Dubai: Worried that she would not be able to finish packing, Manirekha Punja, an account supervisor at Gulf News, rescheduled her flight to Mangalore from early morning Friday to early morning on Saturday.
At 8am on Saturday her name, along with that of her teenage daughter Harshini and husband Shashikant, figured in the list of those killed in the Air India Express plane crash at the Mangalore airport.
The family of three was going to Mangalore to attend a wedding.
Naresh T. Bhaya, finance manager at Gulf News, who is in touch with her family in India, said he was devastated by the news of her death.
He said: "Each time she went on vacation I used to wish her happy times but only this time I told her to have a safe journey.
"She was a very close friend of mine and we knew each other for the past 15 years. She joined Gulf News in 1995. She was the face of our finance department."
Bhaya said that he is trying to help her family members identify her body.
He said: "I managed to get the key to her house from the neighbours and tried to find some medical records that could assist in identification of her body.
"The Filipino watchman of her building in Al Karama informed us that he saw her in a red salwar kameez,
"I relayed this to her family members in India but it was not of much help as it turns out that there were other passengers too wearing the same colour.
"I remember Manirekha was a bit depressed before she left and when I asked her she told me that she would miss work and the office."
Divya, one of Manirekha's relatives in India, told Gulf News that they were able to identify Manirekha and her husband's body.
She said: "We are yet to identify her daughter's body. We identified Manirekha from the jewellery she was wearing and her husband Shashikant was identified from a bracelet on his hand which had his name engraved."
Lucia Mendonca, secretary, finance department, said that she switched on the news channel hoping to find Manirekha's name listed among those who had survived.
She said: "I am shocked. In two weeks she was supposed to bring her mother from India to Dubai on a residence visa. She had planned to stay home from work for a week and spend time with her mum andnow she is just gone."
"We called the airline to check whether she had boarded her flight or not. But then it was confirmed," Selma Rodrigues, Advertisement Control Manager, Gulf News, said.
"She was a fantastic worker. When you talk about the finance department, the first name you think of is of Manirekha."
Manirekha's daughter Harshini was a student of media and communication and was also on social networking site Twitter under the username @netizentwo
Her last tweet was from Dubai Airport where she wrote: "At the airport and blah =_= Only thing to look forward to is the rain."
Gulf News extends its condolences to the family of Manirekha Punja at this difficult hour. We pray that God gives her family the strength and serenity to bear this loss.