Shambu Saran Rai, one of the five soldiers killed in Kashmir, was to come home on a holiday in Bihar's Ara town this week. Now, his grief-stricken family awaits his body.
A pall of gloom has descended on Rai's house at Anaitha in Ara, 60 km from Patna, with hundreds of people thronging it to voice their solidarity with the family -- plus anger and anguish.
Rai's wife Sapna Devi and mother Kusum Devi fainted several times when they were told about the death. Both were inconsolable.
Shambu Rai's father Vansidhar Rai struggles to control his tears.
"We were waiting for his arrival as his holiday had been approved. He would have been here on Thursday or Friday. But destiny had something else in store. Now his body will arrive, not him," Rai senior told IANS.
Sapna Devi married Rai 12 years ago. They have three daughters and a son. "She is shattered. Her world has crashed. She is unable to say anything except cry," said Rai.
The sorrow apart, the father is proud of his son. "It is a rare thing that my son died for India. We are proud of him," he said.
A Non-Commissioned Officer and four soldiers were killed when the attackers, including men in Pakistani military uniform, sneaked into Indian territory and ambushed an army patrol near the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir early on Tuesday. One soldier was injured.
Equally distraught is Pushpa Devi, wife of Vijay Kumar Rai, another of the soldiers killed in the deadly ambush. She is unable to come to terms that her husband is no more.
Vijay Rai had left her at their house in Danapur near Patna July 27 to report for duty in Poonch in Jammu and Kashmir.
"After TVs reported that five soldiers had been killed in the border, she tried several times to call him on his phone but failed to get a response. She was not ready to accept anything negative till Vijay's brother, who is with the army too, gave her the bad news," said Vijay's brother Rajkishore Rai, a resident of Anandpur Thehka village.
Vijay's uncle Ramji Singh told IANS that Vijay Rai would be remembered for his bravery for the country. "He is now an icon of sacrifice."
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has announced a state funeral for all four soldiers of the 21 Bihar Regiment who were killed and a compensation of Rs.10 lakh for their families.
Besides, Sambhu and Vijay, the other slain soldiers are Prem Nath and Raghunandan Prasad, both from Bihar's Saran district, and Naik Pundalik Mane from Maharashtra.
The killings have impacted ties between India and Pakistan, whose Prime Ministers are widely expected to meet on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly next month.