x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Father left with nothing after Mangalore plane crash

Abdul Rahman lost his wife and nine-year-old son in the Mangalore plane crash. He is still fighting for justice as the crash report citing pilot fatigue adds to his heartache.

SHARJAH // The Eid al Adha festivities brought little joy for Abdul Rahman.

The shipping company manager who has worked in Dubai for 20 years planned to spend the day alone.

The grieving 50-year-old lost both his wife and young son in May's Air India Express crash and each of the smiling families which came together to mark the holy day only served to underline his loss.

"There is no Eid for me," the Sharjah resident said, breaking into tears at every mention of the family he misses every day. "There is nothing. There is no family left for me.

"It has spoilt my life. The reports keep coming. It's as if someone is playing with my life."

News reports from India that blame a disoriented, sleepy pilot for the May 22 crash in Mangalore, which killed 158 people, have added to his heartache.

He he did not want to cloud family celebrations with his pain but was persuaded by his niece and her children, who live in Al Ain, to spend some time with his extended family.

"I sat at home for Eid. I went for prayers," Mr Rahman said. "They pulled me from my home to join them. Everyone says 'Come home, come home'. I don't like to join any gathering because their celebration mood is spoilt seeing me."

Despite the efforts of his family, he found little comfort. The trip jogged memories of his nine-year-old son, bringing him only more anguish.

"I forced myself to go to their house, a house where my son used to go swimming with his cousins," Mr Rahman said. "Where can I go without thinking of them?"

The widower fills his days with work, where he often stays well past his scheduled shift to put off returning to an empty house. He had been married for 16 years.

Mr Rahman's wife went home to Mangalore a year ago to care of her ailing mother,but the family suffered a double tragedy when her mother and brother died. His wife then stayed back to look after her father. Just before the crash, the family had been making plans to get back together in Sharjah.

"My son and wife would come twice a year for the vacations," Mr Rahman said. "We spoke of being together again because my son was growing up fast. We would have someone care for her aged father."

Now he feels helpless and alone, although he is grateful for support from relatives, colleagues and his employer. Mr Rahman says he understands the anguish felt by other relatives who lost family members in the crash and has joined a support group for those seeking compensation from the airline. He describes it as a fight for justice.

"There are other families from Mangalore and other cities," he said. "It is not just my family."

Groups in Dubai and Mangalore have been meeting to bring a delay in compensation payments to the notice of Indian officials. A law firm appointed by Air India to settle the claims has said it is trying to complete the process as quickly as possible.

Mr Rahman is among many who believe the delay is unjustified. He said he knew of people burdened with bank loans unable to make payments in time. Others, he said, were depressed, in need of medication to cope with the loss of their relatives. Thinking of the future and the plans he had for his son deepen his sorrow.

"My family is already gone. My family is zero," Mr Rahman said. "My son was smart, active, good at math. We planned he would be a doctor or IAS [high-level government] officer. What are ambitions now? My life is worse than hell."

 

rtalwar@thenational.ae