The late professor's brothers, their wives, sister, her husband and parents were in Chennai on Wednesday to get their visas to go to the US to attend the funeral. They took the late night flight to the United States.
While Senguttavelvan was courageous, his mother Kannamma was inconsolable. "All mothers have a special liking for their first born, mother was no different. She keeps saying, 'Why couldn't God take me, his old mother? Why did He take him away?' She keeps crying all time. But what can be done? She to accept the reality and move on. Unlike my mother, father has been quite brave," says Senguttavelvan.
His elder brother was a role model to both his younger brothers, he recalls. The late professor did his schooling at Modakurichi, near Erode, and later went to St Joseph's College in Trichy. He got a degree in civil engineering at the PSG College in Coimbatore before enrolling at the Indian Institute of Technology-Kanpur for his M Tech degree.
"He was extremely brilliant and stood first in class throughout. All of us looked up to him and wanted to be like him. He was good not only in studies but in all extra curricular activities too. He used to be very good in cricket and chess. Nobody could beat him in academics; at IIT, Kanpur, he got a stipend to study," Senguttaselvan remembers.
Till he went to IIT, the late professor had no plans to go to the US, his younger brother said. "In those days, in 1978, IIT-Kanpur was described as the gateway to the US. After studying there, my brother also wanted to go to the US to do his PhD. He got admission and also a scholarship. All of us were very proud of him because he was the first from our family to go there."
He recalled the struggle his father went through to buy air tickets for his son. "My brother had a scholarship to study but we were a lower middle class family then and to my father, a District Revenue Officer, a ticket to the US was a big amount. But my father wanted his bright son to achieve great heights. Now, everyone knows what a bright and dedicated professor he was there. He was elected as the best teacher many times."
Like his students, the late professor's brothers also adored him. "He was very, very loving and affectionate. When I had problems completing my chartered accountancy, my brother was always there with advice. Whenever he came to India, he would be very concerned about how our children were studying. He would tell them to study hard."
It was in 2004 that the late professor came to India last. He made it a point to visit all the pilgrim centres. "He visited Thanjavur, Mahabalipuram and many other temples. We never thought that would be his last visit."
Senguttivelvan, a chartered accountant, had no plans to go to the US as "I knew with my background, I would not get any job there." Palanivel, the youngest brother and an engineer, "did not have any desire to go there." So, the younger brothers stayed back at Gobichettipalayam in Tamil Nadu.
The family intially wanted to bring the late professor's body to their native place. "When we spoke to our sister-in-law, she told us of his wish to be cremated there. She also informed us of the practical difficulties involved in bringing the body to India. As he has lived there for many years, I think he didn't want to move away from there even in death. Otherwise, how can we explain such a wish? When our sister-in-law told us about it, we immediately agreed. She then asked all of us to come there and see him for one last time. That is when we decided to go."
"Never in our wildest dreams did we expect to go to his home to see his dead body. Now, we are going to his house for the first time, not to see him but to perform his last rites. This is the saddest day in our lives."