She lit a flame

She was the entertainer of the household, the perennially smiling one who had her brothers in splits with her jokes at the dinner table.

She was the brilliant student who gave tuitions for younger kids when she was 14 to help her lower middle-class parents run their home.

But on Saturday her smile froze into sad permanence in the memories of those who knew her, and her brilliance flickered for a final time.

The prayers of a nation proved in vain as the 23-year-old victim of a savage gangrape on a moving Delhi bus lost her long-odds battle to survive at 2.15am IST in Singapore, where she had been flown in a last-ditch attempt to save her.

Earlier, in the 10 days she fought for survival at Delhi's Safdarjung Hospital, she amazed doctors by her courage.

But all through her short life, she had made the best of what little she had.

She was elder sister to two boys, part of a family that lived in a one-bedroom flat in the outskirts of Delhi. Her father worked as a loader with a private airline at Delhi’s international airport.

The older of the two brothers recalls that one room in the house used to always be full of her students and she would be sitting in the middle, with a smile.

The girl was invariably among the top students in her class, and was determined to earn well and repay her father, who had sold his ancestral land to fund her studies.

Hers was a story of charming ordinariness, of aspiration and hard work, of pleasure in life's little joys.

She was a fan of ‘Bigg Boss’, and they would watch it daily at 9pm.

She didn’t have the money to visit fancy restaurants but it didn't matter: she loved her mother’s simple cooking.

She liked to buy clothes and whenever the family had to gift her something, it would be clothes.

An exciting prospect: a dress for her birthday in May, for which the family was saving money.

She would have been working full-time in six months. Her plan was to buy a new phone to replace her four-year-old handset.

Her last days were illuminated by an extraordinary determination to live.

A doctor marvelled that even  in the ICU, she wanted to change her clothes and do her hair.

She insisted that the tubes be removed from her mouth so that she could testify against her attackers.

She died, but she lit a flame that will burn on.


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