A religious old woman's gift to her growing family crumbled to dust on Wednesday morning, taking her and most of her kin with it.
"The day she returned from the Haj in September last year, Hashmi Begum (61) had arranged to get two floors constructed above her ground-floor property and started preparing for the marriages of her three sons," said Husain Ansari (53), father of Hashmi's eldest daughter-in-law Shagufta (25).
Begum had raised her five sons at their small, run-down ancestral house next to their brass manufacturing-cum-polishing unit in north Delhi's Farsh Khana area.
"When she realised that the house was getting smaller for her growing family, she invested her life's savings on the house," said Mohammad Yusuf (50), whose daughter Ayesha (24) is married to Begum's son Mohammad Nadeem (25).
Yusuf said while her elder sons Anees (31) and Raees (29) had stayed back at the ancestral house, Begum had decided to move into the Brahmpuri residence with her younger sons Nafees (27), Nadeem, Azeem (23) and their wives Shagufta, Ayesha and Rubina (22), respectively, in December 2009.
"Rubina left for her parents' house in Meerut on Monday. She's the only family member to have survived the accident," Ansari said.
The house collapsed within seconds around 4 a.m. on Wednesday. The sound was reportedly so loud that people staying as far as almost half a kilometre away rushed to the spot.
"We were preparing to go for a cricket match at a playground nearby when we heard the explosion. All of us ran to the I-block where we saw the collapsed house," said Imran (18), a resident of A block.
"It looked like a building from a war film."
Relatives claimed that the family was due to vacate the house for repairs around 10 a.m. on the fateful day.
"Shagufta told me that the house was to be repaired. But we received a call from the neighbours telling us that the whole family had been wiped out," Ansari said.
A four storey building in the same area on which finishing work was being performed had collapsed in 2008. Seven labourers were killed then.