The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bride loses family in blaze

Srirangam (Tamil Nadu), Jan. 24: Three minutes was all it had taken to change the script of her life. Yesterday’s bride Jayashree today lay in a hospital shocked beyond belief and weeping, her groom, father, mother, sister and nephew all burnt alive.

A blaze at her wedding venue had charred to death nearly 57 people and along with it, blown into smoke all her dreams.

She had escaped by the skin of her teeth, but the unsaid question floating in the corridors of the Tiruchirapalli hospital was if she — Jayashree now needs psychiatric help — would have been better off otherwise.

Her 74-year-old father Hanumantha Rao had been killed at the venue. Mother Susheela had died in hospital. Elder sister Bhuvana — who had come all the way from Calcutta — too was dead. Another sister, Kala, was critical. But her son Shrivats was dead.

As though that were not tragedy enough, Jayashree’s groom, too, had died. Forty-year-old Gururajan had burnt to death along with grandfather Krishnamoorthy while trying to ferry him to safety. The 70-year-old man had been standing in for Gururajan’s father, who passed away a few years ago.

“Jayashree is still in a state of shock and wails off and on: we have not told her the full story yet,” said a family friend, M. Jinnah.

Jayashree, a madhava brahmin schoolteacher in her early thirties, had been lucky because she was being dressed up on the ground floor when the fire broke. Relatives noticed the flames as she was being taken to the mandap upstairs, and quickly shoved her into a building nearby.

Till a medical team arrived to bail her out, Jayashree had sat, dazed and trembling. She was then escorted to a doctor’s car and packed off to hospital, which was thronging with survivors today.

One Selvam, who lost his daughter, wept as he recounted how he had identified her by her earrings.

Another woman said of her daughter: “I told her let us pray to God, but even with a serious injury that has scarred her face, she asked me: ‘Why pray to God when he has forsaken us'’”

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