As she reeled under the impact of the news of her daughter's death, Afia Magh’s mother had just one request.
“Bring my daughter in her uniform. I want to see her that way,” the native of Kohima, Nagaland told Afia’s friends over phone. She might have to wait for many more hours as the body is scheduled to be despatched on Thursday.
On Tuesday, Afia, a twenty-year-old airhostess with Kingfisher airlines, lost her life after she fell down a ride at the EVP park in Chembarrabakkam. However, her friends had to run from pillar to post to complete the formalities to send her body to her hometown in Dimapur, almost 3,000 kms from here.
“We were asked to come to the Nazarethpet police station at 7 p.m. but no work began till 9 p.m. Since the accident occurred on a holiday, the entire FIR filing process had to redone today. Then, there was no senior official to sign the NOC as all of them were away for some meeting,” said Tokato K. Yepthu, general secretary of the Naga Students’ Union here.
The body will now be sent to New Delhi on Thursday morning, after which it will go to Kolkata and then Dimapur. “Her place is almost 3 hours by road from there,” said one of her roommates, who is taking the body to her mother. “We find it difficult to communicate with officials and make them understand that it takes a long while for the body to reach home,” said Wapang Toshi, pastor of the Naga Christian Fellowship, Chennai.
“We have been requesting the authorities to speed up the process since yesterday because the body has to go via Kolkata and will take a long time. Only two airlines that have flight services to Dimapur or Guwahati have cargo facilities. We don’t even have much choice,” Mr. Tokato said adding, “As per Naga custom, we bury our dead in our own land so they remain close to us in spirit. It is important the last rites are conducted as soon as possible.”
All through the morning and noon, Afia’s friends, many of whom had accompanied her to the amusement park on Tuesday, waited patiently, along with officials from Kingfisher Airlines outside the mortuary at the Kilpauk Medical Hospital.
It was only at 3 p.m. that the body was sent to Sri Ramachandra Medical College for embalming. Sarala Nair, base manager (inflight), Kingfisher Airlines said the airlines was taking care of sending the body to Dimapur.
Afia’s family members had expressed their inability to collect the body. “Her father died when she was very young. Her mother was discharged from hospital after a stroke recently. They are shattered but no one can come here now,” her roommate explained.
It was with great expectation that the 20-year-old had come to Chennai two years ago. She underwent training to become an airhostess at an institute on Anna Salai. Afia’s two siblings – a sister and a younger brother are still studying and were dependent on her. “She would send home money every month,” says one of her roommates.
Because of the ongoing strike by employees of Kingfisher Airlines, Afia had not been to work last week.
“She was a very cheerful girl. The trip to the amusement park was also her idea,” said Arnab, one of her friends. Recalling the freak accident, Arnab says they heard her scream while falling off. “She held on to a steel bar which was too low for her. We now wish we had not gone there.”