Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, February 23
With burning grief that continued to fan their painful pangs of separation, the teary-eyed parents, who lost their daughters to a tragic fire incident at Sector 32 paying guest yesterday, assembled outside GMCH’s mortuary today morning.
About five each from one family on an average, with their support systems in place, fathers of Muskan and Pakshi stood patiently, reluctantly and anxiously waiting to sign their daughters’ post-mortem consent form — a mandatory protocol in medico-legal cases. The mothers were left at home.
There was no sign of Riya’s acquaintances in the vicinity. By noon, her relatives arrived at the spot only to reveal that her father had died a few years ago and that her mother worked in Czech Republic. “She has landed at the Delhi airport and has started the journey to Chandigarh. She’ll be here in the evening,” said a relative.
Memories of a grieving father
After signing Muskan’s autopsy form, Hisar-based advocate Rajeev Mehta remembered the words his daughter said all too often. “Papa, chhoti si toh zindagi hai (life is too short, papa); paise bhej do... Papa, chhotisi toh zindagi hai, let me live my life my way... she’d say these words all the time. And look, her life truly was short,” he broke down. “An NSS volunteer and an active social worker, Muskan wanted ‘Dr’ as a prefix for her name. She wanted to do PhD in finance,” said her father. Struggling between gaining composure and taming a sorrowful heart, words didn’t come easily to Mehta. He recalled having advised her against the paying guest accommodation and had suggested that she lived in the college hostel instead. “When she was graduating at Guru Gobind Singh College for Women, Sector 26, we had put her in the hostel. She got through SD College and was pursuing her first year in MCom here. Since she was in the NSS and was actively involved in social work, the hostel deadline (6 pm) did not sit well with her. That’s why, she chose to stay as a PG.”
With an unbearable guilt of not being able to help his daughter, Mehta’s in disbelief over her daughter’s demise. “As an NSS volunteer, she was quite proactive. I wonder why she didn’t get out of that place,” he said. Holding the landlord and city Administration responsible for the accident, Mehta shared: “It’s not just the owner’s fault, but Administration’s too. They should have kept a thorough check on the violations. In fact, when I first looked at the place and looked at the PVC roof, plastic and wood panel partitions, the thought of fire hazard did cross my mind.”
College president during her graduation, Muskan not only had a good reputation among her peers but also juniors. Kamaljot, a student of BSc from Guru Gobind Singh College for Women, who was there at the morgue, recalled: “I knew Muskan for two years. She was very helpful and fond of dancing. She’d never miss an opportunity to participate in a dance contest.”