(Written by Sheema Zehra)
“Koi Maksad nahi bacha ab zindagi ka,” grieved Riya’s mother, as she reached the mortuary of GMCH-32, late noon on Sunday. A native of Kapurthala in Punjab, Kanta Rani, who has been living at Czech Republic in Poland, had flown in after hearing of her daughter’s demise last evening.
Kanta requested strict action against the accused PG authorities. “So many mothers send away their children for studies and jobs. These people do not think once about the conditions they are keeping them in. I am a single mother and worked so hard, so far away from her only for her well-being. What has happened with me, should not happen with anyone else. Strict action should be taken against the authorities who let this happen,” she said.
“I had received frantic calls from her PG mate telling me about the incident. As I had started preparing to leave, I got another call telling me that she has passed away. I cannot even say how I have spent these past 16 hours of travel,” she cried, as she held her head in disbelief.
A 19-year-old student who had just given her plus two exams, Riya was preparing to go to Canada and had already cleared her IELTS exam. She was found dead in the bathroom. “She was ready to come to Canada. She always wanted to live abroad. We had even gotten a portfolio shoot done for her to apply for modelling jobs outside. She loved it. She wanted to become a model,” said Kanta.
Riya, whose father had passed away several years back, was only close to her mother and sister, both of whom lived abroad. “Her elder sister is settled in England and is on her way here. She should reach by tomorrow,” said Riya’s paternal uncle, Gunmeet.
“What do I have to do now, all that I did, I did for her. I worked hard to fulfil her dreams. I had never said no to her for anything,” said Kanta, crying. She suddenly beamed remembering Riya’s birthday. “She had just become 19 on January 31 and she had asked us to fly to Moscow for vacation. Everything had been finalised. She had to leave coming Thursday,” she said.
On the facilities provided at the PG, Kanta said, “Riya had been living here for five months and had complained of different issues several times. The PG did not provide them with any facilities even after charging so much. No safety precautions were taken. I had called the owner several times to talk to them about it but to no avail. Once an electricity wire was also found open, and was only fixed after several complaints.”
Riya’s last rites will take place in Kapurthala on Monday.
Another victim who lost her life in the tragic accident, Pakshi, had just returned after giving her final Economics examination, a day before the incident. Unaware of what the future had beheld, she spoke to her father for the last time around 11 am on Friday.
At the hospital to retrieve the victim’s body, her father Navdeeep Garod kept calming himself, and yet broke down again. “In hostels, girls do not get good food and so we had shifted her to the PG, but who knew this would come our way. Owners must be held responsible,” he said, as he sat in his car to drive off to their hometown at Kot Kapura in Punjab, where Pakshi’s final rites will be performed on Monday.
A student of BBA at SD College, Pakshi had aspirations to travel to Canada for her master’s degree.
It was Pakshi who had saved Jasmine, another PG dweller, her batch mate and friend, who escaped the incident unhurt as she jumped out of the tall balcony with the help of Pakshi. “She helped me get out, if it had not been for her, I would not have been here,” Jasmine had said.
“Meri ladli ab bhagwan ki ladli hogayi,” said a sobbing Rajiv Mehta, as he stood outside the mortuary of GMCH-32.
Rajiv continued recounting the fond memories of his daughter Muskan. He said, “She would always joke around with us. She would say, papa you are my only father and I am your only daughter, so please give me some money. She was a very happy child at heart.”
Holding the PG owner and the administration accountable for the incident, he said, “I did not come to see the PG as I did not see this forthcoming. As it was near the college, I felt it was good for my daughter. She was living in a single room so that she does not get disturbed while studying. However, she had been thinking of changing the PG.”
Muskan, who according to her several friends, was a polite and helpful person, also actively participated in extracurricular activities. She held the post of the President of Khalsa College’s Student Union last year and was a learned classical dancer. “She was always keen on helping anyone and spoke politely. She actively took part in college events, there were barely any event she would not participate in,” said one of her friends at the hospital.
Adept in extra-curriculars, she had even won a cash price of Rs 21,000 in a college fest. Muskan had been planning to appear for NET or join the Banking sector after her graduation in BCom.
Her uncle, Dinesh Mehta recapitulated the ways in which she cheered them and said that she also has a younger brother, who was at home when the incident took place.
“Muskan’s younger brother studies at Khalsa College and has also been staying at a PG. However, his PG is open and airy. We will see where to shift him and what to do with his future,” said their father Rajiv.
Muskan was the first to go undergo a post-mortem examination on Sunday. Her last rites will take place at Hisar, her native place, on Monday.
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