The entrance to Savalaperi village in Thoothukudi off NH 7 is through an iron archway. A white cloth hangs below bearing bold Tamil words painted in black which roughly translates into "Death of brave men - death for bravery. We praise you."
"We are not scared, this does not scare us. In fact, more from the village will join the army. It will be one of us who will gun down their last man standing. The outfit should not exist," seethes Karuthapandi, Subramanian's cousin. Subramanian (27) was one of at least 40 other CRPF jawans who were killed in a brutal terrorist attack in Jammu's Pulwama on Thursday afternoon.
26-year-old Ramkumar who joined the CRPF just two years ago says it was all because of Subramanian that he was able to join the force. "He'd train me physically. I didn't even have money to buy books. He was the one who helped me. He was my greatest inspiration," says Ramkumar who just made it to the village, having flown down from his posting at Meghalaya on Saturday morning. He quickly averts his bloodshot eyes, composing himself before turning back to answer our questions.
"As soon as I heard the news on Thursday I immediately applied for leave," says Ramkumar.
"Desiyam and Deiveegam (nation and god) are our two eyes. We follow Netaji. Even today our village has at least 20 young men in both army and CRPF combined. More of us will keep joining," Karuthapandi tells us.
"Our only grief is not that he died for the country but that he's got a very young wifeâ€¦," Sateesh, Subramanian's cousin trails off, not finishing the sentence. "If not we would have felt only pride in his death for the country," he adds.
The stifling afternoon heat on this Saturday in February is less harsh than the actual summer in this region. The sharp leaves of the neem trees lining his house's entrance, barely flinch. Unmindful of this early summer heat, a steady stream of people walk and drive through this archway, all headed towards martyred jawan G Subramanian's house.
Subramanian's village is one that borders Tirunelveli and Thoothukudi districts in Tamil Nadu and is majorly dependent on farming. The village that is home to almost 800 people has four of their men in CRPF and over 10 in the military.
Subramanian's father Ganapathy had always discouraged his son from joining the force. "Why did he have to go? Why did he have to suffer in all that cold? I kept asking him to come back home. He'd never tell me of his hardships because it worried us," his father mourns.
Just a few days ago, when Subramanian was here on his month-long leave, coinciding Pongal, he had taken his father to get his eyes operated. "Even when he called, he'd ask after my health. He kept telling his wife to take care of me," says 68-year-old Ganapathy, adjusting his black glasses.
Inside, his wife Krishnaveni, lies on her aunt's lap, staring ahead while a few women seated next to her sing laments. The 22-year-old is a distant relative to Subramanian and the two married each other on June 27, 2017. As a CRPF personnel, Subramanian had a total of 70 days off in a year. He'd come home once in 3 months to spend time with his wife and family. "They haven't spent even 6 months together. Even in that short time, she understood her husband so well," Krishnaveni's aunt tells us.
As Krishnaveni tells us of her husband's strong will and desire to serve the country, her strength falters, her face that was blank up until then, betrays heavy grief when she recalls her last phone call with him. "He called as usual. Asked if we had eaten," she tells us before resuming to look ahead.
Outside, in the hall, a few framed photos of the married couple and of Subramanian's brother's family hang above and around the TV.
Subramanian's older sister Chitra tells us that her brother has always remained tightlipped of his gruelling days in the force. "He'd never tell us anything. Last year when he had come home, he came wearing a cap. When we asked him why, he said he hit his head somewhere and that he's now better. When I kept insisting him to tell me the truth, he revealed that he was attacked with stones while he was on patrol. He was so full of bravery and would never listen to our pleas to give up the job. He valued his work to the country that much. Had he escaped from this attack, we would have definitely not let him return back to work," she says.
A spirited young man
Subramanian who joined the force four years ago was posted in places like Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh, and Chennai. His sister tells us that he was nearing the completion of his training.
Having completed a diploma in IT, Subramanian's dream was to either join the police force or the CRPF. "He had applied for both and when he got into CRPF he immediately took it up. He was more than happy to join the force. But why did he have to? He could've just stayed with us, helping his father with farming," says his mother, lamenting the death of her youngest child.
Subramanian loved farming too. One of his friends tell us that whenever he came back to his village on leave, he'd either be seen playing volleyball and cricket or he'd be toiling away in the fields. "He had once shared his dream of taking up farming after his time in the force. He was passionate about farming too," he says.
The 27-year-old has always encouraged young boys and men from his village to take up physical fitness. He'd coach kabaddi teams, train young boys in athletics and would never say no to a game of volleyball.
His 15-year-old niece Sumitha who lives in Chennai says, "Mama loved playing sports. Even when he was here for a month on leave, he conducted different events in the village for Pongal celebrations. When he was posted in Chennai for about a year, he'd come to our house every couple of weeks. I've always remembered seeing him playing the ball whenever we visited the village."
"He has now given his life for the country. Now what about his family?" cries his mother as we leave.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami, on Friday, announced a solatium of RS 20 lakhs each for the two jawans - Subramanian from Savalaperi and C Sivachandran from Ariyalur who lost their lives in the attack that has shocked the country. On Saturday, the Chief Minister also promised a government job to one family member of both jawans. Subramanian's family, which struggles with no steady income hopes that 22-year-old Krishnaveni, a B Com graduate, is offered a government posting to help sustain the brave jawan's household.