Syrian Muslim Woman Sponsors Chandan Gavai’s Funeral in the US

A distressed Indian family in the US has been failed by the embassy, despite Sushma Swaraj’s claims.

3 min read
Kamalnayan Gavai, his wife Archana and son Chandan at Middle Island in the USA. (Photo Courtesy: Praful Vhatkar)

The Gavai family’s tragedy has opened our eyes to the fact that sometimes, death is more expensive than life.

Kamalnayan and wife Asha Gavai, residents of Kalyan (near Mumbai), were in the USA to visit their son Chandan. On 4 July, the three of them, along with Chandan’s wife Manisha and 11-month-old son Ibhan, left home to participate in Independence Day celebrations, when a “wild and crazy” driver, speeding on a rain-slicked Long Island road slammed into their car.

Kamalnayan (74), Archana (60) and Chandan (38) died on the spot. Mahisha (32) was rushed to Brookhaven Memorial Hospital. She had severe head injuries and has undergone three surgeries. Their son Ibhan has miraculously survived, but both his hands are fractured.

Manisha with her son Ibhan a few months ago; Ibhan in the hospital now. (Photo courtesy:  Praful Vhatkar)
Manisha with her son Ibhan a few months ago; Ibhan in the hospital now. (Photo courtesy: Praful Vhatkar)

No Help From Indian Embassy

After receiving the news, Chandan’s elder brother Anand, who lives in the Netherlands and his younger brother Swapnil, who lives in Kalyan, left for the US.

When they landed, they faced two problems. One: the authorities refused to hand over the bodies. Two: cremating three bodies in the US costs $ 24,000 (Rs 16 lakh). The Indian Embassy in New York refused to come to their aid for almost a week. Desperate, Anand had to send out an SOS video message.

The US authorities finally gave Anand and Swapnil custody of their parents’ mortal remains, and a donor helped them raise money. On 19 July, a fortnight after the accident, they finally cremated their parents’ bodies.

The first struggle may have been overcome, but Swapnil and Anand’s troubles were far from over.


‘Sushma Swaraj is lying’

Chandan Gavai’s body was still in a mortuary. According to US laws, only the wife could have given permission for the cremation of her husband’s body. Chandan’s wife Manisha is in a coma and doctors say it may take over 6 months for her to regain consciousness. Once again, the Indian Embassy hasn’t come to Anand and Swapnil’s rescue.

On 17 July, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted to suggest that problem has been resolved:

Unfortunately, the problem is far from being resolved. The Quint spoke to Chandan’s elder brother Anand, who rubbished Sushma Swaraj’s claims.

Sushma Swaraj is lying. How can we bury Chandan’s body? Our religion doesn’t allow it. We are still thinking about it. 
Anand Gavai

To Bury or Not to Bury?

Family members were divided over the proposal to bury Chandan’s body. However, even if they decided to bury Chandan’s body, it wasn’t going to be an easy task.

To bury a body in the US, land first needs to be purchased for burial. The total cost of burial comes to around $39,000 (Rs 26 lakh). Friends had begun to raise the amount, in case the family decided to bury Chandan’s body. The Indian government refused to help them financially, citing technical reasons.

Anand claims he never asked for money, and complains that the Indian Embassy hasn’t even communicated with them.


Dutch Lawyer, Syrian woman Come to the Rescue

As Anand Gavai is a Dutch citizen, the Netherlands government provided the services of lawyer of Indian origin. Advt Karamvir Dahiya negotiated with the US authorities and convinced them to let Anand cremate Chandan’s body, given Manisha’s serious medical condition.

A Syrian Muslim woman came forward to sponsor his funeral. Chandan’s body was finally cremated a few hours ago.

No Time to Mourn!

Anand and Swapnil have running from pillar to post to complete the required paperwork and to raise money. Mourning the death of their parents and their brother is a luxury they could not afford.

The Gavai family in happier times. (Photo courtesy: Praful Vhatkar)
The Gavai family in happier times. (Photo courtesy: Praful Vhatkar)

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