It is a phone call that will haunt her for ever.
Komal Tripathi, 19, is never too far from her phone. On Monday morning, when the first year student of business administration was waiting outside the exam centre in west Delhi’s Narela, her best friend and classmate Ritu Singh called.
All she could hear were screams and the call ended abruptly. Komal still had some last-minute reading to do and didn’t pay much attention to her friend’s “prank call”.
“I could hear Ritu scream. I thought she and the other friends were playing a prank on me,” Komal said.
Ritu and six of her classmates at Delhi School of Professional Studies and Research in Rohini’s Sector 24 were on way to centre to take their second semester examination.
Komal went back to reading and turned off the phone ringer. She didn’t want any distraction. She waited for Ritu and others but it was getting late so she headed for the hall.
As she was settling down, a classmate told her Ritu was in an accident. The Honda City Ritu and six others were in had toppled off a flyover in west Delhi’s Punjabi Bagh area, she was told. It was around 8.30am.
Komal didn’t know the severity of it and decided to take the exam. “I knew all the answers but couldn’t concentrate,” said Komal, who walked out in an hour.
It was too late.
Ritu and Sanchit Chhabra died on the spot after the car broke through cement railings to fall almost 30 feet below. Rajat, who was driving the car, died later in the day. On Tuesday, Garima, too, passed away.
Komal was to be in the car, too. Rajat was to pick her up but he took a detour after Ritu and Garima couldn’t get a cab, Komal said. She didn’t want to be late so she asked another friend for the lift, and that saved her life.
There was a missed call on Komal’s phone when she rushed out of the exam hall. It was from Pranav Malik.
“Ritu was my best friend. So is Pranav. They must have been trying to contact me for help,” Komal said.
She wouldn’t know if it was Ritu or one of the people who pulled the group out from the car wreckage who called her.
But what seems certain is that one of the slum dwellers, who rushed to the crash site, made the call.
Pranav’s father, Rajiv Malik, too, received a call from his son’s mobile phone minutes after the early morning accident. “One of the people on the spot used my son’s phone to inform me about the accident,” he said.
Pranav was the first to be pulled out and was fortunate to escape with fewer injuries when compared to his friends.
He is recovering at a hospital near Karol Bagh. He had regained consciousness and has been speaking a little but will have to spend some time in hospital, his father said.
Two of their friends continue to be critical.