CHENNAI: Two childhood friends have conducted the last rites of a Chennai IT employee and his father who died battling the deadly COVID-19 infection after none of their relatives came forward due to the fear of contracting the virus.
Pawan Kumar, 45, a resident of Sholinganallur, had recently shifted to his hometown Sullurpeta, about 80 km north of Chennai near India's spaceport Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh. His father Sudhakar Prasad Yadav was a retired employee with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
The duo were staying in an apartment in Sullurpeta along with Pawan's wife, six-month-old baby and mother-in-law who came to help the nursing mother. In the last week of April, all of them except the baby tested positive for COVID-19. While Pawan's wife and mother-in-law recovered, the condition of Pawan and his father started deteriorating.
Prabhakar Rao and T Subbaragavulu, who conducted the last rites, told The New Indian Express that because Sudhakar was a retired ISRO employee, he was admitted at Shar hospital but Pawan was refused a bed.
"Our efforts to get him a bed in Nellore, Tirupati and Chennai were futile. Pawan's relatives managed to arrange a bed in Andhra Hospital in Vijayawada, which is 375 km from Sullurpeta. Pawan's father succumbed to the disease on May 18 and Pawan breathed his last at 11 am on May 30 after being on ventilator support for 16 days," Prabhakar said.
An ambulance was arranged to bring the body of Pawan from Vijayawada hospital to Sullurpeta on the same day. "We received the body and opened the cover to show the face of Pawan to his wife for one last time and cremated the body at 11 pm," he said.
To a query, both Prabhakar and Subbaragavulu said they understood the risk involved, but did not want to abandon their friend. "We studied together in Space Central School and were neighbors in QCH colony in Sriharikota sharing fond memories. Giving a decent adieu was the least we could do," Prabhakar said.
Sriharikota was severely hit by the COVID-19 second wave with many retired and serving employees succumbing to the disease. Shar management has taken all possible steps to contain the spread of the virus, including shutting down of operations partially and at times completely in the past. The COVID-19 outbreak has caused substantial delays to some key space missions.
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