I saw him walk to the hall with a rose garland. She didn't like roses much, but anyway it did not matter now. He lay it on the glass casing enclosing her body and offered his condolences to my wife. My wife who was seated below the casing had probably dried out crying ever since the whole incident had come to light.
She had reasoned with god, then pleaded with him, fought with him, cursed him and just as every other human being, she just relegated to rejection. Our entire system of faith hinges on a tiny thread of hope and this very gruesome incident not just shook our's but also many of our relatives and well wishers hopes as well.
You could call me a creep for saying this, but I noticed failingly, that inspite of all the grief in the eyes of the people who came to offer condolences, I could spot a tiny fragment of relief. A relief that this did not happen to their son or daughter. You can sympathize with me, but its human nature to just feel safe telling yourself "Thank god, it was not me or my family.". No offence meant, but thats the truth. A bitter one, but still true enough.
I had not cried for the past 2 days. When the search was on initially, I did cry. I was furious. But then as the man of the house, I had to show resilience. Not that it was going to bring back my lovely daughter back. But just enough that it does not bereave me of my only left possession- my wife. Poor soul. Till that very fateful moment the news broke out, she had been one charming woman whose smile could wipe away all your fears. This just wiped everything out. Everything.
I felt pretty sick in my stomach. Laboriously, I traced my steps to the bedroom on the first floor. The room had not been visited in these past 2 days. Every morning, I used to come here to wake my little angel. I loved watching her sleep. She seemed so blissful and happy even in her sleeping posture.
Till she came into my life, I had not known that you could love someone even when they were in deep sleep unaware of your presence. The giant Pooh doll that she hugged every night lay orphaned in one corner of the bed with its arms outstretched as if waiting for her embrace. The room was filled with her photos right from her day 1 on earth till the annual sports day that happened about 2 weeks before....it ended.
My gaze fixed on a collage that we prepared for her first birthday. It consisted of her journey right from her mother's bump, till her last birthday. My god! How she had grown in front of my own eyes and I never realized it. For every parent, their wards remain children even after graying out. Her little brown eyes looked deep into me and peeking into my soul asked me "Where were you when I needed you." I felt impotent. Bloody impotent.
I still imagine how surreal it was when I held her for the first time in my hands. She was wrapped in a white cloth and looked peaceful in deep sleep. Her fist was the size of my thumb and yet it seemed as if she led me around rather than the other way around. It was for the first time, I had experienced tears of joy. I did not want her to taste my salty tears and wiped them off the corner of shirt. Little did I know that 11 years later, I would find her body immersed in salty pond water.
Having a baby was a cause for celebration. We had celebrations for her first step, her first illegible "amma", her first day at school etc. We were proud of her in every other way. Not only was she a well behaved girl, but also well read. Her teachers openly envied us at the parents teachers meeting and she would just blush when they heaped encomiums on her. Her happiness was to celebrated with scoopfuls of strawberry ice creams and her sadness was divided with hugs, promises and lullabies. Now there was no one to hug. No one to sing a lullaby. Nothing to promise.
She could have had an excellent academic career. Who knows, she might have been the next Nooyi or Sudha Murthy. She would have made a lovely caring wife and mother. Everything was doomed. Everything was destroyed. There was nothing worth living.
I read about her killer's 'encounter' incident (one policeman shot that bastard while on way to court). Curiously, people ask me if I am relieved or happy. I dont know, but its mixed emotions. I know her death has been avenged, but will it bring my lovely daughter back? Some human rights activists claim that the encounter was brutal and uncalled for. Who the fuck gives them authority to judge right and wrong?
Atleast someone had compassion. Someone had a sense of justice. Maybe the policeman had a daughter and he felt our pain. I am not trying to say "an eye for an eye" is right, but where is justice today? An accomplice to the murder of the former Prime Minister of this country is languishing in jail still. An attacker whose antics were seen by the whole world on tape for 3 days in Mumbai is making mockery of the whole judicial system. Why should I believe that my daughter's loss would be rightfully and legally settled?
Feeling angry, I just turned my head around and found a CD we had recorded during a session where the parents were invited to the school. All students were invited to give a talk on their future ambitions. As her turn came, she walked gracefully to the stage and I recorded her every movement to the podium. She talked about her dream of working at ISRO. For some reason, she was obsessed with Space research and stars and quite ironically she ended up being one.
Her teacher asked "So, do you harbor any dreams to go to the space? Or say the moon?"
She looked at the camera. For one faint instant, I felt that she was looking at me for an answer. Her deep brown eyes now seemed to have broken the barrier of TV and seemed to question my soul.
As I watched it now at this wretched moment, I remembered her answer. I got a lump in my throat. All the emotions that I had held for the last 2 days poured from my eyes and I was sobbing uncontrollably like a child.
In midst of my wails and tears, she answered
"No Madam. I don’t want to leave my parents and go very far."