Relatives of Indian passengers hover between despair and fragile hope
Three Indians were among the hundreds of Chinese families and friends waiting in Beijing on Sunday for information about their relations travelling on board the missing MH370 flight.
A sense of the inevitable is evident on most of the grieving faces and sunken eyes. But to some as the hours go by without any confirmation about the presumed crash, the agonisingly slow passage of time is actually building some sort of a fragile if improbable hope that all might not be lost.
Prahlad Shirsat, the husband of Kranti Prahlad Shirsat who was flying into Beijing from Kuala Lumpur to subsequently join him in North Korea, arrived in the capital on Sunday to join their ranks.
Based in Pyongyang, Shirsat, in his late '40s, is the country director of a humanitarian agency, Concern Worldwide, in the isolated Communist country.
It was learnt that a visibly shaken Shirsat could not be accommodated in the hotel designated by Malaysia Airlines for putting up waiting relatives.
Shirsat has worked extensively in the field of humanitarian aid and has done stints in Afghanistan, Indonesia and Tajikistan.
Also waiting for some news about the missing flight is the recently married Sanved Kolekar and his wife.
Sanved's parents, Vinod and Chetana, and brother Swanand were on the flight and were headed to Beijing to visit their son and daughter-in-law. Sanved is completing his post-doctoral studies at the Institute of High Energy physics at the prestigious Chinese Academy of Science in Beijing. While Sanved arrived in Beijing in November, his wife joined him last month.
Officials who interacted with them said while the couple and Sanved's wife appear to be calm in the face of impending tragic news, Shirsat was apparently in shock.
It could not be confirmed from here whether relatives of the other Indian on the flight, Chandrika Sharma, were expected in Beijing.
Also on the flight was Indian-origin Canadian Muktesh, 42, vice-president of operations in China of Pennsylvania-based Xcoal Energy and Resources. Mukherjee, who has family in Kolkata, was on the flight with his Chinese wife Xiaomo Bai.
The Malaysia Airlines officials have told the waiting relatives to be ready to fly out in short notice to either to Kuala Lumpur or Vietnam. In fact, relatives have also been given the option of flying to Kuala Lumpur whenever they want.
Till late evening on Sunday, scores of reporters were still gathered at the east Beijing hotel where airlines officials have addressed press conferences on Saturday and Sunday. Some journalists have even set up camps outside the hotel to wait for any breaking news on the missing flight.