Wing Commander Darryl Castelino’s face grins at you from a giant poster draped over a building in Diamond Park compound in suburban Vakola. Emblazoned with the national flag, the poster salutes the 38-year-old pilot who was killed in the chopper crash during relief operations in Uttarakhand.
In a temporary blue plastic shed in the compound, relatives and friends of the Castelino family mourn him deeply. They reminisce about his childhood, adolescence and his untimely death. But the family was not allowed to grieve in private with the media swooping into the house since news of his death broke and publishing wrong reports about the funeral.
The Castelinos were shattered when they heard the news. Darryl’s mother Leena was not told about it until the family reached Kolkata.
“The body was unrecognisable. They had to take DNA samples to identify his body. We were told that it was the locket of Mother Mary, which he was wearing, that made it somewhat easy to identify his body. Apparently, he was the only Christian on the chopper,” said Libert Olivera, Darryl’s brother-in-law.
Mr. Olivera waved his mobile phone in anger. “I have received hundreds of calls and messages since morning, man. I am tired of telling them that the funeral is on Sunday. Our relatives in Mangalore are yet to arrive. Have some sense and leave us alone,” he requested. “You write everything, but at least take permission from us,” he said.
The Castelinos live on the second floor of the building. People bowed in tribute to Darryl’s photo on a table, between candles and red flowers.
His motheris surrounded by women consoling her. She pointed to one of her grandsons and told the lady sitting next to him, “He had called him [the boy] and asked [about] his marks before going there. He was excited to go on the mission. He had told me that he will come back,” she said. Darryl is survived by his wife and two children.
Darryl’s wife Jyoti, looking pale but composed, was seen thanking the visitors with a dry smile for their support and kindness.
Downstairs, Mr. Olivera said that he had received calls from the Mangalore media as well, as the Castelinos are originally from there.
“So they wanted to show him as a martyr of Mangalore. How does it matter? He died serving the people of this country,” he said. Though Darryl’s family is from Mangalore, he grew up in Mumbai and was based in Kolkata, where he served the Indian Air Force.
While the media continued to pester the family, a TV channel wanted to know when the funeral was. An old woman took matters into her hand and said, “You please leave now and come tomorrow. Otherwise, you will keep on asking us about Darryl and we will be rude to you. We are closing the compound gate now.”