December 11, 2017
THE COVAI POST EXCLUSIVE
“When sorrows come, they come not single spies But in battalions…” – Hamlet, William Shakespeare
First, she lost her husband; next, her son-in-law was found dead; now, her only son and another son-in-law are missing. Today, Selvarani’s (50) family in Chinnathurai in Kanyakumari district has no male members. They have lost two of them to the seas and are clinging on to hope for the return of another two. All the four women and 5 little children are at the mercy of the governments, both state and centre.
On October 11, Selvarani’s husband Remmyas (58) and second son-in-law Antony (38) along with Antony’s father Xavier and three others, including Karthik from Tirunelveli and two Keralites set sail in a small vessel from Kochi. Hit by a passing ship, their small boat suffered extensive damage. Xavier and Karthik had held on to the debris from the boat and were bobbing at sea for 18 hours after which a fishing vessel rescued them. Antony’s body was found inside the boat, while the fate of three others, including Remmyas were not known. They have been presumed dead.
Selvarani and Remmyas have one son – Rakesh (31) and three daughters – Ramya (30), Remsha (28) and Rebisha (25). Antony who died in the sea off Kochi is married to Remsha and the couple have 2 little sons – one 3-year-old and another nine-months-old. Ramya is married to Anto Jain and they have 2 sons aged 9 and 5 and a 3-year-old daughter. Rebisha is unmarried.
Even before the others in the family could come to terms with reality, another tragedy struck in the form of Ockhi. Rakesh, who had been consoling Remsha and giving her hope to raise her kids, and Ramya’s husband Anto Jain ventured into the seas in a vallam from Thengapatnam, just a day before Ockhi tore through the Kumari coastline.
“Had they been alerted about the cyclone by the government, they would not have gone for work (fishing) and we would not have been in grief today. We do not know whether they are alive or dead. Collector visited us, but there is no information as to their survival or hospitalisation elsewhere,” sobs Ramya, a mother of three.
Left with four women of which 2 of them are already widows and 5 children, the family has been hopping from one hospital to another to identify whether the bodies lying in the mortuary are that of Rakesh and Anto.
Rakesh, who was to get married in December, returned from Dubai only after the first tragic incident. He and his brother-in-law Anto had gone to the sea for the first time after that as they were completely broke and had to sustain the large family. “They thought the catch from a day’s fishing would bring some money. Never did we imagine even in our wildest dreams that they would go missing. My brother can speak many languages. If he is alive and conscious, he would have got in touch with us somehow by now,” says Ramya, her voice choking.
In a state of extreme depression, Ramya, who has finished Plus Two, attempted suicide by hanging yesterday, but her mother Selvarani and her sisters, both graduates, saved her. They were not compensated by the Tamil Nadu government for the death of Antony and the missing status of Remmyas. Now too, since the status of Rakesh and Anto are not known, they are unlikely to get relief.
“If this women-only family need to live a dignified life and raise their children, they need job. Will the government provide them employment is a larger question,” says activist I.Aseervatham, state coordinator of People’s Watch.