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A dad still searches for daughter lost in tsunami

Tue, Dec 23, 2014, 09:11 AM
Chennai, Dec 23 : Ten years after the 2004 tsunami separated his eight-year-old daughter Apurva from him at the Car Nicobar islands, Indian Air Force (IAF) officer Ravi Shankar still hopes to reunite with her.

Shankar is at present distributing copies of Apurva's photograph in the port town of Velankanni in Nagapattinam district of Tamil Nadu, hoping to hear some positive news about his daughter.

"Every year around this time I visit Tamil Nadu with several prints of Apurva's photograph and with a hope," Shankar told IANS over telephone from Velankanni, a coastal town 320 km from here.

Shankar, 44, is now posted in Gujarat's Bhuj district.

Shankar is sure that his "dear daughter Apurva" is alive as he was told that a girl resembling her was at the tsunami relief camp but was taken away by a nomadic tribe.

It was double tragedy for the Shankars. The couple's one-year-old son died in the tsunami while Apurva, affectionately known as Bulbul, got separated.

The day after tsunami, IAF officials and their families were shifted to Chennai.

A month after the tragedy, he went to Port Blair and went around showing Apurva's picture.

"Somebody told me that Apurva was seen crying 'My father and mother have died. I don't have anybody'," Shankar said, remaining silent for a long time.

Over the years, Shankar was told that Apurva was spotted here and there. Once he learnt that she was seen with a nomadic group in the Kolar area of Karnataka.

The locals did tell Shankar that a girl resembling Apurva was from a tsunami camp in Port Blair.

The nomads were apparently from Madurai in Tamil Nadu.

Recalling the day that turned his life upside down, Shankar said: "It was a Sunday. My daughter, son and I were sleeping. My wife Mamtakumari was making tea when she felt severe tremors.

"My wife wondered whether it was earthquake. As we were in the first floor we decided to come down to safety. We carried our children and came to the ground," Shankar said.

The couple saw an army truck and boarded it.

"Suddenly lots of water submerged us. I was not able to hold Apurva and she slipped out of my hands. My wife and son too got separated," Shankar said.

After an hour or so, Shankar saw a friend bring his wife who was holding their son.

"The sight of my son was enough to say he was dead. A doctor confirmed that."

Then the search for Apurva started but the Shankars could not trace her. The next day they left for Chennai.

Looking back, Shankar said life had become very difficult but somehow they are managing.

"Every day is painful waiting for some news about Apurva. Thanks to the IAF, my wife was employed at the canteen which kept her mind occupied," he said.

Now the Shankars have a five-and-a-half-year-old son, Amartya Arun.

According to Shankar, who says he can be reached on 098687 63263, every Dec 26 he and his wife try not to recall the horror they underwent that day in 2004.

Though he has not heard anything about Apurva for two or three years, Shankar nurtures a strong hope of getting reunited with his daughter who, if she is alive, would now be 18-years old.

Shankar says: "I feel the government should take special care of children in relief camps after a disaster strikes. I wouldn't have lost my daughter if there was security at the relief camp."
Agency: IANS
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