Update: Divya succumbed to her burn injuries on Tuesday morning.
For newly-weds Divya and Vivek, the Kurangani hills trek over the weekend was yet another chance to spend time with friends who were like family. Except, in their case, friends were all they had.
With their families unwilling to accept their relationship, Divya (29) and Vivek (27), who were childhood sweethearts, were forced to leave their homes and elope for a future together. Relentless in their love for each other, they turned to their friends for support a few months ago. Rising to the occasion, their best friends Thamilchelvan and Kannan shouldered the responsibility and conducted their friends’ wedding in the best way they could, even helping them set up a house in Erode.
What was to be a happy camping experience for the four friends turned into a cruel nightmare when the Theni forest fires killed Vivek and Thamilchelvan in the wee hours of Monday morning. Divya and Kannan are both receiving critical care treatment at the Government Rajaji Hospital in Madurai with over 70% burns.
With no access to their families and the society they grew up in, the couple lived a quiet life in Erode, building their life together from scratch. The newly-weds were reportedly planning to move to Dubai.
While family and friends of the Theni fire victims rushed to be with their loved ones on Sunday evening, reporters and authorities were surprised that no one had come forward to be with the couple even 24 hours after the tragedy. When reporters from Erode went to the neighbourhood where the couple lived, people there were shocked to learn that the tragedy unfolding on their television screens involved their next-door neighbours.
On hearing of the tragedy, Kannan and Thamilchelvan’s relatives made their way to Madurai even as Divya and Vivek’s families were contacted by the authorities.
Speaking to TNM, Keshavan, Kannan’s relative said, “They were the best of friends. This was the first time they went on a trek. They informed us and went. We tried calling them in the evening to find out when they would be back but the phone was repeatedly unreachable. Finally, someone picked up and told us about the fire.”
Kannan, who is recovering at the hospital, is now able to talk, albeit feebly.