Cyclone Ockhi
Cyclone Ockhi has devastated this village in more ways than one.
Sreekesh Raveendran Nair

A song was blaring from the loudspeaker. “If you are sad, the almighty will also be sad, if your face is gloomy the almighty's face will also become gloomy", it went.

But the words were no solace to the hundreds who had gathered at the St Thomas Church right on the beach at Poonthura coastal village in Thiruvananthapuram.

Cyclone Ockhi has devastated this village in more ways than one. While houses and boats were destroyed, it is the loss of human life that most arestill grappling with.

28 fishermen are still missing from Poonthura, four dead bodies have been recovered so far.

The bodies of a 57- year-old fisherman named Arogya Das and another had been recovered on Sunday afternoon and brought to the village by Sunday night.

Hundreds had gathered at the church on Monday afternoon, occupying every vacant space, for a mass just before Arogya Das’s funeral.

There were people everywhere, inside the church, on the porch and in the tent constructed just outside. Wailing, huddled together, many lying down exhausted.

As the funeral services started, many broke down. The ones, who had been standing outside, rushed in, each one wanting to see a glimpse of the service.

"Normally, there is a mass everyday in the morning. This is a special one in connection with the funeral," said Mareena.

Mareena's brother Alexander is also missing.  Mareena and other women who were sitting on the steps of the church pointed to the crosses erected just outside. Those were the graves dug for the three other fishermen whose bodies had been recovered.

It has been six days since the exhausting waiting game began for the coastal village. For the last few days, most people in the village have been living in the church and the tent outside or in the relief camp operated at the St Thomas Higher Secondary school just a few metres away from the church. They rarely go home, and their time is mostly spent praying for the missing men.

"There are families who are not here at the tent. More than three people are missing from their homes. They can't even walk and are completely devastated; they prefer to stay at home only. We are here to pray, from whom should we seek mercy? There is no one other than God," Selva Mary said.

84-year-old Rosly and 25-year old Salini are also waiting for their beloved ones. Rosly's son Paniyadima hasn't returned yet.

Salini is waiting for her husband, with her two children, an eight month old baby and a four year old. She is flanked by her mother-in-law Philomina and mother Maria Pushpa, all of them desperately waiting for a word from the government.

55-year-old Mary Anchala is waiting for her 25-year old son John Paul George. 

Some of these men were among the 15 people who had gone fishing in the same boat as Arogya Das. When asked how many of them returned the women said, “Only one, Arogya Das.”

Gracy, a woman in her 50s said, “My brother Johnson normally goes with two of his mates for fishing, but that day a fourth man joined them. We don’t know who it was. We wonder which family is searching for him now. We don’t want the boats or fishing nets, we just want our men to come back alive," she said.