When Vamsi Krishna first came to Hyderabad as a six-year-old over 30 years ago, Vemuri Tulsi Ram, a then four-year-old, was the first friend he had made. The duo had been inseparable ever since. It was a Saturday night and Vamsi was out driving when Tulsi called him for a video chat from Sri Lanka where he was vacationing, "I was driving and told him to call later," said Vamsi. That night at 11 pm, Vamsi for the last time received a call from Tulsi, "I missed that call, I will regret not picking that call forever."
On Sunday, Tulsi and his business partner, Srinivas Babu, were having a buffet breakfast at the Shangri-La Hotel in Colombo, Sri Lanka when two suicide bombers set off an explosive device, leaving Tulsi and many others dead. His business partner, a resident of Hyderabad, sustained grievous injuries and is recovering at a hospital in Sri Lanka.
A total of eight bombs ripped through Sri Lanka that day, leaving over 359 dead and over 500 injured. An attack that has been claimed by terror outfit Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Tulsi, who was 35 and single, was in the real estate business that he took over after his fatherâ€™s demise six years ago. He had left for Colombo on Friday with two of his friends for a pleasure trip. The third friend, identified as Mohan, escaped the blast by a few hours as he had to return to Hyderabad for a medical emergency. Tulsi and Srinivas had decided to stay back for the day and return the next day. The blast took place at 8.45 am.
It was past 10.30 am on Sunday in Hyderabad when Vamsi heard news reports about the attacks in Sri Lanka. Vamsi immediately tried reaching out to his friend. But Tulsiâ€™s phone was unreachable and so was his partnerâ€™s. â€śI was contacted by a source from Sri Lanka that he was killed in the blast. I did not inform his mother immediately, I waited until we could confirm through victim identification,â€ť said the friend, â€śWe grew up together, it has been a friendship of over 30 years. We had been together through thick and thin.â€ť
Since it was Easter, Tulsiâ€™s mother, Nalini, wanted him to visit church that morning. But when she saw news reports about the blasts, she hoped that her son would have skipped church that day. When Nalini was unable to get through to Tulsi, she reached out to her sonâ€™s best friend who did not know how to tell her that her son had been killed.
The task of telling Tulsiâ€™s mother and his sister fell on Krishna Mohan, another old friend of Tulsi, who did not wish to talk about the day.
As Tulsi was being brought back to his home at Ameerpet in Hyderabad on Wednesday, James stood outside the building premises scanning for a familiar face. He had arrived for Tulsiâ€™s funeral service and was hesitant to approach the family. It has been over ten years since James, an old college mate of Tulsiâ€™s, had met him or the family. â€śWe were together in junior college, a bunch of nine boys, but after that, we went our separate ways. Since 2014, I have been here in Hyderabad, and wanted to reach out many times, but we never contacted each other. I found out about his demise over Facebook, I should have called him once at least in all these years,â€ť said James.
When Tulsiâ€™s remains arrived at his home, both his mother and sister, Rekha, were inconsolable. His body had been embalmed but was not preserved in ice. Vamsi quietly opened the coffin and garlanded his friend. His calm and composed demeanour cracked for a moment and his eyes welled up.
James, like many of Tulsi's friends who had arrived at the funeral service, paid their last respects and left shortly after.
Vamsi knows, he has to stay till the end when his best friend will be laid to rest at the Christian cemetery at Borabanda. â€śI have been dreading this day from Sunday and found the courage to face it only in the morningâ€¦I just want this day to end.â€ť