A week later, relatives have yet to recover the body of a doctoral student from Kerala in Germany
A week after a 25-year-old student from Kerala accidentally drowned in a lake in Göttingen, Germany, the student’s family and friends are struggling to bring his body back to India to perform the last rites.
Arun Sathyan, who was pursuing his doctorate at the University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG), drowned in Lake Rosdorfer Baggersee on June 25 (Saturday). Sathyan, originally from Kochi in Kerala, is survived by his parents and a younger brother.
“Last week around 3 p.m., Arun had decided to go swimming at Lake Rosdorfer Baggersee with his friends. But since his friends did not join, he decided to go alone. He went to the lake in the area where you are not allowed to swim,” said Mayank Chaudhary, one of Arun’s friends.
Arun had to meet his friends in the evening for dinner. As he did not show up, his friends tried to reach him by phone, but to no avail. So they started looking for him at 6 p.m.
“We thought he would be back that night, but when he didn’t come back we went to the police at 6am the next day.”
The police report viewed by The Indian Express showed Arun’s personal belongings, including his phone and backpack, were found near the lake. The path from where his belongings were found led directly into the water, and after searching underwater for more than 20 minutes, his body was found, after which he was taken for an autopsy.
“It was a complete shock for us. We weren’t prepared for this,” Mayank says.
Repatriation process slowed down
Although losing a loved one can be devastating, the struggle to bring the loved one home has been more emotionally taxing for Arun’s family and friends as they encountered complications and encountered delays while working. to have his body transported from Germany to India.
Initially, Mayank and his friends had contacted the Indian Consulate in Hamburg Germany and informed them about it. Consulate officials said they would take care of the matter, he said. “The hospital and the police were not giving us details so we had to get a power of attorney from the family.”
However, the embassy said authorities would not cover the cost of transporting the body to India. So Arun’s friends decided to fundraise over 5,000 euros for repatriation and funeral expenses, and intended to donate any additional amount to his family. The group works with a funeral home, but the repatriation process has been slow, complicated by factors such as delays caused by the difficulty of coordinating the work of different departments, lack of paperwork and days off for institutions and the responsibles.
“If we asked the funeral home to initiate the process, they pointed to another authority and said they had not received the death certificate. When we approached the Embassy, the officials said they needed his passport to provide a no objection certificate so we had to go to the police to get access to his belongings which was only released after days of persuasion and long processes,” Mayank said.
Arun’s best friend and lab partner in Germany, Venkatapathi Challa, said: “While I recognize there are a lot of rules and regulations to follow, India is not where we know the people. and can get things done on request. The German bureaucracy works differently. They have to gather a lot of information in order to push for ease. It has been a difficult time for all of us. They work over certain periods of time and they don’t go beyond that.
A public holiday in the institutions on Wednesday further slowed the process. At the moment, the family is waiting for a no-objection certificate from the embassy and an embalming certificate from the funeral company, which they fear they will have to wait until the weekend to start receiving.
Back in India, Arun Sathyan’s family are completely devastated and are doing their best to put pressure on the officials.
Arun’s younger brother, Athul Sathyan, told IE.com his family was “broken” by the loss of Arun. “My mum is completely devastated, she was ill and passed out as soon as she heard the news. She has been crying for days together. Her father, also employed at Cochin Shipyard Limited, is heartbroken.
“I didn’t let them get involved in the process because they’re very emotional right now,” Athul said. He said he was staying strong as he focused on getting his brother’s body home.
Athul said his family and friends lobbied all local authorities. “We have been in contact with the office of the Minister of State for External Affairs, while another minister from Kerala has telephoned the office of the Consulate General of India in Germany directly.”
“On our side, we have done everything and yet it is sad to see the process take so long. An embalming certificate will take a maximum of 30 minutes and now they say they won’t issue it until Monday. How long are we waiting? Atul said.
So far, family members have not received any specific information from the authorities on when their son’s body will be brought back to the country.
“A great and generous guy”
Arun’s friends describe him as a fun-loving, kind-hearted human being. “Arun was a wonderful friend who touched the lives of those around him. He had an eternally smiling face and was always ready to help people. He loved science and worked with great determination,” they wrote.
Athul said his brother was driven and passionate about his studies and work. “Although he had a lot of bumps in his career, he never gave up and always worked hard.”
“It’s bad enough to have lost someone close, but now we are restless that it’s been a week and we still have no information on his return. We want to bring him back as soon as possible. That’s the least we can do,” Athul said.