The Behls had all the ingredients of a happy family. They did live happily, not too long ago. But back-to-back tragedies, which began in the early 90s, caused everything to fall apart. The father died. The mother could not survive the loss. The brother’s marriage was a silver lining, but he, too, moved out with his wife.
“Miyan-bibi ko bandish hoti thi; hamara ghar chhota padta tha (The husband-wife duo felt suffocated; they thought our house was not big enough for them to continue staying with us,” younger sister Sonali Behl told the Hindustan Times soon after being shifted to hospital on Tuesday.
Incoherently asking the hospital staff to get her to talk to her family doctor in Sector 37, Sonali murmured, “We have been in depression for I don’t know how long.
No one ever cared. Instead of helping, people mocked.” Bill details say no bulb was switched on or any telephone call made in the house since November 2010.
She said in an accident, Anuradha, a chartered accountant, had her face disfigured. “It had to be reconstructed. “Uska chehra bigad gaya. It led to inferiority complex. We’re not mad; it’s the negative energy,” she said.
Sonali joined export company (garment) Golden Strand Pvt Ltd in Sector 4 in 1999 as a computer operator and worked till 2008. When the company shifted to Sector 63, she quit, citing longer commutes. Chief manager (administration) PK Roy Choudhary said, “I’m socked. Sonali was very punctual, well-behaved and religious. We could never sense any problem at her end. We’re ready to take her back if she recovers and wishes to join again.”
Trouble for the family, settled in Delhi, began in the early 90s. Father (retired colonel) OP Behl died in a road accident. The mother could not bear the shock. Finding the Delhi house “unlivable”, the three shifted to Noida in 1997. The sisters thought their brother Vipin’s marriage in 2007 would bring some cheerfulness in the family. It was not to be.
Their maid servant Chintamani Devi, who the sisters told not to come to the house 18 months ago, said she often witnessed heated arguments between the brother, his wife and the two sisters.
“Vipin moved out of the house and started living in Sector 50 with his wife, making the sisters even more sad.” “My brother is a self-made man… he is under some black magic spell,” Sonali said in the hospital.
A neighbour, retired major BN Sharma, said, “When the family shifted to Noida, they were very happy. They would talk and mix a lot. The brother’s marriage was a colourful affair. Things changed after that. In the past 18 months, they hardly spoke to anyone; were occasionally seen at the window.” “Anuradha aunty was quite plump. The self-deprivation cut her up to the bare bones,” said a child who lives in the same colony.
Their brother, Vipin, is a software engineer with American Express in Gurgaon. After his wedding, he left his sisters and began staying in a rented accommodation in Noida Sector 50. “The sisters never had faith in me. After the death of our mother, they lost interest in working. I was against their decision to quit job,” he said.
“They thought I would usurp the property. We often had disputes over the property left behind by father. I left home in disgust. I never imagined things would get this worse.” He said the sisters were short-tempered and stubborn, refused all help offered.
“I had no idea they were in depression. I repent being away when they needed me the most,” he said.