Mounds of sand fill up three rooms of a bungalow that has yellow French windows. On its red roof is a black clay mask to ward off evil spirits. The sand would have soon made way for black tiles on the floor. But the incomplete construction now stands next to Govind Singh Thapa’s (48) house in Bhuttuwala area of Dehradun as a reminder of his unfulfilled dream and his untimely death.
“He had seen a house like this in Kabul. He took pictures of the house, made a blueprint, brought them here and showed it to a local contractor. He hand-picked everything — the doors, the tiles, the fittings. He was designing his dream home. When a person commits an act of terror, it is only one mission that he accomplishes. But he crushes hundreds of dreams and destroys hundreds of families,” said Thapa’s brother-in-law Praveen Kumar, a serving Army officer.
The news of the death of Govind Singh and Ganesh Thapa (51), both ex-servicemen from Dehradun, in a terror attack by a suicide bomber in Kabul on Monday shattered their wives living over 1,200 km away. One expressed it with unstoppable tears, the other with unbreakable silence.
Govind’s wife Kalpana (35) lay wailing in her bed, weak but persistent in refusing food or water for 24 hours. Kalpana, who hails from Nepal, married Govind, a divorcee, in 2014. A doting husband, his Facebook profile is full of collages of Kalpana’s pictures with proclamation of his love for her. “The last message he sent Kalpana was ‘I am leaving for job. I miss you.’ He sent it on Monday morning at 6:30 am,” said Kumar.
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On his last trip home in April, he refurbished his Honda City with TV screens installed behind the front seats. “He bought these in UAE. He wanted his car to feel like a plane. He worked hard 11 months of the year and the one month he came home, he lived it up,” said Kumar.
Govind’s mother Junidevi (70) said, “He was my first child. Your first-born always remains special. He used to love playing the guitar and sing. I didn’t know much of what he sang but he used to enjoy it.”
Govind’s family said that he often called and Skyped with them but never mentioned any threat to his life or safety. “He had been in Kabul since 2010. He never said it was unsafe or that he felt threatened there,” said Sunaina, Govind’s sister-in-law.
About 12 km from Govind’s house in Purohit Wala village in Birpur cantonment area, Ganesh Thapa’s wife Rukmini sits still in a corner of her living room in ‘Thapa Niwas’. She stares into thin air, not talking to anyone. “She’s been like that since she got the news from Kabul yesterday,” said Suresh Thapa, eldest of Ganesh’s brothers.
Ganesh was the youngest of four brothers who took up jobs as security personnel for Sabre Security International after retiring from the Indian Army. While Suresh, Ganesh and their brother Dhanbahadur worked as security personnel at the Canadian Embassy in Kabul, their brother Lalit was deployed elsewhere in Kabul. Lalit is expected to return to Dehradun on June 25. Dhanbahadur, Suresh said, will come back with his brother’s mortal remains to India.
Ganesh’s nine-year-old daughter Supriya swiftly swipes the screen of her phone, willing to show her father’s picture to anyone who asks. “She knows,” said Suresh, “but she is just a child.” She recalls her holiday in Kerala when her father visited last between April 29 and May 30. “We went to an aquarium,” she said with a smile. “But I didn’t enjoy eating fish. It has too many bones.”
Suresh, who was going to return to Kabul at the end of the month, now has second thoughts about going back. He has been working as a Guard Force Commander in Kabul since 2009. “I have more responsibility now. I have my brother’s family to look after. My brothers are also coming back in a few days. They, too, will have to rethink their decision to go back,” he said.
The four brothers studied in the Gorkha Military Inter College. “Since school, Ganesh was very good at football,” Suresh said. Ganesh joined the Army when he was 17, he said. “We never thought working in Afghanistan would be unsafe. The facilities we had there were very good. We were not permitted to go out of our camp. But we had a gym, indoor sports and we never faced any problems,” said Suresh.
The company he worked for, he said, employs only ex-servicemen as they require people with arms training. “We carry AK-47s on the job,” he said. The company had advertised for recruitment and he had heard about them in Delhi. He said he applied for the job and got selected.
Suresh said that while in the Army and later as security personnel, he and his brothers were committed to protecting human lives. “That alone is our responsibility,” he said.