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January 24, 2000
Rupin's family yet to get over his loss
Neena Haridas in Gurgaon, Haryana
The gates are locked. The lawn looks unkempt. The Katyal household in Gurgaon hasn't really got over their tragedy.
It's been just a month since Rupin Katyal, 25, was stabbed to death by the hijackers of Indian Airlines Flight IC-814. The sorrow of the family and the trauma of the hijack may have stopped making the pages of newspapers, but the episode comes alive the moment you step into the Katyal house. The silence is broken but rarely. A framed photograph of Rupin hangs on a wall, garlanded with fresh flowers -- asymetrically juxtaposed against the wedding photograph of Rupin and Rachna Katyal on the wrought-iron table.
Rachna, who had left with her newly wed husband for a short honeymoon in Nepal, returned home a widow on December 31, 1999, after just 23 days of marital bliss. "She refuses to see visitors," says Rupin's grandfather, Mulk Raj Katyal. "In any case she is not here at the moment."
"Do you really think it is fair on a 20-year-old girl having to suffer like this? But I tell you, she will survive, because we all want her to get over the tragedy," the 75-year-old man, the only one to put on a brave front during the entire hijack drama, adds.
Rupin's father C M Katyal does not even wish to talk about the episode. "We have lost what none of you can replace. We relive the tragedy every day," he says.
Katyal Sr escorts his son to a bedroom, reminding him that it is time for his afternoon nap, and gestures to his daughter-in-law to take charge.
Returning, the old man resumes, "You know, I am the oldest in the family. I have lived my life. But look at my fate, I had to make the funeral pyre for my grandson.
"But what really got me worried was my son's condition. He developed a heart condition. And then Rachna came home."
But Mulk Raj Katyal has now decided to take destiny by its horns. Says he, "I will make sure Rachna gets back to life. We haven't really gone into the post-mortem of the trauma with her. I don't think that is necessary. She hasn't been speaking much. She keeps to herself most of the time. But I think human beings have a much higher threshold of surviving sorrow than they are credited with. The day Rachna was told about Rupin, she fainted and we had to put her on sedatives. I thought God was going to test me again. But she has kind of accepted reality. Now it will be our effort to bring life back into her eyes."
Ever since Rachna has returned from the ordeal, the Katyals have been keeping an eye on her health. "She requires medication because the doctors do not want her to go into a depression. We have been asked to be totally casual with her so that she is not reminded of the trauma. But of course, I don't think there is anything that can make her forget it. But I am sure we can make it easier for her. Besides, having her parents and brothers around will be good for her. It's a joint effort for all of us, you see."
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