Mansi Varsani always wanted to be a fashion designer and when the Gujarat board Class 12 results were announced Saturday, she got a C1 grade. Her family was meant to celebrate this moment but instead, an hour before the results were announced, her parents were at her funeral.
Mansi was among the 22 students killed in the fire that engulfed the Takshashila arcade in Surat Friday. And like most of the other students who died, she was attending summer coaching classes on the building’s roof, where the fire started. There were 35 students in the class at the time.
Mansi’s body had not been identified Friday, but a day later, her parents spotted the jaw of one of the bodies — there were two teeth missing and they knew their only daughter was dead.
Her father, Praveenbhai, who works in a diamond unit, told The Indian Express, “She (Mansi) was our only daughter, younger than her is our son Maulik. She was close to me and my family. After the Class 12 board exams, she was learning fashion designing in classes at Takshashila Arcade. Today, her results were announced, but the pain is still in my chest.”
Varsani was at work in the diamond unit in Varachha some 8 km away from the building when he got a call at 3.30 pm. It was from Mansi, who told him about smoke in her classroom and the possibility of a fire.
“She was calling me for help. I left the factory immediately and reached the spot and saw fire officials and others dousing the flames. I called but her phone was switched off. I tried to enter the building but police did not let me,” he said.
The Varsanis are residents of Nana Varachha in Surat and Mansi was a student of Ashadeep School and secured 374 marks out of 700 marks – a C1 grade.
But the Varsanis were not alone in grief. A pall of gloom descended on their locality and Ashadeep School where several other families lost children to the fire at the Takshashila arcade.
Like Ramesh Ballar who got a call at around 4:15 pm Friday about the fire. Hours later, Ballar was identified her nearly unrecognisable charred body with the help of a ring and bracelet his daughter always wore.
On Saturday afternoon, as the family tried to come to terms with the loss, her friends arrived with her marksheet. Rumi had scored 70 per cent in her Class 12 examinations with a percentile of 87.57. Clenching her marksheet in his hands and sobbing uncontrollably, Ramesh said: “I wish I could save her. What do I do with the result anyway now? She wanted to pursue B.Com from Vadodara. She was excited about college life. Everything has come to an end for us.”
In the very next lane, at the Katodia home, Nisarg too was expecting his results and has scored 55% with 62 percentile. Born as twins, his sister who is a special needs child was never sent to school.
A small piece of his shirt stuck on his body and his bracelet helped his parents Paresh and Rupa Katodia identify his body. They haven’t spoken since.
While Nisarg attended a class between 4 pm and 6 pm, he left for summer classes at the Takshashila arcade early on Friday to complete a project.
His neighbour, Manish Amrelia said, “He was adored by everybody. He was also very hardworking. This is the saddest day for his parents.”
Dhruti Khunt was also a student of Ashadeep School and when her body was consigned to flames, her parents were told that she cleared the career-determining exam with 53 per cent.
Her father Veenu works at a private industrial unit. “What does this report card mean to us? We have lost our only girl. We want the state government to strictly punish those involved in this incident. Steps should be taken against the SMC (Surat Municipal Corporation), DGVCL (Dakshin Gujarat Vij Company Ltd – the government-run power distribution company for South Gujarat), and builders,” he said.
Yashvi Kevadia also from Varachha and a student at Ashadeep School scored 50 per cent marks. Her father Dinesh runs an embroidery unit. “We have lost the gem of our home. She was close to me and the neighbours also liked her. We want those whose negligent actions led to such an incident should be strictly punished,”
Hiteshbhai Surani, too, lost his daughter Hasti, a student of Ashadeep School. She scored 423 marks out of 700. Hiteshbhai said, “We are in pain and today, we have collected her report card from her school. She was our only daughter besides two sons. We learnt about the incident yesterday evening and reached the spot but we could not save her. We identified her body after recognising the ring on her finger.”