A day after the crash, the body of co-pilot Captain Harbinder Singh Ahluwalia arrived in a wooden casket at his residence at Andheri (E), where his family and friends and Sikh locals had gathered.
Ahluwalia (42), who died on Saturday in the Air India crash at Mangalore, was a popular face in this neighbourhood at Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar, where he had lived for the last 40 years.
Kulwant Kaur, his mother was still in shock and couldn't speak, much like his two older brothers and younger sister. His neighbours tried to make up for their silence.
“Ahluwalia was very attached to his mother as he was a bachelor and the youngest of his brothers. Ten days ago, when he had come to visit her, he had told her he wanted to get married. This had excited his mother, who could not stop talking about it - now she's speechless,” said Narendra Singh, family friend, neighbour and chairman of the society where Ahluwalia stayed.
Ahluwalia's body will be taken to the gurudwara before it is cremated at Parsiwada crematorium.
“He was an extremely religious person and donated generously to our neighbourhood gurudwara. Whenever he came to Mumbai, he visited the gurudwara daily,” said Narendra.
“He had a family business but always wanted to become a pilot. At such a young age, he had achieved everything in life,” said Balwant Singh, another neighbour.
Asked if Ahluwalia had seemed stressed or overworked, Narendra said he had never seen Ahluwalia stressed. “He’d been flying since the last 15 years and loved his work. Two years ago, he was based in Mumbai when he was with Jet airways. Six months ago he had relocated to Mangalore but he would come to visit his mother every 10 days,” Balwant said.
Ahluwalia’s older brother Surjit lives at Vapi, where he manages the family business manufacturing automobile parts, after their father Kuldip Singh died three years ago. Ahluwalia's sister Neelam (38) has been living with their mother.
“His mother heard of Ahluwalia's death from the television before getting a phone call from Air India about her son's death,” said Balwant.