Theni Forest Fire: As Some Families Grieve, Others Remain Hopeful
In a large room in the Government Rajaji Hospital in Madurai, despair hangs heavy in the air. Wailing and sobs can be heard all over the room, as families of the Theni fire victims wait for Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami to arrive.
The chairs in the room had been bunched into circles as at least 40 people, families, sat together, offering each other whatever little solace they could. In one corner, some mattresses were laid out for the families who had been waiting since last night to catch a wink.
But none of those present in the room ever imagined that the Kurangani trek could have been the last thing their loved ones did.
Newly-weds, Vivek and Divya, were among the 39 people who had gone on the trek from Chennai to Theni and back. While the burns from the forest fire have left Divya in an extremely critical state, her husband died on the spot. His body was recovered in the wee hours of 12 March.
Not far away from him sits another woman. She identifies herself as Sharmi, and had come to the hospital to see Nisha, the 30-year-old who was one of the people who organised the trek.
Nisha, a manager at LNT Valves in Chennai, was brought to the hospital with 100 percent burns on Sunday night. “When I spoke to Nisha’s sister, she was talking… She was even cheerful. Nisha told her sister that she was looking forward to seeing me,” Sharmi recounts.
Despite Nisha’s optimism, she breathed her last shortly after she said these words. According to Nisha’s sister, she stopped talking soon after, and had to be put on ventilator. By 11 March evening, she was no more.
Amidst all the loss and sadness, many were desperately clinging onto hope.
Like many other families, 25-year-old Anu Vidhya’s too, waited anxiously at the hospital. The 25-year-old was brought in with 80 percent burns around 8.30 pm on 11 March.
The family got the news of the fire in the evening. Thankfully, Madhupriya was in Theni at the time, so she rushed to Bodhi hospital at 5.30pm. It was only three hours later, however, that Anu Vidhya was brought in.
That she has suffered 80 percent burns is grave, but what is keeping the family hopeful and motivated is Anu Vidhya herself.
“She saw us crying and asked us why. She said we would see her at home,” Madhupriya shares. “In fact, it was she who told the ambulance personnel who were taking her to call our parents and tell them she was fine!”
Madhupriya adds that her sister is already thinking about her next workout and cannot wait to get back on her feet. “Due to her optimism, we are also hopeful. What has happened has happened. But sometimes, even God can’t take away certain people,” Madhupriya says.
(The story has been originally published by The News Minute and has been republished with permission)