Delhi was invisible thanks to the winter fog on Sunday morning. The first light appeared around 7am and within a half-hour, the last rites of the victim of the savage gangrape were performed at a Dwarka crematorium.
The hush-hush event amid heavy security was done hours after the body was flown home from Singapore. Police kept plans of the last rites secret till the last moment, apprehending problems caused by a large number of people gathering to pay their respects.
According to JP Chauhan, pradhan of the organisation which runs the crematorium, a police officer had called him up at 10pm on Saturday to meet him regarding a "sensitive" case.
"We were told about a body which was to be cremated in extreme secrecy. When we insisted on knowing who it was, we were asked not to tell anyone and get on with the arrangements keeping in mind 6.30am as the time for lighting the pyre," Chauhan said.
Priest Vijender Sharma along with undertaker David Sevadhari prepared the pyre all night braving the bitter cold. "The moment I came to know who was being cremated, I started working faster because of the priority of the case," David recounted.
The lone pyre was lit exactly at 7.30am, after the girl's father refused to perform her last rites till it was daybreak in observance of Hindu traditions.
By 8.30am, as family members, relatives and neighbours left in buses and police cars, curious locals and morning walkers entered the crematorium premises, despite the security at the gate to keep away people and members of the media.
Some watched the flames with curiosity while a few others even took pictures as memorabilia on their cell phones. "It is something that doesn't happen too often," said a middle-aged kurta-shawl-clad man, as he posed with his daughter before the pyre.
Sunil Kumar, one of the officials of the crematorium, kept an eye on everything. "People are not yet out of their quilts and the whole process has been nearly completed quite peacefully," Kumar remarked.
Heaps of wreaths lay scattered all around. An amber-coloured coffin, in which she was brought to the capital, stood unattended nearby. The fog kept cleared after bidding a final goodbye to a braveheart, who fought her assaulters with grit and will remain in every Delhi resident's heart for a long time.