She was attractive, warm and ambitious. He was brilliant and good-looking. They met in college in Pune and exchanged notes. A few years later, they met again in Mumbai as professional lawyers, fell in love and decided to marry. But perhaps things were too good to be true. In August 2012, she was murdered. Traumatised, life was never the same for him. A year later, he died of an illness.
The morning’s torrential downpour has faded into the evening’s faint drizzle, allowing a flight hovering five times over Mumbai’s domestic airport to finally touch ground. One of its passengers, Sumita Purkayastha, hops into a taxi and reaches a hotel overlooking the iconic Queen’s Necklace on Marine Drive. For Sumita, the Queen’s Necklace, or the endlessness of the Arabian Sea, or even the vastness of Mumbai is loathsome. For, it was in this city, two years ago, that Sumita lost her daughter forever.
Sumita has come to Mumbai only for a day, to hear the court’s quantum of punishment for the man guilty of murdering her daughter. She joins her husband, Atanu Purkayastha, who checked in to the hotel a few days ago. Wearing a red T-shirt and cream trousers, Atanu swivels in a chair at the study table under the feeble light of the lamp, his eyes catching an odd glance of the Arabian Sea from the large glass window.
“Things were too good to be true. Everything fell apart just when it seemed to be perfectly in place,” he says, arms folded and gaze fixed on the floor. The Purkayasthas are still to come to terms with the loss of their 25-year-old daughter Pallavi to the lust of the security guard of the building she stayed in. The guard, Sajjad Mughal, molested and murdered her on the night of August 9, 2012, just a few months before her wedding.
Since then, the Purkayasthas, both Delhi-based bureaucrats, have flown 14 times to Mumbai to seek justice for their daughter. On June 30, a Mumbai court convicted Mughal of trespassing, molestation and murder. The court will announce its quantum of punishment on July 7.
At the time of her murder, Pallavi was at the “threshold of her life”, according to her father, and had found the “perfect match” in Avik Sengupta. “What more could we have asked for? He was Bengali, belonged to a reputed family and, above all, was a brilliant human being,” says Sumita.
Avik was Pallavi’s senior at Pune’s Indian Law Society’s Law College where the two had met. “She once called me and said she had met this intelligent senior whose notes were in great demand in college. She excitedly told me that she was lucky to get a copy,” recalls Sumita.
After completing the five-year law course in 2009, Pallavi moved to Delhi to stay with her parents and briefly continued…