Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The Face of Death

At dawn the calm air and chirping birds belied a painful scene. As the morning rays of the sun spread along the debris-strewn beach, I sat there on the rocks and was waiting for someone. What had happened in 15 minutes the previous day is something that will remain etched on my mind for life long. That was the last “Holi”, an unforgettable day for me and it was in March 2002,the year I completed my graduation.

“It was a scene I’ll never forget.” The white powdery sand on which I’d had spent hours walking was now like a deathbed. I felt the smell of death in the air that day. I had lost my friend “Uggi” in a disaster and was waiting to recover his body.

How did all this happen?

I studied my engineering program in National Institute of Technology which was better know as KREC and is situated in a small hamlet called “Surathkal” off Mangalore city while driving towards the temple town of Udipi. (Campus Details here.) This is one of the most picturesque campuses in India and boasts of natural sea-beach .The best part of the my college life was I met hazzar students from all over India and these were some of the smartest, talented, brightest, intelligent and above all the most fun loving and helpful junta. “Uggi” was one fellow whom I met the very first day, I joined my school in 1998 and he hailed from Andhra Pradesh.He was into Chemical Engineering but I don’t know I somehow connected to him as we both thought on the same wavelenth,bandwidth and frequency. I don’t know or will ever know the reason why Uggi had a fascination for my T-shirts and for four years he used all my T-shirts. Life was on roll and by early 2002 almost all the students were placed in the best of the firms in India and many already had confirmed calls from the top schools in the US for their Masters and few others had made into the B-schools in India and abroad. In the midst of this, an incident occurred which shocked the entire campus.

It was day of colors “Holi” and many students had been to the college-beach and it was around 11 AM. There was excitement in the air and few of the juniors had entered into the sea completely oblivious of erratic nature of the sea. One of the juniors had gone far enough and “Uggi” somehow felt that something is going wrong. He swam and reached the point and was able to pull the junior but suddenly a mighty wave came and all was lost in a second. The junior was saved but “Uggi” was not seen for sometime and this triggered an alarm in the mind of many students.

Immediately the local fishermen were asked for help but they blatantly declined of any help as this was against their norm. They expressed that it was their rule never to enter into the sea after they have seen the sun. I was left speech-less and crying with folded hands requested them, what rules and norms when I am having my friend gulped by the violent sea. But all this was invain. The deep-sea divers at the Naval Base at Mangalore were informed but it was pretty late. The reason I say it was all useless is that, if someone is under the influence of the violent current of the waves for more than 15 minutes, then death is invincible. Still efforts continued but there was no result, even till late evening.

Uggi's” parents were informed but were never told of this accident and were asked to rush immediately. That day the entire night I was sitting in the beach all alone and hoping at least to recover the dead body. My association with Uggi flashed in front of me like a slow movie. Strange what memory and the passing of time can change, and what the sea and nature can do. The next day morning I was the first to detect his dead body, which was floating between the deep curves of a ridge. The body had inflated to twice the original volume as it had been in saline water for more than 15 hours and that day also he was wearing my T-shirt.

The worst part was when I along with my other batch-mates carried the dead body to his parents. The worst part was to handle “Uggi'smaa who till now was not aware as to how all this happened. She was speaking in Telugu but I was able to decipher what that meant and that was painful and it was as if blood was oozing out of one’s heart.

“My son Uggi is my first son, my only son, 21, my only son, the head of my family. He had dreams and hopes and I, his mother, must fight to protect him. This is now more than 15 hours from the time we got the telephonic call, we are waiting to know what happened to him and I, his mother, I need to know what happened to Uggi. His young sisters need to know what happened, his uncles and aunties need to know what happened to Uggi, his father needs to know what happened to Uggi. All his friends back home need to know what happened to Uggi. I need to know, I want to protect him. I'm his mother”,Saying this she collapsed seeing the body, for that matter any person would have collapsed.

After all this, we carried the body to “Manipal Hospital” in Mangalore city to conduct the post mortem examination. The reports were mandatoryly needed as “Uggi's” father wanted to carry his body to Tirupati to perform the last rites and as per Indian rules you cannot do that unless you have a death certificate or report if the cause of death is something un-natural.

I sometimes feel crazy, my friend sacrificed his life to save his junior and people want to certify that it was un-natural citing some absurd reason. I felt like holding each and telling what the truth is.

“There are neither words nor ways to describe the incalculable loss, I feel even today. Uggi was snatched from me without warning,”

I wrote this blog as when I entered office today morning a co-worker wished me “Happy Holi” and something was running in mind as a back ground process and before I left for the day at work, I hung up the phone, closed all work sessions on my desktop, closed my eyes, sitting alone in my cubicle made a wish … wish GOD I meet Uggi soon. But you still owe me my T-shirts and I want those, please give me those. I miss you.If my friend can give his life for someone,can I not give up the small festive pleasure of “Holi”,and that’s the reason I don’t play “Holi” ever.

Keep reading and remain connected.


At 9:21 PM, Blogger LocuTus of Borg said...

I am sorry about your loss. That was truly a strong story. I lost my mother 17 years ago and her birthday was just on March 11th, so it is not a good time of year for me either. Keep your chin up and realize that Uggi is in a better place and looking out for you.

At 12:03 AM, Blogger Nandya said...

it was a very sad day...just reading this ...the whole day just flashed before me......

.there was a very strange thing the day before the holi...me ..uggi and mishra and KK had gone swimming in the pool and the instructor had taught us the ball position to stay afloat....on the return uggi mentioned that one could possibly use that position to float in the sea if he gets tired and all...thinking abt it just haunts me as if he had a premonition of some kind......

my wishes are with his parents and his sister...Hope they are doing well.

At 11:25 AM, Blogger Ardra said...

first time here...came here thru the Blanknoise link...
Heartwrenching...nothing to say
Take care

At 1:01 PM, Blogger amrit said...

Oh Boy!

Your post brought tears to my eyes...

....and all the time, (before reading your post of course), I thought this was the worst thing that could happen to someone on Holi!

At 3:22 PM, Blogger remainconnected said...

@locutus of borg
I believe in what you have mentioned,need to make my chin up and the move ahead but at times when you sit and think,feel had s/he been there,life would have been much better.

Since you were have and felt the entire incident first hand as I did,I can't anything beyond this.

This post was for my friend "Uggi" but I am thankful that I came to know a new person,that's you. Keep reading and remainconnected.

Read your post and I feel sorry the way your were treated and hit brutually for no fault of yours. Well Amrit Cheer up now and move on in life. Enjoy your life @IIT.

At 4:07 AM, Blogger Soul-circling said...

Some links brought me here...felt the depth of your emotions...

Before i wipe away my tears ...just felt like telling you that - Uggi -definitely was lucky in having a friend like you

Can feel your pain, Take care

Hope it's okay to post a comment ... was involved in helping Tsunami victims ...tragedies beyond comprehension for the outsiders :(


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