“I love my India” she had scribbled on the back page of her school notebook before becoming another victim of the sexual violence plaguing the country. To add to the tragedy of 13-year-old Arshdeep Kaur’s short life, her bhog ceremony is to be held on May 8 — the day of her 14th birthday.
Arshdeep and her mother, Shinder Kaur, were pushed off an Orbit bus, co-owned by Punjab Deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal, after allegedly being molested on April 29. Arshdeep succumbed to her injuries while her mother survived.
The family is now struggling to come to terms with the loss. Flipping through the pages of her notebooks, 16-year-old Sandeep Singh, Arshdeep’s cousin, remembers how she loved scribbling her name, roll number and class wherever she liked. “She loved English, always tried learning new words but at same time loved our mother tongue of Punjabi,” Sandeep says. ‘Arshdeep Kaur, Roll number 12, Government High School, Landeke’: it was an identity the teenager loved, beyond her life at home when she helped her mother wash utensils.
“Her mother worked as a domestic help in a residence nearby. Before school, she would help out but she loved her name on the school books,” said Sandeep, the cousin considered closest to the girl. In a family where a packet of Maggi was a luxury, Arshdeep was the only one who had her way. “She called me dad because she loved English. Dad give me Rs 5 or 10 to buy a packet of Maggi, she would demand as she knew I would not be able to afford anything more. I could never say no,” says a sobbing Sukhdev Singh, the teenager’s father.
At school, they remember her as an above-average student who tried hard. “Leadership quality is what she was gifted with. Students shy away from small tasks in class like making charts, cleaning the blackboard or sorting out papers but she always volunteered. She was an above-average student,” says Lakhwinder Singh, incharge of the government school in Landeke.
“A day before she fought with me on why I sat with someone else; she wanted me to sit only with her. I regret not doing it. I never knew it would be our last day together,” recalls Simran, her classmate.
“She was mature beyond her age; never made unreasonable demands. Fate has played a cruel joke on us and we now have to prepare for her bhog ceremony on her birthday,” says father Sukhdev.