For nearly 45 minutes that he spent at a crematorium in Hebbal in Bengaluru, Avinash Kumar (28) was unable to stop the tears streaming down his face. Kumar, a civilian employee with the Indian Air Force, had travelled over 650 km from Bidar in north Karnataka for the last rites of Major Akshay Girish Kumar (31), who was killed in the Nagrota terror strike. “He was a brother to me,’’ said Avinash, fighting back tears as the officer’s body was carried for cremation by a group of soldiers from a Sappers unit. Avinash’s mother worked as a domestic help with Major Akshay Girish Kumar’s family when his father, Girish Kumar, was in the IAF and was posted at the Bidar air base. “I have known him since he was a child because my mother worked for his family and they always kept in touch with us,’’ he said.
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Avinash was not the only one who has travelled miles to get a last glimpse of Major Akshay. One of the officer’s first company commanders drove all night from Joshimath in Uttarakhand to catch a flight from New Delhi on Wednesday and to arrive for the funeral in Bengaluru on Thursday. “He saved the lives of 16 to 18 people but he could not save his own life. He had spoken to me four or five days earlier and was saying we should meet up…When he was a youngster — a lieutenant and captain — I was his immediate officer. He was cheerful, fit and a person made for the army,’’ said the senior officer who did not want to be named.
Another senior Army officer posted in Kashmir, who helped Major Akshay’s family in transporting his body to the Yelahanka Air Force base in Bengaluru on Thursday morning, said that Major Akshay and Major Kunal Gosavi, the officer from Maharashtra who was also killed in Nagrota, had reacted quickly to prevent a serious hostage situation involving women and children at the camp. “They stopped the terrorists, their action is commendable,’’ the senior officer said. The quick reaction and counter attack by the Indian soldiers at the Nagrota camp helped rescue among others Major Akshay Kumar’s own wife and three-year-old daughter.
Major Akshay Kumar’s father Girish Kumar, a former IAF Wing Commander who now works as an examiner for pilots, and his mother Meghna Girish travelled to Jammu on Tuesday soon after hearing the news, to be with Major Akshay’s wife and child and to bring back the officer’s body.
Earlier, Major Akshay was given full military honours at the Yelahanka air base before his body was shifted to his residence near the Bengaluru international airport.