Cheer and grief flew together

Great leveller

It instantly put Bhaya, a finance manager in Gulf News, on alert as he knew one of his closest colleagues were on board the plane that overshot the runway in Mangalore Airport.  He began surfing TV channels, made frenetic calls to Air India office in Dubai International Airport and the Consulate General of India in the gulf city.

“But it was all over very soon and our worst fear came true. The Air India confirmed Manirekha Poonja, her husband Sashikanth Poonja and 17-year-old daughter Harshini Poonja were all dead,” Bhaya later told Deccan Herald over telephone from Dubai.

Manirekha was an accounting supervisor in the Dubai-based Al Nisr Publishing LLC that brings out ‘Gulf News,’ one of the prominent daily newspapers of the gulf. “She was indeed a good soul and very efficient in her work. I knew her husband and daughter. We were family friends,” said Bhaya.

“Her death left all of us devastated. I just can’t believe she won’t be back from her leave to be amongst us.”

Twitter message

Sashikanth was earlier employed in Qatar, but he later shifted to Dubai and started a business. The couple’s daughter Harshini, a student of media and communication, was a regular on social networking site Twitter. “At the Airport….Only thing to look forward to is the rain,” she tweeted for the last time from Dubai Airport just before boarding the ill-fated plane late at night on Friday.

Though it was a holiday for the finance department of Gulf News on Saturday; Bhaya and others turned up at the office to share grief and mourn the death of Manirekha. Manirekha, her husband and daughter were all very cheerful and excited about their visit to Mangalore to attend the wedding ceremony of a cousin. But Shailesh Rao Brahmavara, who works in Abu Dhabi’s Shaikh Khalifa Medical City, was in a state of shock when he boarded the Air India Boeing 737-800 from Dubai. His mother had passed away on Friday and he was on his way to attend the funeral.

Rao and his wife Mavis Corda, a nurse in the same hospital, had returned to the UAE after visiting his ailing mother on Thursday. They got the sad news from home on Friday and Rao took the night flight to Mangalore.

But it was a providential escape for Kunhikannan Chandu. The 51-year-old manager of the Lulu Hypermarket at Al Qusais in Dubai had booked a seat on the flight IX 812 to fly to Mangalore to help his son get admission into an engineering college.  But he cancelled his ticket after his boss asked him not to go on leave now as he had some urgent work to finish.

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