'My father always said: once a soldier, always a soldier'
Recollects 11-yr-old Kartiki, daughter of martyr Colonel Santosh Mahadik whose body was flown down from J&K last evening; last rites were performed today in Satara
Pune: "Though we were married for 12 years, motherland remained his first love. And it is this first love that took my husband away from me," said a teary-eyed Swati (35), the widow of Colonel Santosh Mahadik.
Colonel Santosh Mahadik celebrating his birthday, which happened to be his last, with Kartiki and Swarajya
Mahadik is survived by his wife, and two kids — Kartiki (11) and Swarajya (5).
Mahadik attained martyrdom during a gun battle that waged between his troop and heavily-armed terrorists during a combing operation in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kupwara district on Tuesday afternoon. He was leading a troop of 41 Rashtriya Rifles.
Swati said, "He [Santosh] always believed that a leader must not only direct the team, but lead it from the front. I will carry forward his thoughts and vision."
Remembering Mahadik, Kartiki said, "My father would tell us stories of Shivaji Maharaj and wanted me to be like him — bold and just. I want to become a soldier like him. He always said: once a soldier, always a soldier."
Mahadik’s elder brother Jaywant Ghorpade said, "Santosh was a down to earth fellow. He was everybody’s favourite. Since our maternal grandmother legally adopted him in his teens, he became a Mahadik from Ghorpade. After our father’s demise last year, he was our ray of hope. He wanted our village to become a smart village and kickstart programmes to aid rural children join defence forces. My wife recently won the Sarpanch elections and Santosh decided to personally come down and congratulate her. He also wanted to discuss his plans to open a gymnasium for village kids where they would be taught various games, including boxing and football."
Ghorpade added Mahadik had come home in 1999 and that’s when the Kargil war started. "After just five hours of reaching home, he was ordered to resume duty ASAP. His priority had always been his motherland and that’s what he would tell his wife. Now, in his absence, his wife must fill in his shoes. Just like Shivaji Maharaj’s mother Jijabi. He even named his son, Swarajya, after them."
CM Devendra Fadnavis, who visited Pune to pay his tribute to Mahadik and offer condolences to his family, said, "We are proud of Col Mahadik as he is from the soil of Maharashtra. Sacrifice of jawans and soldiers has shielded our country. Soldiers like Col Mahadik are safeguarding our borders fearlessly. We — Maharashtra and India — will take care of Mahadik’s family."
Mahadik’s mortal remains were brought to the Lohegaon Air Force station yesterday around 6.10 pm and were shifted to National War Memorial, Pune, for his relatives, friends and colleagues to pay homage before he was cremated in his hometown of Pogarwadi village in Satara. Since the body started decomposing, it will be kept at the Satara civil hospital before last rites are performed at the primary school where he studied. Meanwhile, a pall of gloom has engulfed the Pogarwadi village. To express solidarity with the Mahadiks, villagers have pulled down Diwali lanterns and have decided not to celebrate Tulsi Vivah
(November 20) this year.
We called him Santo. A brilliant student, he was the college GS. I learnt about his death via our WhatsApp group. I still can’t stomach the fact that he is no more.
— Shital More-Jagdale, batchmate from Yashwantro Chavan College, Satara
Santo was a passionate person. He was involved in a lot of social activities too.
He would serve meals to poor children and donate books to the needy.
— Lt Col Sangram Yadav, a school friend and colleague from another battalion