THE LAST time Sepoy Ganesh Ram Kunjam was home in January, his family fixed his wedding to be held later this year. And the last time he spoke to them a month ago over phone, he told them he would take leave and be home ahead of the wedding.
But Tuesday afternoon, Tihari Ram Kunjam, 44, received a call from an unknown number informing him about his nephew’s death. “Before I could understand what was happening, the call got disconnected,” he told The Indian Express. Several calls to the number continue to remain unanswered.
Eldest of three siblings, Ganesh Ram Kunjam, who turned 28 in April, had joined the Indian Army in 2011 after he finished schooling. “He wanted to join the Army since he was young. He had honed his body to the specifications appreciated in the army,” his father Itwari Ram Kunjam, 46, said.
For the tribal family of paddy farmers from Gidhali village in Charama block in Kanker, there was no hesitation in sending their eldest son for a career in Army. “We had to send him to do something, either college, which costs money or what he really wanted, which was dangerous. I had hoped it would take him a couple of attempts to clear the entrance, but he cleared it all at one go, with high praise from the seniors,” the bereaved father said.
As information of Ganesh Kunjam’s death spread, villagers started congregating outside the Kunjam household. Men who grew up with Kunjam were huddled in a corner, checking for updates in their mobile phones. All of them talk about obsession with a career in the armed forces.
“A lot of people from our village have joined the armed forces. He would always sit with them and ask them so many questions,” recalled a friend requesting anonymity. “He was very passionate about his work. He couldn’t contact his family often for weeks and months,” said another friend Nayan Kunjam.
According to Ganesh Kumar’s father, the patwari and other officials came to the residence Wednesday morning to collect his son’s pictures and family details. “We don’t know when the body will be sent here for the funeral, or if he will be cremated somewhere else. They had no information, though. We need more details than just a phone call informing us about his death,” he said.
The Ganesh that Itwari Ram Kunjam remembers was a playful child, determined to join the army. “He would keep telling us, that everything else, besides the Army, is beyond our financial capacity. He used to wake up early and before helping us, finish a run around our field and house,” Itwari Ram said.
At the centre of the village is the village high school, painted yellow and ochre, with a ground adjoining the building, where Ganesh studied before joining the defence forces. “He would take part in all physical exercises, games or competition. He was an average student, but he worked hard and managed to clear the entrance exam at one go,” his uncle Tihari Ram Kunjam said.
Itwari doesn’t remember when he last spoke to his son, even though in May, Ganesh had called his uncle Tihari Ram and spoke to the family. “He had finished a year at his post in Kashmir region and had two more years to go before he could be transferred. He said he would take leave and come home before the wedding,” Tihari Ram said.