SATARA: The toddler playing at the freshly-painted house in Mhaskarwadi hamlet of Satara district in western Maharashtra is clueless as to why are her mother and grandparents crying, little aware that her father died in the Siachen avalanche, which claimed lives of nine soldiers.
Her father Sepoy Sunil Suryawanshi was among the soldiers buried under the tonnes of snow after a massive avalanche hit their post at the world's highest battlefield of Siachen on Wednesday.
Recalling her last conversation with Sunil, his mother Sangita said: "He said I will return and asked all of us to take care. He said he would call again."
The soldier's father Vitthal said he was "proud of his son's sacrifice".
"We still feel that he will come back and be in our midst again," Sunil's brother Tanaji said, hoping for a miracle to happen.
Tanaji, who works at a bank in Karad town, said Sunil was very fond of his year-old girl.
Vandana Suhas Bhosle, who taught Sunil till class IV at a village school, said he walked six kms a day to attend the school from 5th to 10th standard at Kukudwad, near Mhaskarwadi which is in Maan tehsil and 70 km from Satara.
She lauded the dedication of the soldier's father who brought up his two sons on a paltry income.
"Vitthal, who owns two acre land, took up 'rangari' (painting) jobs, painted schools, built toilets and undertook sundry jobs to help support his children's education," Vandana told PTI.
"Sunil's family moved into their new house just recently. There was to be a 'vastu shanti' (house warming) function on February 19, on the occasion of Shiv Jayanti," she said.
Sunil, born in 1991, was married around two years ago.
This is for the second time in the last four months that Satara district has made the country proud after another son of soil died in the line of duty.
On November 17, Colonel Santosh Mahadik, a highly decorated para-commando of Satara, who was commanding officer of the 41 Rashtriya Riffles, died fighting militants in Kupwara district of north Kashmir.