TAPOVAN/CHAMOLI: As the wheel of fate would have it, head constable Manoj Chaudhary's (42) life came to a full circle. His body was found on Monday floating at a ghat in Pindar river in Karnprayag, the place where he was born.
Karnprayag is at least 120 km away from the spot where he was posted on duty. Chaudhary had completed 24 years in the force in January. "It's like he returned here to say goodbye for one last time," says his elder brother Anil Chaudhary as he breaks down talking about him.
Manoj is survived by his wife, a 15-year-old daughter Tammanna and 12-year-old son Prince.
Manoj's 81-year-old mother Kal Kishori Devi is yet to believe that her son is gone.
"Ammaa is yet to believe that we have lost him. Seema (his wife) and children are in shock. When I was called to identify a body on Monday evening, everyone was apprehensive. Our fears turned out to be true. The only relief for us is that he came to us. There are dozens who are yet to be found," Anil further added.
His body and face were intact despite being engulfed by the flash floods. The body was cremated on Tuesday with full honors in the presence of senior district officials including the superintendent of police.
State BJP President Bansidhar Bhagat visited the family and offered his condolences.
Chaudhary was on duty along with three of his colleagues- Balbir Gadhia (58), Suresh Bhandari (59) and Deep Raj (38).
All four police personnel were deployed at the Rishi Ganga hydropower plant which was the first-ever place to get affected in the flash floods on Sunday.
Of the four police personnel from Uttarakhand state police, two survived to tell the tale- Suresh Bhandari and Deep Raj while Manoj Chaudhary and Balbir Gadhia were not so lucky.
Incidentally, Deep Raj also happened to be the first informer of the flash floods from Tapovan police post of Chamoli district which is located on Joshimath-Malari Highway, about 100kms from India-China border. Raj alerted Gopeshwar police control room which further contacted SDRF and other state agencies.
Raj who was on duty at the power plant was chased by the flash floods and got hit by stones that were flying in the air. "I saw stones flying in the air along with deafening thunder. We all started to run without looking back. I was hit by stones on my back but wanted to escape to higher ground to save myself," recalls Raj who is now with his family in Dehradun.
Suresh Bhandari (59), another policeman who survived recalls the day, "It was a bright day. We had a nice breakfast and were on duty. Suddenly, we heard screams, whistles and people shouting 'Bhago Bhago' (Run, Run). The sight and the sound of the avalanche coming down rapidly towards us instilled so much fear in us that we ran for our lives and did not look back."
Now at his home in Dehradun with his wife and children, Bhandari mourns his friends and colleagues. "We shared camaraderie of such level that we used to praise and scold each other with similar audacity. Our shifts were each of 3 hours and we guarded the power plant 24×7," recalls Bhandari who is due to retire in January 2022.
Ravi Semwal, reserve inspector posted in the district and commanding officer of the four men told The New Indian Express that the four men were hard-working and diligent. "Such postings are meant for hard taskmasters," Semwal said.