Both S.K. Raju and his brother, Rajkumar, had tickets for the Poorva Express to New Delhi on Monday.
But at the last moment, Raju changed his mind and decided to take the 2301 Up Rajdhani Express, leaving platform no. 8 of Howrah station on September 9. Rajkumar did not change his travel plans and left by Poorva on Monday morning.
At noon on Thursday, Rajkumar sat sobbing silently on platform no. 21 of Howrah station, where his brother returned home — in a shabby coffin.
As other family members completed the formalities to claim Raju’s body, that had arrived by the fourth special train to reach Howrah with victims of the wrecked Rajdhani, Rajkumar relived his narrow escape and his brother’s misfortune.
“Both of us had tickets for Poorva Express. But my elder brother, who had earlier also purchased a Rajdhani ticket, decided to take the evening train, when he found that he had a confirmed berth in AS-2. So, he cancelled the Poorva ticket. Bhaiya even dropped me at Howrah station on Monday morning when I boarded the Poorva Express. We were supposed to meet some of our business partners in Delhi on Tuesday,” Rajkumar recalled.
Raju, 34, would supply finished leather products to different parts of the country from his business base in Motijheel, under Entally police station jurisdiction. He would often travel to Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai.
“Bhaiya never believed in destiny. He had suffered a road accident about two years ago, when a lorry hit his car on the E.M. Bypass. The injury to his abdomen was critical. All our family members were jittery, praying for his recovery, but Bhaiya faced the situation boldly, never showing any signs of fear… But now, he has really left us,” cried Rajkumar.
When Raju’s younger brother reached Delhi on Tuesday morning, he learnt of the Rajdhani tragedy on television.
“Initially, I thought it was not a major accident, but when I started seeing reports stating that some bogies were hanging from a broken bridge, I panicked,” said Rajkumar. “I desperately tried to spot coach AS-2 on the TV screen, but I couldn’t. Then I contacted our relatives in Calcutta, before rushing to catch a train to Bihar.”
At the accident site, the trauma turned from bad to worse. Rajkumar did not receive “any assistance” from the police or railway officials.
“Both the police and railway officials were busy manufacturing coffins to send the bodies to Calcutta. When I contacted a police officer and sought his help in tracing the coach in which my brother was travelling, he just pushed me away and told me not to disturb him. There was no one to guide me towards the coach. I was not even informed whether my brother was dead or alive,” recounted Rajkumar.
The wait to take his brother home finally ended at Howrah station on Thursday afternoon. But not without another round of red tape, slowing down the process of claiming the body.
“It took more than 45 minutes to obtain the necessary papers to take custody of the body, which had started rotting inside the coffin,” cried Raju’s brother.