He was called the 'miracle man' -- despite being buried for 6 days beneath 35 feet of snow, he had survived. His family's joy was short-lived as he succumbed on February 11, 2016, but Hanumanthappa Koppad's story is nothing short of inspiring. A pale of gloom had descended on Betadur in Dharwad, Koppad's native village in Karnataka on February 3 as news of the avalanche broke. Six days later, the village was jubilant, rescue personnel had found him with a pulse, critical but alive.
Many journalists had been camping at the hamlet awaiting news of Koppad's well-being. He had been airlifted and admitted to Army Research and Referral Hospital in Delhi. The best treatment was being given to the man who had survived. His wife and two-year-old child accompanied by his elder brother had already left for Delhi. The village was hopeful that he would return. He had visited his hometown just six months ago. For two days, every soul in the village prayed only for his well-being.
On that fateful morning, as we walked into the village all we could hear were stories of Hanumanthappa. From an agrarian family to the army, his journey was no easy feat. It was 8.30 am and the government primary school in Koppad was holding its morning assembly. Teachers and Children alike prayed for Hanumanthappa. They had been praying for him over the last few days. Teachers spoke of how he interacted with children each time he came to the village. He taught them Yoga and encouraged them to join the army, we were told.
Around 9 am, we were told of special prayers that were being held at a temple nearby. Posters of Hanumanthappa hung around the temple. Folk singers sang praises of Lord Shiva as men, women and children sat in prayer at a temple. At the start of the prayer event, the elders announced that they were indeed praying for Hanumanthappa's recovery. The prayer session lasted close to an hour.
We returned to Hanumanthappa's home. The television in one of the small rooms was blaring news. The family kept a constant watch on the news to get updates about Hanumanthappa's health. His brother's family kept journalists engaged in conversation about how he travelled six kilometres to attend school and how he had failed to clear army recruitment three times before he finally got selected.
We were then invited by a group of villagers to the nearby mosque where special prayers for Hanumanthappa was being held. Just a 5-minute walk from his residence, the camerapersons entered to shoot the prayers while women reporters chose to stay out and wait. It was around 11.45 when reporters' phones beeped. Even as prayers for his well-being were held, the news that no one wanted to hear broke. Hanumanthappa had passed away due to multiple organ failures in the hospital. For six days under the snow and two days in the hospital, the man had put up a fight for survival that was the stuff of legends.
By the time we returned to Koppad's residence, the mood had changed. From hope-filled happiness, it had turned into inevitable sudden tragedy. The family learnt that their miracle man had succumbed.
Within minutes, the house was surrounded by villagers. In less than half an hour, relatives, friends had started visiting the bereaved family to condole the death of a son, husband, father, brother and most importantly a brave soldier. Quietly, the people started making preparations to bid a final adieu to Hanumanthappa. Political leaders made a beeline and later that evening, his mortal remains were brought to his hometown accompanied by his wife and toddler. Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah was at the airport to receive his body.
The district administration had made preparations to place Hanumanthappa's mortal remains at Nehru Stadium in Hubli. Hundreds of people including politicians, seers came to pay tributes to the martyr. His body was then taken to his hometown where he was buried with full honours. He now lives in the memories of those close to him, he moved the conscience of an entire nation with thousands of prayers for his recovery.
A year after his death, his sacrifices seem to have been forgotten. A memorial for him and a job for his wife that was promised by the Karnataka government remains unfulfilled. While the family has received monetary support and land grants, a job for Mahadevi Koppad to ensure a dignified way of life is being denied. You prayed for him, shed a tear probably, now is the time to stand for him.
Stand with Hanumanthappa Koppad.