If death is hard to come to terms with, identifying dead kin is probably harder.
On Friday, families of the crew of beleaguered ship MT Pratibha Cauvery, rushed from one government hospital mortuary to another, to identify the bodies of their relatives. The bodies of three of the five missing sailors, who had jumped ship reportedly on their captain’s orders on Wednesday, were washed ashore and recovered by police and sent to the hospitals.
A few families at the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital (GGH) were in denial, leading to some confusion over identification.
For several hours Namrata, Raj Ramesh Khamitkar’s mother, maintained that one of the bodies was not that of her son, as his hair had been shorter.
“He passed HSc. and did a course in nautical science. He spoke to us a few days before the cyclone. I used to work but gave up after he started working. He had taken a loan for his education and he told me he would take me around the world,” Ms. Namrata said amid sobs. “Now he will never come back. There is no one here and we have been sitting on the road from morning.” like beggars.” The shock of losing her son and not being comforted by familiar people was too much for her. She and her husband had their first cup of tea around noon.
Raj’s body was found around 3.30 a.m. by the family of another sailor, Jomon Joseph, and a few fishermen. “We had been searching for Jomon and we saw a body in an orange uniform under the bridge. It was wedged beneath the Napier bridge, and was finally brought it to the hospital around dawn,” said Jomon’s uncle.
As news of the recovery of the second body came, Jomon’s family arrived. His father K.J. Joseph works in a sea food company and his uncles waited as Mr. Joseph tried to bring himself to enter the mortuary and identify the body. Once in, he was relieved that it was not his son. “He worked in an oil tanker in the Gulf for a year and took up this job six months ago,” Mr. Joseph said. Jomon’s uncle said he loved cricket and was a fun-loving person person who wanted to become a sailor.
Around 7.30 a.m., Tiruvottiyur residents informed the police about a body on the beach. It was shifted to Government Stanley Hospital.
Sailor Niranjan’s father K. Kothandapani, went there to see if the body was that of his son’s. Born in Arakonnam, Niranjan completed his maritime engineering in Coimbatore. “His father is an agriculturist. Niranjan always wanted to study maritime engineering,” said his cousin, T. Satish, a software professional in the city. “He called me on Tuesday and told his mother that the ship had come ashore and he was getting into a lifeboat. He said he would be home soon,” Mr. Kothandapani added later. “There was a lot of wind and because of it we could not hear much. Then the line went dead.”
After seeing the drifting ship on a TV channel, the family came to Chennai. Mr. Kothandapani who was dressed in white dhoti and shirt, was later escorted to the Royapettah GH mortuary where he identified his son. “Niranjan was a very easy going guy with no bad habits,” said Satish, before moving on to console his uncle.
Kshitij Jadhav and his family realised that the body at the GGH was not that of Rushub Jadhav. He had stayed with his cousin, Dr. Kshitij’s family in Mumbai to finish a course in electronics. Rushub was a deck cadet.
The search is on for two more sailors – Jomon Joseph and Krishna C.P. Purayil, a trainee seaman. Krishna’s uncle Sunil Kumar described him as a happy youngster who enjoyed being on the ship. He last spoke to his family on Tuesday around 3.30 p.m. The family is still hoping Krishna will return home.