They had spent six hours amid irrepressible anticipation - waiting, with bated breath, to absorb every single detail about 21-year-old Dilshad Alam's trekking trip. What followed instead was news of Alam's 'accidental' death cloaked in an irrevocable pall of gloom.
Looked upon as the sole earning member by his family, Alam was among the five promising Delhi students who lost their lives during an accident on a National Trekking Camp organised by the National Cadet Corps (NCC) in Kerala yesterday afternoon.
"I've had the misfortune of having seen my son's dead body," his inconsolable mother Shakila Zabeen said.
"It's not the body of someone who drowned. There needs to be a proper inquiry into this," she demanded, struggling to utter each successive word.
A student of Jamia Milia Islamia, Alam and four others - Hemant Kumar, 15, Mohammad Zeeshan 18, Shabeesh Baqri, 18, and Gulvez Alam, 18, reportedly drowned while trying to click pictures as they trekked near Periyar River in Ernakulam.
"At 10am, he had sent his sister Ayesha Zabeen a text message saying that he was going for trekking; at 5pm we got news of the tragedy," the inconsolable mother said, surrounded by her relatives at her grief-stricken at her house in Zakir Nagar.
Terming it an "unfortunate incident" and expressing her condolences to their families, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit announced that her government would release an ex-gratia amount of R4 lakh each to the next of kin of each victim.
Even after having met CM Dikshit after their bodies were flown down to IGI Airport, however, Alam's aggrieved mother rejected the compensation offered.
"We don't need the money; all I want is for an inquiry to be launched into the incident. I just want to ask the other children who were with him about what really happened. I won't be at peace till then," she trailed off.