The 7-storey Satyam Shivam housing society in Malad (West) was filled with television crews and OB vans yesterday. Journalists and photojournalists were there to cover the return of Captain Sunil James, the sailor who had been lodged in a Togo prison for five months.
Residents of the society too were eagerly waiting for the sailor to come back. Speaking to MID DAY, Balkrishna Sharma, the secretary of the building, said, “We are happy that Sunil has finally been released from the prison. This wouldn’t have been possible had the media not raised the issue. It was only after the story got published in MiD DAY, and was later followed up by news channels, that the government took the right measures to bring Sunil back.”
The James family had a bittersweet reunion. While they were happy that Sunil was finally back, the pain of his 11-month-old son Vivaan’s death due to septicaemia still lingered. Though he managed a stoic demeanour in front of the media, once he reached his house, Sunil broke down when he saw photographs of his son.
Couldn’t stop crying
A friend of Sunil told MiD DAY, “All these months, during his time in prison and till the time he reached home, Sunil managed to control his emotions. But when he saw Vivaan’s album, the tears couldn’t stay in any longer and he wept a lot. It’s very tough on the part of the father to digest the fact that his son is no more. So, we have decided to give him his space.”
“We feel sad about the death of Sunil’s son Vivaan and pray to God to give strength to the family to sail through this tough time,” the secretary said. Speaking to the media, Sunil said, “It is a tough time for me as a father to digest the fact that my son is no more. Getting the news of his death was really shattering. I feel a little better though that, as a father, I will at least be able to perform his last rites.” Sunil also thanked the Government of India, the media and the Togo government for their support.
Sunil returned just in time for funeral
Sunil’s release from prison came in the nick of time, just as the family was contemplating completing Vivaan’s final rites without his father’s presence. Brother-in-law Rakesh Madappa, revealed that they received a phone call on Monday from Cooper Hospital, telling them that the authorities could no longer vouch for the condition of Vivaan’s body. Rakesh and his wife Avni went to the hospital immediately and upon inspection, found that Vivaan’s body had started showing signs of decomposition.
Without losing any time, the couple contacted a private embalming agency in South Mumbai, which advised them to shift the body to their centre, where the process of embalming was repeated to keep the condition of the body from deteriorating. Rakesh and his wife Avni later met Aditi and suggested that she conduct the final rites for Vivaan, as it wasn’t practical to keep waiting for Sunil’s return.
On Wednesday, Madappa received a phone call from the Ministry of External Affairs in Delhi, stating that they could expect positive news about Sunil’s release soon. They narrated the family’s plan of conducting the funeral soon. The MEA official requested the family to put the matter on hold for a couple more days, if possible. - Vinod Kumar Menon