The lone surviving member of the Halankar family — a frail Kunda, 42, — lies on a bed at Thane Civil Hospital with needles piercing her thin hand. Doctors at the hospital say she is mentally unsound but she refutes it. She keeps muttering that nobody from Anupama Society has come to meet her.
“The neighbours were quick to tell the police they would have supported us if we had called them, but they always called us mad and bikharis (beggars). They mocked us for not speaking English. After my father’s death, we did not have much money,” said Kunda, a school dropout, who is hard of hearing.
“My mother, Anandibai, was not keeping well for the past few days. But she didn’t tell me what was wrong. I called out to her but she didn’t respond. My brother’s eyes were bloodshot but he didn’t cry. The police were asking me how they died but I don’t know,” Kunda said.
Neighbours told HT, when they asked Kunda why she did not inform them about the deaths in the morning, she told them that ‘it did not feel right to disturb the neighbours in the morning as most of them had to go to work and would have needed to take a day off’. “This shows she was not thinking rationally,” a neighbour said. Another neighbour, whose daughter was friendly with Kunda said, “Once when Kunda was climbing the stairs, a building resident complained loudly ‘Now that I have seen this mad person’s face, my entire day will be cursed’. Kunda was affected psychologically and never recovered from it.”
Neighbours say the father Ramchandra Halankar was a disciplinarian. “He told me women should limit themselves to housework. So, all his children, one of whom had a degree, were confined to the house,” said a neighbour.