16-year-old Arun Kumar is suspected to have disappeared in the sea on August 28

G. Palani (45) remembers his teenage son Arun’s excitement when he bought him a mobile phone a few months ago. On Thursday evening, he was sobbing, clutching Arun’s shirt and shorts, which he was wearing when he went missing on August 28.

In the 17 days since Arun Raj (16), a class XI student, allegedly went missing in the sea off Kapaleeshwarar Nagar beach in Neelankarai, Palani, his elder son Shanmugasundaram (18), and relatives have combed the coast from Pallavakkam to Besant Nagar for any sign of the teen’s body.

Amidst the frantic searches, Palani, a barber, hopes his son is alive. “I don’t think he drowned in the sea that day as the bodies of all 16 who drowned along the coast afterwards have been washed ashore,” said the father.

Arun’s mother Vijayakumari (37) recalled that she had given her son money to buy ‘paani poori’ on that day and left for work at TCS, Thoraipakkam where she is in the housekeeping section. “His two friends took him for a birthday party that morning and later told us they had all gone to the beach and Arun decided to take a dip in the sea and vanished in the waves,” she added.

The couple and many of their relatives, who had gathered at their house in Thoraipakkam, have suspicions about the chain of events. “It was only when Palani called his son’s mobile phone that one of his friends answered and said Arun had gone missing. We lodged a police complaint the next day but no probe was initiated,” said Arun’s uncle Kumarasami.

The teenager’s family is also puzzled about the vanishing of Arun’s cellphone. “I got back my son’s clothes but his phone, which rang each time we called over the next four days, is missing,” Palani added.

However, the family members have checked all the hospital mortuaries in the city and also approached the Office of Commissioner of Police recently. They are now distributing Arun’s photographs with contact numbers to residents along the entire coastline, their final hope of hearing something about their beloved boy.

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