A day before his death in the Srinagar attack,Subhas Barla,21,called home to talk about the what if. It is probably the most bureaucratic of exercises,filling out forms with sentences that begin with In the event of death. Family members try their best not to apply their minds as they fill in the form,thinking of it merely as something that has to be done.
So did Subhas as he sat in his barracks in Bemina,Srinagar,casually asking his mother to recount the basic facts of his life. He wanted to make sure he had got the date of birth right. I and his father were to be his nominees, says Poonam Barla,as her relatives tried to coax her into taking the first meal of the day.
Constable Subhas Barla was one of the five CRPF men killed in Srinagar Wednesday. His parents live in a single bedroom house on Baba Path in Jurhuru,Hazaribagh. His body is due to arrive early Friday and the family is contemplating an evening funeral.
For Subhas,according to those close to him,joining the CRPF was a dream that came true in 2011. He wanted to be in the armed forces and would rent out DVDs to watch movies about the army, says his uncle Joseph Tigga.
Subhas was in the second year of college when the call came to join the CRPF. He was only too happy to drop out. After all,that is what he had always wanted, says Mudassir Husain,a neighbour who has been him since they were in St. Roberts Middle School.
The two also went together to St Columbas College but Mudassir dropped out the first year. He was with me even on the last day of his holidays last month. We went to the market and bought things for him to take back, says Mudassir. Subhas had come home for a month on his first leave. He went back on February 17.
He wanted to fill out the forms for his second year exam. His chances of promotion and a better future depended on graduating,he told me, says father Patras Barla.
Patras was a labourer with Damodar Valley Corporation before he was partially paralysed. So Subhas was his familys sole bread earner. His sister Manideepa Barla studies at the prestigious National Institute of Design,Ahmedabad. The Deputy Commissioner and Superintendent of Police were here today along with officials of the CRPF. They advised me that we should let my daughter complete her education so that she will get a better compensatory job, Patras says.
In the drawing room,women hunched in prayer as Jesus Christ and an assortment of Catholic saints benignly looked down from wall calendars. Visitors included teachers from St. Columbas. He was a shy boy,so very thin. I was taken aback when he came to meet me last month to talk about his second year exam. He had become a big boy,a jawan, says Surabhi Sahu,department head of Geography,which Subhas studied.
Outside,a neighbour delivered an unsolicited monologue to anyone who would listen. Such a peaceful boy… they will now name places and roads after him. He deserves the honour,we dont have a proper name for this colony. What does that mean to his parents,though? They have been orphaned,after all.