June 28, 2019 1:34:13 am
Kartar Singh Solanki remembers watching his eldest child, Neetu, slap a boy in school. Furious, he asked her why. “He bullied me in class, papa… you want me to remain quiet about it?” asked his 13-year-old daughter.
Standing in the playground, Solanki was convinced Neetu was a fighter. “I was never worried about her, she was too strong, almost invincible,” said her mother Susheela (54), seated at their Matiala home.
This memory is from before a time when Neetu tattooed a peacock feather on her waist, before she fought MCD elections in 2007, before she told her parents she was leaving for Singapore, and before her body was found inside a bag on February 11, 2011.
Eight years later at the Solanki residence, Susheela asks every 20 minutes if Raju Gehlot — her daughter’s live-in partner and the accused — is indeed dead. “Did you see his body? Do you think police are lying?” she asked.
On Wednesday night, when she overheard news about Gehlot’s death, Susheela couldn’t sleep. At 8 am, Kartar rushed to her with a newspaper and announced: “He’s dead.”
Parents tread cautiously around Neetu’s memories, careful not to let it impact her three younger siblings and their children. At the family home, photos of her from holidays, birthday celebrations, and of her wearing monochrome suits are boxed in albums.
“No one brighter has been born in our family. She was so good in English that she even fought with us in English,” said Susheela. In 2007, she fought the MCD elections from Matiala, but lost. “She did door-to-door campaign and spoke about fixing water and roads,” said Susheela.
Neetu loved surprising her parents, and one day, she came home with a tattoo. “I asked her if it hurt, she said a little,” said Susheela, who remembers meeting Gehlot at home. “She said he was a colleague, I made him tea. He sat with us for 15 minutes but I couldn’t read him… he was reserved. I never saw him again,” Kartar said.
In 2010, Neetu said she had landed a job in Singapore. “We went to drop her at the airport, the last time we saw her,” said Susheela.
Police investigation, however, concluded Neetu never went to Singapore and lived with Gehlot in Bengaluru, Mumbai and Delhi. “Nonsense! I even saw her room on the web cam. She couriered foreign chocolates and ties for me,” said Kartar.
Neetu’s sister Alka spoke to her a day before she died. “Neetu had a head injury and was worried, but said she will return to surprise mummy-papa,” said Susheela.
After she went missing, her parents called her for 10 days till Kartar stumbled on a report of a woman with a peacock feather tattoo found dead. “I knew it was Neetu, but I don’t know how she landed up in Delhi, why she fell for Raju. At least he’s dead… god helped us get justice, not police. He was in Gurgaon all along… sirf naam hi badla tha, chehra toh nahi,” said Susheela.
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