It was a day for prayer and thanksgiving at the residence of Syed Azharuddin on Thursday. If not for his mother’s last-minute plea not to board the Jabbar Travels bus to Hyderabad leaving Bangalore on Tuesday night, Mr. Azharuddin too would perhaps have been among the 45 people who were charred to death in the bus near Mahabubnagar district on Wednesday.

An iron merchant at K.R. Market, he planned to visit family in Hyderabad for a few days as business was dull during Deepavali. “I left home in the afternoon with my luggage. The plan was to close the shop by late evening and board the bus at 9.30 p.m. in Kalasipalya,” said the 24-year-old resident of Kanakanagar, Sultanpalya. However, his mother Nusrath Jabeen called him multiple times, urging him to cancel his trip. “I called off the plan after my maternal uncle too advised the same.”

Sadness

However, Mr. Azharuddin’s cousin Jabeena Sultana was not as fortunate. Jabeena, her husband Azmuthalla and five-year-old daughter Usma Sultana were taking the same bus to Hyderabad to visit her ailing mother. All three lost their lives.

Mr. Azharuddin’s relief at a close shave is mixed with sadness as he recalls his cousin’s family. He says he was planning to stay with Jabeena’s father, Aslam Pasha. But, he adds, he did not know his cousin was on the bus. On Wednesday morning, he says, “the first call came from the Andhra Pradesh police to enquire if I was a passenger or had booked a ticket for someone else. Then came the call from my uncle informing us that Jabeena was among the victims. That shook us up.”

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