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Boy who had a crew cut in school

Nov. 28: Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan had not told his family he was going to Mumbai.

His father, Unnikrishnan, and mother found out today when an official called them at their home near Yelahanka air force station, Bangalore, to say their only son was dead.

Sandeep, who turned 31 on March 15, had wanted to join the air force but ended up in the army because of a “small eyesight problem that got corrected later”, his cousin Sandhya Prasad said over phone from Bangalore. “I was like a sister to him. We were very close,” she said.

Commissioned in June 1999, Sandeep was part of the 7 Bihar Regiment. In 2006, he signed up for the National Security Guard, the elite commando force raised to fight terror, around 400 of whose men have been rushed to Mumbai.

“The family had no idea Sandeep was part of the operation in Mumbai. He had not informed them for security reasons,” said S.K. Krishnan, a close friend and former colleague of his father at Isro. Unnikrishnan, 62, had retired from the space agency as assistant to a director two years ago.

“However, we did feel he could have been part of the operation,” Krishnan said. “He was a son that any parent would love to have,” the family friend said, breaking down.

Chandrashekharan, another family friend who knew Sandeep from the time he was a toddler growing up in the Isro Colony on the other side of town in Ulsoor, said Unnikrishnan was devastated.

“The father and son were very close. It was his encouragement that led Sandeep to join the NDA and become an army officer,” he said.

Unnikrishnan had never scrimped on his son’s education. Sandeep went to Frank Anthony Public School, whose principal Christopher Browne remembered the officer as an “extraordinary child” and an “all-rounder” who excelled in academics and sports.

“He was an incredible sportsman. He held various records in sports,” Browne said, adding he would help anyone to a fault.

The principal said Sandeep had dreamt of joining the forces from when he was in Class III and even came to school in a crew cut.

“He was a bright student. Sandeep passed Class XII with distinction from Frank Anthony and joined the NDA in 1994,” Sandhya said.

The family came from Beypore in the northern Kozhikode district of Kerala but had lived in Bangalore for the past 28 years.

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