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Tragedy on newlyweds’ dream trip

groom loses grip on his bride after boat capsize

Newlyweds Kousik Das and Juhi had chosen the Andaman and Nicobar Islands as their honeymoon destination almost a year before they got married.

The couple did make it to their dream destination last Saturday but 32-year-old Kousik returned to his home in Dum Dum Cantonment alone on Monday. Juhi, 22, was in a coffin.

Kousik had held on to his wife for “about 10 minutes” as their boat capsized and began sinking in the Bay of Bengal near Port Blair on Sunday afternoon. She didn’t know how to swim and slipped out of his grasp. That was the last he saw of her, alive.

Aami parlam na…aami parlam na (I couldn’t… I couldn’t),” mathematics teacher Kousik had cried as he was being taken to GB Pant Hospital in Port Blair after the tragedy.

On Monday afternoon, his mind harked back to that moment when he lost Juhi, the lone victim from Bengal among the 21 people who died in the boat tragedy.

Juhi, a graduate in English literature with a talent for music, had married Kousik on December 13 last year after a courtship of five years.

According to Kousik, their allegedly overcrowded boat, Aqua Marine, capsized and sank on its way from Viper Island to Ross Island around 4pm on Sunday.

Ross Island used to be the administrative headquarters of the Andamans till 1941. It is longer a human settlement, but Raj-era ruins spread across Ross draw hordes of tourists.

Ross Island, Viper Island and North Bay are the three stops on a popular daylong launch/boat tour from Port Blair. The boats, most of them owned by private operators, leave Port Blair around 9am and return by 5pm.

There are varying accounts of how Aqua Marine sank. Relatives quoted Kousik as saying that the boat “split down the middle due to excess weight”. One of his friends said he told him that the boat “overturned” because of overload.

Families of the newlyweds said Juhi and Kousik had been “very excited about this holiday” and were to have enjoyed the beauty of the Andamans till February 2. The couple were booked on a return flight on February 3.

A close friend took a morning flight from Calcutta to Port Blair on Monday to escort Kousik back along with Juhi’s coffin. The return flight landed around 5pm and Juhi’s body was taken to her husband’s family home at 35 Subhasnagar, Dum Dum Cantonment, and then to her parents’ Birati residence for one last time before her cremation.

Her middle-aged parents had heard about their only daughter’s death over phone on Sunday night. “Someone who was beside Kousik’s hospital bed in Port Blair called to inform Juhi’s father Jyotirmoy Ghosh about the tragedy. They have been inconsolable since,” Juhi’s paternal uncle Tarun Ghosh said.

Juhi had completed her Higher Secondary studies at Baidyanath Institution for Girls and graduated from Acharya Prafulla Chandra College in New Barrackpore.

“She was a cheerful girl and a very good singer. She was so talented that she would write the lyrics herself and set them to tune. She had composed a song for her husband,” said a relative of Kousik who had dined with the couple about a fortnight ago.

Kousik, a graduate from City College, is a mathematics teacher associated with coaching institutes that prepare students for competitive examinations. He has no serious physical injury but is so traumatised by his wife’s death that he is unable to walk. “He has been fainting frequently and finding it difficult to walk around. So we have got him a wheelchair,” a family member said.

News agency PTI quoted P. Johar, deputy commissioner of South Andaman district, said 23 people were rescued after the boat carrying 46 passengers sank on Sunday afternoon.

Sources in the district administration said the boat was meant for 25 people but had 46 passengers on board.

It is still not known whether there were life jackets on the boat. A relative of Kousik who had visited the Andamans before alleged that boat operators there were lackadaisical about safety measures. “During all my trips to the Andamans, I have never found any launch operator even informing people where the life jackets are kept. During one such trip between Port Blair and Havelock, I did spot jackets but nobody told us how to put them on,” said Sikha Sur Roy Chowdhury.