Sanchit Jain’s teary-eyed father is holding his inconsolable mother not far from the auditorium dais where he stands next to the glass casket in which lies his kid sister, Tarishi. A sparkling white sheet covers his departed sibling, those fatal injuries she suffered after Friday’s terror strike and the sinister signature of the attackers.
Sanchit acknowledges the sympathetic gaze of the mourners, some of whom hold his hands, others give him a hug.
As the grieving group leaves, he stands on the stage, hands still folded, staring blankly at the crowded Community Centre on Gurgaon’s upmarket Arjun Marg. Coming to terms with his family’s biggest loss, Sanchit looks lost.
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His uncle, Kishen Jain, along with the rest of the extended family, has travelled to Gurgaon from Firozabad in UP. Trying to control his trembling lower lip, he points to the courageously calm 20-year-old Sanchit. “He studies engineering in Canada. He came to India just a few days ago. Actually, he didn’t get a Bangladesh visa in time or else he, too, would have been in Dhaka on Friday. And he would have never allowed his little sister to go to that restaurant alone. It’s very close to their place,” says Jain. Suddenly, Kishen stops and a weepy sniff escapes him.
“Her father told us that she had called him from the restaurant during the attack to say that she was afraid they would kill everyone, one by one,” he says.
Kishen, like the family patriarch Vimal Prasad Jain, is an advocate. Tarishi’s father, Sanjiv, is younger than Kishen but easily the most enterprising in his generation. While most family members stuck to Firozabad’s famous glass bangles business, Sanjiv branched into fabric. He first moved to Hong Kong and later to Bangladesh, where he started manufacturing readymade clothes. This would prove to be his big business breakthrough.
Sanchit and Tarishi were born in Hong Kong, studied at the American International School in Dhaka and went on to pursue higher educational goals in USA. “But these kids are very Indian. Hum Jain hain, hamare main mandir jana bahut jaroori hai (We are Jains, it is important for us to visit temples). Studies and temple is all they did,” he says, adjusting his chair on the synthetic green floor of the Community Centre that also doubles up as a badminton court. Tarishi had other interests, too.
Tarishi, while at school, was a skilled shuttler. She and Faraaz Hossain, who stuck by her side till his last breath during those manic hours inside Holey Artisan Bakery, were part of the team that travelled to Sri Lanka and got a bronze medal in the 2014 international inter-school competition. Hossain’s April 2014 Facebook post has the picture of the two, bronze medals hanging from their necks and golden smiles pasted on face. “Last trip with this kid :(. I think I’m gonna miss you a litttttlee bit next year.” College studies would see them take different paths but as fate would decide they would end up taking this one more last trip.
Away from the ears of those bereaved, there are whispers about that trip and the identity of the attackers. They say how Tarishi was asked to speak Bangla and recite verses from the Koran. Even for someone actively involved in the integration of different cultures on her campus at UC Berkeley, these would have been tough questions for Tarishi.
As an intrepid member of International Students Association at Berkeley (ISAB), Tarishi was involved with several initiatives that brought “outsiders” like her feel at home in an alien land. The latest programme, featured prominently on the ISAB Facebook page that has a smiling face of Tarishi, was the Ramadan Friendship Dinner. The post just above the Iftar invitation now has a RIP message with Tarishi giving an angelic smile.
It’s that smile that haunts those who sit stunned on the white mattresses just below the stage. They are aunts, uncles and cousins of the girl in the glass casket. She is also smiling from the photograph framed with marigolds. The family members start talking about the bubbly girl who had a great future but give up. They attempt to relive those big family reunions at Firozabad but can’t keep the big lump in the throat down. A stream of tears flow down their cheeks and empty mineral water bottles pile up. They hold hands, speak little as words of solace sound hollow. Someone speaks about the Maker and his mysterious ways but doesn’t sound convincing.
As the last journey begins, the mother, still inconsolable, has suddenly gone silent. She is asked not to hold it inside. She is told about the virtue of catharsis. It isn’t a pleasant sight. A few women from the Haryana Police commando force, here on official duty, fish out white handkerchiefs from their fading blue camouflage fatigue. The mother takes the car to the crematorium. One of the aunts returns to the auditorium, walks across the badminton court and cradles the picture of the smiling Tarishi. She leaves the venue, informing that she will be at home waiting for the family. She and, of course, a smiling Tarishi.