Silchar/Tezpur, Aug. 16: In Assam they are separated by several hundred miles, but today, at lunch at the Naval Institute in Mumbai, they clung to each other, drawing strength and hoping against hope.
There was no news about their sons Timothy and Narrutam, who were among the 18 sailors and officers who were on board the Sindhurakshak submarine when it exploded and sank at a naval dockyard in Mumbai on Tuesday night.
Pastor Vidyaratan Sinha and his wife Mira Chakravarty Sinha, parents of 29-year-old Timothy from Cachar district and farmer Jyotish Chandra Deuri, father of 21-year-old Naruttam, from Lakhimpur district reached Mumbai yesterday after being informed of one of the worst naval disasters.
“It was an unforgettable meeting of grief-stricken persons in poignant circumstances. We live far apart in the same state and do not know each other, even though our sons worked on the same ship, but we were unified by a tragedy, an immeasurable loss that struck us both,” Timothy’s mother told The Telegraph from Mumbai today.
Naruttam’s father was inconsolable. He refused to eat anything until naval authorities cajoled him to take some food.
Deuri told The Telegraph that around noon today officials at a meeting informed him that three bodies had been recovered and the search was on. “Yes, I met the Sinha family,” he said, barely able to speak.
Timothy’s mother said DNA samples of the parents of all the victims of the submarine disaster would be collected.
Both Timothy and Naruttam had called their respective families on Tuesday evening, informing them that they would be sailing out for a few days.
Former SSB official Vidyaratan Sinha is a pastor at the Presbyterian church in Pailapool, 25km west of Silchar, where the family lives.
Before leaving for Mumbai, he told his relatives and friends that he had finalised the weddings of Timothy and his younger daughter, studying in a college in Calcutta, in October and November.
“God’s wishes are inscrutable and one always fails to size it up,” Vidyaratan was quoted as saying.
Timothy, a junior commissioned officer, had studied in Oriental High School and Cachar College in Silchar.
A large number of people gathered at the Deuris’ home at Deuri Gaon in Major Sapori, about 50km from the district headquarters town of North Lakhimpur, which is 400km from Guwahati, today to offer condolences.
“His (Naruttam’s) mother Gagirseni Deuri and his younger brother Delton (a higher secondary student) are yet to fathom the loss,” said a distraught Ganapati Deuri, the village chief.
“Do you have any news?” Gagirseni wailed when The Telegraph contacted her over the phone this morning.
Naruttam had last come home for Bihu in April.
He had joined the Navy on July 30, 2010 after completing his higher secondary from Madhabdev Collegiate High School in science stream. He was studying his bachelors in science when he had to give up the course owing to financial constraints after one year. That is when he got the Navy job.
“The Navy had called the family and asked them to go to Mumbai to identify the body,” said Lakhimpur deputy commissioner Gaurav Bothra. But that was where the Navy appeared to have stopped. When The Telegraph met Naruttam’s father on Wednesday night, en route to Mumbai, he and his nephew, Chandra Deuri, were putting up at an inexpensive hotel near Jalukbari, not far from Gauhati University. “I am somehow hanging on,” he said.
They had managed to get to Guwahati and were waiting to catch a flight the next morning to Mumbai. “My family arranged the tickets from Lakhimpur,” he had said, adding, “The government should have done something by now.”
The government stepped in eventually. Bihpuria MLA Bhupen Kumar Borah visited the Deuri household yesterday and offered financial assistance of Rs 20,000.
“We will do everything to help the family,” Borah said.
The Deuri Autonomous Council Parishad held a prayer meeting for Naruttam at its office at Narayanpur on Thursday.