Unending wait for son

M. Srinivas

Sailor confirmed dead in Gautami fire

Madhusudan Rao’s mother believes her son is alive

His name did not figure in missing/dead persons’ list

HYDERABAD: It’s an agonising wait for her son’s return. Whenever Jhansi Vijaya Laxmi looks at her son G. Madhusudan Rao’s photographs at home in Kukatpally, she slips into silence and prays god to send him home.

Over six months after the fire aboard Gautami Express and after a DNA report confirmed his death a few weeks ago, she believes her son is alive and will return home safely. She even told her family that these reports will not demoralise her.

Rao (30), a sailor in the Indian Navy, went missing while travelling in the Gautami Express after fire broke out in one of the coaches at Kesamudram in Warangal district in August last. His name neither figured in the official list of missing/dead nor injured persons released by railways at that time.

His relatives fanned out, searching for him and pasting a whopping 36,000 posters with his photograph and contact details on all trains between Hyderabad and Chennai. While the stock reply from officials and even those on board the ill-fated train was that they had not seen him anywhere, relatives however, continued to search for him. The search party had to sift through information from hundreds of callers from places, including New Delhi and Mumbai, informing them of Rao look-alikes.

DNA test

“We failed to trace him despite visiting all these areas for three months,” recalls Rao’s brother-in-law G.V. Ramana. Authorities collected blood samples of Rao’s father Satyanarayana at the Andhra Pradesh Forensic Science Laboratory along with families of nine other missing passengers for DNA test and confirmed his death later. Police handed over navy official’s mortal remains on November 21 for the last rites. “What is painful is that we are unable to make the ailing Laxmi come to terms with reality,” explains Mr. Ramana.

Rao was working on the INS-Chilka in Orissa and after an official trip to Mumbai, broke his journey here en route his work station. Wishing to call on his ailing grandfather Sheshagiri in Narsapur, he boarded a compartment in the Gautami Express. He telephoned one of his family members stating that he was crossing Kazipet and that the TTE assured him a berth in S10 coach where maximum casualties were reported after fire broke out and spread to adjoining coaches.

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