visiting soldiers who laid their life for the country.“The soldiers die in order to save us from the enemy, so it’s our duty to spend one or two days with their family and give them moral support. I think this is my duty, and not a service,” he concludes, sharing his wish to visit as many homes of martyred soldiers in the country as possible.
many People mistook me for a child-lifter
Ishwar Yavalur recollects a funny incident while returning from Hassan to Yadgir after a soldier’s cremation. Some children found him on the outskirts of a village. “They were scared to enter the village, as there were many stray dogs. I went with them and reached their village. But some villagers thought I could be a child-lifter and approached me with sticks. I ran for my life and hid in a tree. Later, they learnt about me from the children, offered me food and dropped me to the nearest bus stand for my journey back home,” he says.