Alongside the grief in Hyderabad over the death or disappearance of 24 engineering students in the river Beas in Himachal Pradesh, guilt was the other prevailing emotion among those who survived.
At least seven students of Vignana Jyothi Engineering College had escaped the waters seconds before the others were swept away, while others who had not ventured into the river watched in horror from the bank.
“I am hurting so much. I feel guilty at having survived… My friends were screaming for help but I could do nothing,’’ said Chetan Kumar, who did not bring himself to go to the cremation of any of the four classmates whose bodies reached Hyderabad Tuesday — Akula Vijetha, Gampala Aishwarya, Laxmi Gayatri Appanabotla and Banothu Rambabu.
“Whenever I shut my eyes, the scene flashes in front of me,” said Ravi Kumar, who was feeling as guilty. “The water came so fast… Some of us shouted a warning and a few escaped just in time but the rest were swept away. We could do nothing, just watched them go under.”
At Vijetha’s home, classmate Anuradha buried her face in her palms and sobbed. She was not part of the trip. “I saw the news on TV and my first reaction was that this cannot be real, it hasn’t happened,’’ she said.
At the home of Aishwarya, 21, her 80-year-old grandmother shook as she sobbed, sprinkled flowers and touched her face. Aishwarya’s mother G Sudha Rani and father G D Rao were in a daze as they performed the last rites at home before the body was taken for cremation.
At the Nizam Institute of Medical Sciences mortuary where the bodies were initially kept, relatives and villagers arrived in the morning to take Rambabu’s body to Mothey Mandal in Nalgonda. He had not told his parents about the trip.
“I had borrowed at high interest to pay Ramu’s college fees. We had such high hopes of him. We didn’t know that he had gone on this trip,’’ his father Shekar said.
Birla said her campaign this time is “very similar” to the last time.