By Somrita Ghosh
New Delhi, Feb 12 (IANS) There was an oppressive silence outside the mortuary at Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital where the family of Lal Chand Thakur, one of the 17 killed in the Delhi hotel fire, were waiting patiently to take his body home.
They had been there for over seven hours but police and hospital authorities had not given the permission.
"It is going to be a long night for us," his nephew Balwinder Singh Thakur told IANS.
Of the 13 bodies kept at the hospital, 11 had been identified. The body of Thakur, who worked as a supervisor at the five-storey hotel, was among the other two.
All the families who had come to claim bodies of their kin had gone by then. Only Thakur's family was waiting for the body to be handed over to them.
"We are waiting for the police and the hospital authorities to give permission to take back the body. But it doesn't seem to happen any soon. Even we are struggling to identify the body," said Balwinder Singh.
Thakur had been working at the Hotel Arpit Palace for the past 25 years. A resident of Paharganj, he lived with his wife and son in a joint family.
It was his son Himangshu Thakur, who came to know of the fire first and informed the family, save his mother.
"It was around 8.30 a.m. when he gave me the news. Ever since, all the family members were out looking for him at every possible hospital," Thakur's nephew said.
From BL Kapoor to Safdarjung Hospital, Ganga Ram to Lady Hardinge Medical College, the family saw all the bodies in an attempt to identify Thakur's charred body.
"We came here at around 12 p.m, but couldn't identify the body. It is badly burnt. The left arm and right leg are badly burnt; even the belly and portions of heart were all black," Balwinder Singh said.
While the son kept roaming around in other hospitals struggling to identify his father, other relatives again assembled at RML around 3 p.m.
The police and hospital authorities asked for evidence to claim the body. While Thakur's nephew showed some photographs, his sister-in-law tried to remember marks on the body, which could be used for identification.
"Police say a DNA test might be needed for identifying the body. But it is a long procedure. We have been again asked to come tomorrow morning. How can we leave him here and go," Balwinder Singh said.
While Thakur's wife remains unaware of her husband's demise, the family members said it was more painful to see others going back while they wait.
"There were so many people when we came. They all have left with bodies. We are clueless what to do," said Himangshu who came back to RML from the Ganga Ram Hospital.
(Somrita Ghosh can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)