LONDON: A 21-year-old student from Ajmer has died after being swept out to sea by a strong tide on venturing into the sea in Essex with five friends.
Sujal Sahu, who was studying computer science at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), had gone to the beach near Clacton Pier on the morning of July 19 with a group of friends.
One of Sahu’s friends, Omkar Singh (24), also an Indian student at ARU and the representative for Indian National Student Association (INSA) UK, told TOI: “They went in a large group, including a family with children, to the beach and sat on the sand near the water. Six of them, all Indian students at ARU, went into the sea and were having fun. Then a strong tide came and hit them and the sand slipped down. At that time Sujal was still standing. Then straight after a second tide came and the land slipped down further. At this point all of them started drowning. The rest of the group on land called the coast guard. Five of them were rescued by the coast guard but Sujal went under water and could not be found. The five who were rescued were not injured.” Sahu’s body was not found until July 23 three miles down the coastline, near the village Jaywick, by a fisherman.
Singh, a former sabbatical officer at the ARU Students’ Union, knew Sahu well and described him as nice, humble, sociable and friendly. He said he was enjoying himself at Cambridge where he had been living for two years.
Sahu’s father, Bhagwan, and mother Usha, had mortgaged their home in Ajmer to pay for his education in the UK. They both had to take out loans to pay for their flight tickets and arrived in Essex two days ago. They are now in a hotel together with his elder sister, Vrati. His Hindu cremation will take place in the UK after the post-mortem has taken place.
Essex police confirmed his death was being treated as non-suspicious and his body has been handed over to the coroner.
INSA UK is starting a fundraiser for the family. Sahu was their only son. “The mother was only told on Wednesday he had died. She did not know beforehand as there were concerns she would be grief-stricken. The entire family is devastated,” Singh said. It was Bhagwan who went to identify the body with a representative from the university student union. “The five friends who were with him are not stable and all traumatised. None of them are in a position to go and see the body,” Singh added.
A spokesman for the Indian high commission in London said the mission has been in touch with the family and has worked closely with UK agencies to help the distressed family to the extent possible.
INSA UK president Amit Tiwari said: “INSA UK would like to pay tribute to Sujal… Indian students are a close-knit community and his loss hurts us.”
Sujal’s relatives in Ajmer’s BK Kaul Colony initially kept his death a secret from his parents —Bhagwan Sahu and Usha. Sujal’s sister Vrati, who is pursuing an MBBS in Udaipur, also decided not to inform the parents immediately about his body being recovered. Sujal’s father, Bhagwan Sahu, works in a cosmetics company.
“Sujal was an intelligent student and the whole colony felt proud of him. He was a loving and helping boy,” said Suresh Mali, a neighbour of Sujal’s parents. Priti Jain, another neighbour, said Sujal had called his mother on July 17, a day before he went to the beach, and inquired about her health. “That was the last time they had talked to him,” she added.
“He (Sujal) was going to complete his course in the next four months. He had promised me that he would return within six months after completing his studies. We did not cook any food in our house the day after we got the news,” said another neighbour.
Sujal, who finished his schooling in Ajmer, has lots of friends in the city. One of them, Rakesh, said they all wept when they heard of Sujal’s death. Many of them came to his house to express condolences but found the house locked as the parents are away in the US, he added.
(With inputs from Ajmer)