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Last Updated: May 19, 2007 - 1:28:39 PM
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Husband dead, Tamil woman wants to return to Sri Lanka
Mar 11, 2007 - 12:01:31 PM
'She is desperate to go back to Sri Lanka to rejoin her other two children. We have applied for a passport for her. Once it comes and a ticket follows, we will send her to Colombo.'

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[RxPG] New Delhi, March 11 - A Sri Lankan Tamil woman who sailed to India in search of a new life is now pining to return home, unable to bear the drowning of her husband when he tried to swim to Tamil Nadu's coast to seek help for their ailing daughter after a boatman dumped them on a remote sand dune.

Daisy Paulin, 33, has not stopped crying since reaching Tamil Nadu after an Indian Navy helicopter over the sea spotted her, her four-year-old child and some other Tamil refugees on the sand dune south of Rameswaram, leading to their rescue.

By then, however, Daisy's life had turned upside down. Her husband Chandran Thavakumar, three years younger, had met a watery grave after sneaking out of the sand dune close to midnight, moved by the pain of their daughter who was constantly vomiting and suffering from diarrhoea.

Daisy would later say that she would have stopped her husband from undertaking the dangerous voyage if only she had not gone off to sleep on the sand dune, some 18 hours after the boatman left the group there saying it was Rameswaram, their destination in Tamil Nadu.

It was not. It was one of several huge sand dunes that dot the sea south of Rameswaram where fishermen often rest. This was early on the morning of Feb 16, about 10 hours after they set out from Mannar in Sri Lanka's northwest.

Soon after the family of Thavakumar, which had left behind two other children aged 9 and 7 with his parents, landed on the sand dune, the daughter with them began to wail for food and water.

But the biscuits and water they had were exhausted. In desperation, the parents gave the hungry daughter water from the sea to drink. She started vomiting. Very soon diarrhoea set in.

Unfortunately, some Indian fishing boats that sailed past did not come to their rescue. A period a crackdown was on in Tamil Nadu to check smuggling of explosives to Sri Lanka, and the fishermen opted to stay away from trouble.

'Fearing something would happen to the child, Thavakumar asked the wife if he could swim across to Rameswaram for help,' said M. Sakkariyas, a Sri Lankan who works with an NGO looking after refugee welfare in Tamil Nadu.

'Daisy was not very happy with the idea and she told him not to go. But at 11 p.m., without telling her, he set out with another man, Anton,' Sakkariyas, 61, told IANS over telephone from Chennai.

'According to Anton, both swam past two sand dunes. There were eight or nine along the way to Rameswaram. But Thavakumar was unable to proceed. Anton helped him, more or less carried him some distance.'

Anton eventually left Thavakumar on a sand dune and reached Rameswaram. Nothing further was heard from Thavakumar until his body was washed ashore.

By the time the distraught Daisy, her daughter and the others were rescued at around 3 p.m. Feb 17, they had spent a harrowing 36 hours stranded without food or water.

The child recovered. But Daisy, one of the thousands of Tamil fleeing to India to escape the violence in Sri Lanka, is unable to overcome her grief.

Her dead husband had been a welder by profession and had been earning just enough to keep the family going in the northern Sri Lankan district of Vavuniya since returning from Saudi Arabia some time ago.

But the man, Sakkariyas quoted Daisy as saying, always feared everyone. He returned home promptly by 6 p.m. and never slept outside fearing the military or Tamil militants might take him away.

Daisy always worried for him. Eventually they decided to shift to India, without realizing what fate awaited them.

Said Sakkariyas: 'I saw Daisy thrice at a refugee camp at Rameshwaram. She would cry each time she began to speak. She kept saying: 'He went away without telling me, he went away without telling me'.

'When I saw her, I almost broke down. She presented a pathetic sight. She cannot even walk.

'She is desperate to go back to Sri Lanka to rejoin her other two children. We have applied for a passport for her. Once it comes and a ticket follows, we will send her to Colombo.'

Although a Hindu, Thavakumar was buried at Arichamunai, close to Danushkodi on the Tamil Nadu coast, Sakkariyas said. 'Daisy keeps asking again and again. 'Our family's sole wager earner is gone. Who will look after us now'?'

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