With all dreams crushed, the three families of the girls killed in Chellammal Women’s College
Chennai, October 21: Finally death leaves nothing but a life full of sorrows to these families of the girls, who were killed last week in a accident in Chellammal Women’s College, Chennai. In the locality all that remains on them in the public sphere are the obituary posters pasted on all the roads that lead to the houses of the three girls, situated in different parts of the city.
If anybody ask for the address, they would not only give the directions, but also accompany you till the doorstep, to show respect for the deceased. Jayanthi Pawar from the New Indian Express visited the homes of the three Chellammal Women’s College students, mowed down by a water tanker a week ago, and finds their families haven’t yet been able to move on.
In the front room of the small, one-bedroom grey house inside a narrow lane in Alapakkam hangs the photo of a young girl. “Gayathri”, reads the name written on a corner of the photo, with a garland on it and a lit lamp in front. “This is where we wanted to put her marriage photo,” said her mother M Selvi, struggling to contain memories and tears.
The family is yet to come to terms with her tragic death. When this reporter visited her home on Wednesday, her mother and aunt were seated on the floor, folding Gayathri’s new cloths that were just delivered by their tailor. “It is a salwar that she wanted to wear to college,” Selvi said.
Every day, her father Murugesan, who runs a tea stall, would drop her at the Porur bus stand, from where she would board the bus to college. But it was a bit different on the day of the accident. She unusually requested him to wait until she boarded the bus around 12.30 pm. About an hour later, Selvi received a call from a relative informing her that TV news channels were reporting some trouble near Gayathri’s college.
Selvi rushed to the college with her niece, but couldn’t find her daughter. When her niece called on her mobile phone, they were asked to reach Royapettah Government Hospital. “As I was waiting in front of the casualty, I saw my daughter’s dress through the window of a white van. It had blood stains. I peeped into the van only to find her body with her head smashed. Only then I realised there was an accident in which she was killed.”
Gayathri, Selvi recalled, wanted to become an IPS officer; a dream that was trampled in just a brief but cruel moment on the black, pitiless roads of the city.
Christaraj was in Bengaluru that day, with a customer who had booked his cab. He had left home early, around 4.30 am, to ferry the passenger for a christening ceremony and back. Around 1.45 pm, he received a call from his daughter Asha Shruthi’s phone. It was not her but an unknown voice, informing about the death of his daughter.
“But it was a happy occasion, I could not tell anybody the news. I had to remain quiet and started from Bangalore around 3 pm along with the customers and drove down to Chennai,” said the distraught father, hastening to add that he drove very carefully.
Christaraj cannot but recall that the last he saw his daughter was when he left early that morning, when Asha was fast asleep. There in their home in Pulianthope, there is a packet of potato chips, a bar of Dairy Milk chocolate, few books on accounting and bright, beautiful salwars. The books and cloths are hers. “Even today I bought her favourite potato chips and chocolates,” he added, clearly finding it difficult to deal with the sudden absence of his daughter.
The family is dependent on his income. Even on that fateful day, her friends had offered her a lift in an auto-rickshaw from Guindy railway station to the college. But Ash had only `10 on her. So she decided to walk.
She had big plans for future. Asha wanted to be a chartered accountant. “Only a week before the accident, she had told me not to worry about finances. She said she would start working and pursue her CA part time, as we could not afford to pay the fees,” her mother Dhilpheia said between tears.
Every day, Chitra would travel about 30 km to attend her college, including 5 km on foot. But there was not a never a day that she complained. This was important in her scheme of things for the future, where she saw herself clearing the State public service exam to become a government employee and support her family. She was preparing for it, and believed she was just six months away from it.
Chitra was an optimistic girl. “Even when all the things in the house was washed away during the December floods, it was she who smiled and asked me not to worry,” said her father Loganathan, a canteen worker at a private company.
“For the last one week of her life, Chitra kept asking us not to worry about the debts. ‘I will start working in another six months, and we will repay all our debts’ she repeated,” said Kalavathi, her mother who works in the packing section of a pharmacy company. Their daughter was the first graduate in the family about whom they all were proud of, on whom they had built their dreams.
Chitra was a hard worker. She would wake up early, finish her assignments and leave early to reach college. Before and after that, she would attend to the chores at home in her mother’s absence. “Throughout the week, she would concentrate on the household work and studies. But weekends were for grandparents [who live in the same locality], which she would never skip,” Loganathan added.
“My daughter would never let me be alone, but it’s been six days now since I am left alone,” said Kalavathi struggling to stop herself from bursting into another bout of cries and tears.