The green doors of the first floor flat at 64 Lake Gardens in south Kolkata have been locked since Monday. The elderly residents,Inder Singh and Pushpa Rathore,left for their native Bikaner that morning after hearing that their son had been killed in a plane crash.
Mahendra Singh Rathore was the Indian co-pilot of the Dana Airlines Boeing that went down in Lagos,Nigeria,on Sunday night,killing all 153 people on board and around 40 on the ground. Over 50 bodies were yet to be found on Tuesday evening,as emergency workers sifted through debris in heavy rain.
I got a call on Sunday night informing me that the plane my son was flying had crashed. The next day it was out in all the newspapers and on TV channels, Inder Singh said over the phone from Bikaner.
Mahendras wife Esha,a schoolteacher,and their son Surya Pratap,a student of class 1,who were in Delhi,have also gone to the familys ancestral home in Bikaner.
I heard Pushpa crying yesterday morning and went over, the Rathores landlady Alpana Sen said. I attempted to console her by asking her to pray to Lord Jagannath. They had returned from Puri and Bhubaneswar only the day before.
Sen said the Rathores had been her tenants for four years. Inder Singh is general manager at an iron ore firm that has offices in Camac Street. Mahendra was called Tinku at home. He was a very soft-spoken and jovial young man who,like his parents and brother,spoke flawless Bengali, Sen said.
The crash has brought tragedy to a family in Kerala as well. Rijo K Eldos,25,an engineer employed with Hewlett-Packard in the Nigerian capital of Abuja,was the second Indian on board the crashed aircraft.
Rijos cousin K K Rajiv said the body was yet to be identified. Rijos colleague Basil,who is also from Kerala,has reached Lagos to complete the formalities for conducting a DNA test to identify his body. Rijos father Eldos will go to Lagos for the test. The authorities are also exploring the possibility of conducting the DNA test in Delhi.
Rijo,who had been working with HP in
Abuja for four years,was scheduled to visit his family at Kothamangalam in central Kerala next month. The family planned to discuss Rijos wedding when he came.