A familiar voice greeted HR professional Sharmistha Dutta on the phone around 11.30 a.m. on Friday. The brief conversation brought her news that she had been longing to hear for a year.
“It was unbelievable! The best thing that has happened! I just know that daddy is coming … I have no other information,” said an ecstatic Ms. Dutta, a resident of Sarjapur here.
The call came from her father, Capt. Shankar Dutta, soon after his release along with 21 other crew members of the ship hijacked on March 2, 2012 by Somalian pirates, near Oman, when it was on its way to Nigeria from Dubai.
The 60-year-old West Bengal native, who is now a Bangalorean, is the captain of UAE-owned MV Royal Grace. The hijacked crew comprised 16 other Indians, including five from Kerala.
‘Only a few seconds’
“The conversation lasted only for a few seconds. He said all of them are fine and they will be reaching India in the next two to three days,” said Ms. Dutta, who has been running from pillar to post in Delhi and Mumbai for the last six months, meeting Ministers and officials to get the crew released.
For the 26-year-old, Friday morning had already brought a hint of good news as families of other crew members informed her about the release. “The release came precisely one year and six days after the hijack,” she said, with a sigh of relief.
“Till August last, I had no [definite] information that the ship had been hijacked though families of some crew knew about it within two months,” Ms. Dutta said, recounting her trying times. “I know my father well; he does not inform us when he is in trouble. Some years ago when his ship was in trouble near Greece, he was not in touch with the family for four months.”
The long journey
Her journeys into bureaucratic corridors began when she realised that her father had been kept hostage by the Somali pirates. “Rajeev Chandrasekhar (Rajya Sabha member) helped me a lot in fixing appointments with top officials.”
Through her ordeal, she managed to keep in touch with her father through a couple of calls. Meanwhile, Mr. Chandrasekhar raised the issue for the first time in Parliament following which Shipping Minister G.K. Vasan assured that the government would initiate action.
“Though I was disappointed at times, I never lost hope of his safe return. I remained positive,” Ms. Dutta said.
Thanking all those who stood by her during the crisis, she said: “My company (makemyjob.com) allowed me to take leave and most of the times I was travelling to Mumbai and Delhi.”
On her plans to welcome her father, she said: “I just want to meet him. The crew is expected to land either in Mumbai or Delhi.”