“No, that’s not our son,” said K.N. Kothandapani, shaking his head. “But I know it is all over.”

Even though he was beginning to come to terms with the fact that his son Niranjan — one of the five crew members who was on board MT Pratibha Cauvery — was most likely dead, the wait on Friday for the elderly man from Arakkonam, on the pavement outside the mortuary of the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital, was far from over.

One of the three bodies washed ashore was brought to this mortuary on Friday morning. Later in the afternoon, two other bodies were found and were taken to Stanley Medical College Hospital and Government Royapettah Hospital. Families of four of the missing persons had gathered outside the mortuary.

When it comes to waiting at a mortuary, the dead are perhaps better off than those alive. Parents and relatives of the missing crew members spent several hours on the pavement outside, with absolutely no information or support. All shattered, they took turns to go inside and take a look at the body – which, they said, was bloated with the face disfigured.

“Since the facial features are not visible, we are unable to tell with certainty if it is our cousin,” said Kshitij Jadhav, cousin of Rushabh Jadav, one of those missing.  

Ramesh Khamitkar and his wife Namrata, parents of Raj, came from Mumbai Friday morning. Carrying their luggage, they came straight to the mortuary from the airport. “We don’t know anyone in this city, and we don’t know where to go,” Mr. Khamitkar said, struggling to pronounce Stanley and Royapettah.

The couple, who spoke only Hindi and Marathi, sat there helplessly, periodically looking at their son’s photograph on their phone. With no shade or seats, it was as good as sitting on the road – amid the stench from the mortuary and from the nearby stretch that smelt like a public urinal.

“Don’t ever opt for a course in maritime engineering,” Mr. Kothandapani kept saying to reporters surrounding him. “They are making us run from one hospital to another. Why couldn’t they bring all the bodies to one mortuary and save us such trauma. My son is dead. He won’t come back. What is the point now.”

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