Inside the living room of a modest two-room house in Kolhewadi area of Khadakwasla, Lata Nair’s gaze is fixed on a framed photograph of her 33-year-old son, Major Shashidharan Nair, who was killed in an IED blast in Jammu and Kashmir five days ago. “He had called two days before the incident. Nothing very special… usual conversation… how is everyone, is everything okay at home,” she said.
Inside were some close relatives and Major Nair’s wife Trupti, a patient of multiple sclerosis who needs a wheelchair to move about.
Over the past few days, the house has seen a steady stream of visitors, including mediapersons, political leaders, officials and also common people. Some neighbours and close friends of Major Nair have formed a protective ring around the family, talking to the visitors streaming in.
K V Pillai, a neighbour, who has known the family for the last 10 years, said the family members were still not in a position to meet people. “It is understandable given the tragedy. They should be given time to mourn.”
A number of hoardings have come up in the neighbourhood, offering tribute to a local hero. Messages of grief have been pouring into WhatsApp groups of the alumni of the two Kendriya Vidyalayas that Major Nair had attended.
His friends recalled how he was called the “band-aid boy” in school. “At least twice a week during our school days, he had to be given band-aids for several cuts and bruises. During cricket games, the ball would often land in the thorny bushes at school or in the gutter. And Shashi would not hesitate to get inside to fetch the ball,” recalled Jinson K Joy, Major Nair’s school friend.
“I don’t remember a single instance when he was rude to anyone. He was always focused on academics and sports,” Joy added.
Another classmate Akhilesh Singh said, “We are worried now about his wife Trupti. She is in a state of shock and doctors have said she should not be stressed as it will affect her health,” he said.
Friends recalled the happy relationship Major Nair had with his wife. The two had known each other for a while but a few months before their marriage, Trupti was affected by multiple sclerosis, a debilitating disease of the brain and spinal cord. The two went ahead with the marriage as planned.
“They were like any normal couple, laughing, joking and not once did Shashi have a look of sympathy on his face. In fact, he carried his wife to almost all parties and social gatherings,” recalled a friend.
Major Nair went to school at the Kendriya Vidyalayas at Girinagar and at National Defence Academy. “He was a great friend. His life was a struggle. After his father passed away, his mother taught Hindi tuitions. Fearless, he fought for others who faced troubles,” Akhilesh said, recalling that Major Nair would visit home at regular intervals.
While he graduated in Chemistry from Fergusson College, Major Nair’s passion was always joining the armed forces, his friends recalled. After attending the Indian Military Academy at Dehradun, he also served in high-altitude and counterinsurgency areas in J&K. Nair was an instructor at the Cadets Training Wing at College of Military Engineering before being posted in Kashmir.
“Our families met in the last week of December at my place as he was to rejoin duty on January 2,” said Sandesh Ingulkar, Major Nair’s friend. “Little did I know that it would be our last meeting.” ‘’In school, I always beat him in the 800 m race. But in this race, he outran all of us,” said Joy.