Lt Colonel Mahipal Singh,50,of the 9 Mechanised Infantry,made it a point to call his family every day from South Sudan,where he was serving on a UN peacekeeping mission. Then on Saturday,he told them that he would not be able to call them for a few days.
The family was not very worried. They were used to long periods of silence. During the 1999 Kargil incursion too,the phone calls were very infrequent. But they just waited,hoped and prayed. And eventually,Singh returned home.
But not this time. For two days,they did not hear from him. On Tuesday,the third day,the family received a phone call informing them that he had been killed with four other Indian Army personnel.
When he went to Kargil,we knew he would return home safe. Since he was in the Army,there was no question of being afraid. This time too,we thought he would return home without sustaining even a minor injury,let alone dying, said Singhs daughter,Flight Lieutenant Jagriti Singh.
The phone calls from Sudan were regular. He would call at least once a day, she added.
The family hails from Mahendergarh district in Haryana. Singh was the first Army officer from his village of Surehti Pilania,said Jagriti.
More than a father,he was a friend,a role model, said Jagriti,in her late twenties. Perhaps that is why she decided to join the IAF in December 2009,although her father wanted her to become a civil servant.
Singhs younger son,R S Pilania,is a cadet at the National Defence Academy,while his other son,Mahendra,works for Volvo in Hyderabad. Their mother,Sudhakar,is still in shock.
Jagriti and her husband,also an IAF officer,are staying with relatives here,waiting for his body to arrive. They will then leave for his native village to perform his last rites.