Dad of Carlton fire victim pens his heart for Chicken Soup

On February 23, Uday Vijayan’s family was one among the nine that lost their loved ones in the Carlton Towers fire tragedy.
Three months later, they are still trying to cope with the loss.

‘Beyond Carlton’, an initiative by Vijayan to increase awareness about fire safety has helped him reach out to others finding it difficult to come to terms with the tragedy.

Vijayan, who lost his son in the fire tragedy, also wrote a story recounting the harrowing experience of his loss. “Writing the story has been an immensely cathartic experience. It touches upon the loss of my son and my memories of him, how we are still coping with it through ‘Beyond Carlton’, which is also the title of the story.

Losing a child is possibly the worst thing that can happen to any parent. It has been almost three months, and we’ve now learnt to fight the odds,” he said.

The story will be published in September in Chicken Soup for the Indian Father’s Soul.

“Three months ago I didn’t even think I’d be writing this story for Chicken Soup. I lost Akhil to the Carlton fire on February 23. On the 25th I just couldn’t sleep, and around 4.30 am, I decided to write a blog of my memories about my son. That triggered off all kinds of unimaginable responses from a whole cross-section of the society. Through the blog someone suggested that I make a contribution to the editor of the book. I had two choices then — to hide it from the world, or turn adversity into something positive,” said Vijayan.

A little pondering found him making a productive choice. “It is of no use to sit and do nothing, feeling utterly helpless and thinking that the world is against you. The world will not pull you out of your grief. The choice must be yours,” he said.

He felt that if his story made people more aware of the dangers and risks of a fire breakout, it would be worth his effort.
“Fire safety as an issue has a lot of apathy in the society; you believe it will never happen to you. But it’s important to have some knowledge about the risks. If you never face such a situation, good. But, god forbid, you do fall into a situation like that, it is worse if you are unprepared,” he said.

He hoped that his story would strike a chord with others who had lost their loved ones to such tragedies.

“When something like this happens, you tend to believe that the world around you is crashing. The grief makes you think your only choice is to be negative. When I decided to write for Chicken Soup, I saw that there was a story here. This is my attempt to see the good within the bad. If this helps someone else through a tragedy, then that’s good,” he said.

“Chicken Soup stories are ideal for times when we feel trapped, incapable, and unable to face challenges, because, after reading one, I can say I’m not alone, and that it is okay. The transformation process of the writer and what he has learnt from his experience, in turn, helps the reader,” said Raksha Bharadia, editor of the Chicken Soup for the Indian Soul series.

Published in DNA, May 21st 2010