For the Krishnamurthys — most visible faces of the Uphaar fire tragedy — time stopped on June 13, 1997. The last 10 years have been mostly about 2,000 court visits and nothing else — no festivals, celebrations, happiness.
“We would have been grandparents by now if our children were alive. I dread attending weddings because I imagine my daughter in a wedding dress... that brings tears to my eyes, and I hate that,” says Neelam.
Unnati, 20, and Ujwal, 13, were among the 59 people who died of asphyxia in the cinema during a screening of Border.
Over the past decade, the Krishnamurthys have consciously slowed down their lives. They’ve capped their business, Shekhar has given up singing, cooking is no more Neelam’s favourite pastime.
Unnati and Ujwal’s room in their Kalkaji apartment remains exactly the way they left them that evening. Books, clothes, music collection, even the bedsheet remain untouched — as do the ticket stubs the Krishnamurthys retrieved from the bodies at AIIMS.
If loss could be measured in the number of lives, 67-year-old S.P. Sudan would be the tragedy’s biggest loser.
Sudan lost seven members of his family, including his 38-day-old granddaughter, Chetna. He had stayed back with his wife at home, decorating the house for his grandson Bhavya’s birthday. “Somebody called and said there was a fire at Uphaar. I rushed there, to find my entire family had been snatched from us,” says Sudan.
If Sudan lost his family, 24-year-old Vikas lost his father — and all hopes of becoming a doctor. Since the day Kishen Lal Abuva died, Vikas’s life has been a daily fight to make ends meet.
He was only 14 then, and the family’s entire responsibility suddenly fell on him. “I had to look after my mother and five brothers and sisters. My life changed, my dreams were shattered,” says Vikas.
He started a catering business, and despite huge financial constraints and crippling epilepsy, managed to get one of his sisters married. “The doctor says my fits are because of stress. But how can I rest? I have my siblings to look after.”
Vikas has no time for himself; in his situation, even grieving is a luxury.