The Sonis lost their 21-year-old son in the Zaveri Bazaar bomb blast on July 13 last year. Rediff.com's Norma Godinho met the distraught family that is slowly getting their lives back on track.
Love is stronger than death even though it can't stop death from happening, but no matter how hard death tries it can't separate people from love. It can't take away our memories either. In the end, life is stronger than death. - Unknown -
This quote simply summarises the lives of the Sonis. Their tears have dried up, but the wounds are still sore.
Dilip Kumar Soni and his wife have lived the last 12 months in mourning -- with memories, pain and disbelief -- after their 21-year-old son Pankaj was killed in the Zaveri Bazaar bomb blasts on July 13.
Picking up the pieces of life and moving on hasn't been easy for the couple and their two other kids, 15-year-old Dakshita and 13-year-old Vipul.
The Marvari family, which has a modest gold jewellery business (they repair jewellery and make gold ornaments and figurines on order) in Bombay Central, have gone through their share of grief and ridden the emotional roller-coaster thereafter.
"I went through depression. I lost interest in work. I shut my shop and didn't do business for seven months. I couldn't go out of the house and didn't even go to the doctor. I was in the house all the time," says 45-year-old Dilip, whose cold stare and straight face shows no emotion.
Pankaj's death and its aftereffects also tell on his siblings.
"My younger son Vipul was very close to Pankaj. He couldn't concentrate on his studies. This year his marks have dropped badly," adds Dilip.
It's only when one prods a little more about Pankaj that his weak side shows.
"Aap yaad mat dilao. Uske bare mein baat karenge toh rona aayega," he says. And just as he finishes his sentences, his wife sheds a few tears and goes on to describe her eldest son.
"He was a regular college-going kid. He was a student of Byramjee Jeejeebhoy College of Commerce and was in TY B. Com. He would never waste money. He valued family and money."
As she talks she walks to the cupboard to show Pankaj's 'May I help you' badge he wore when he worked at a Vodafone sales outlet.
Dilip, now with a glint in his eye, adds to the characteristics of his son.
"He would go to college in the day and after that he'd help me with my business. He was a decent student and was not a brash kid. Woh shaant ladka tha. He was hard-working. He had even worked for six months in a Vodafone mini store. He had already shown interest in joining me in the business. He would visit Zaveri Bazaar about 8-10 times a month to evaluate the purity of gold. If I was busy in the shop, he would go," said Dilip, going on to reveal details of the fateful day.
"It was a routine day for us. He returned from college and said he was going to check the purity of gold of some ornaments that were ordered to be made by us. He left home never to return," he says, reaching for his pocket to show Pankaj's college identity card.
Looking at his son's photograph, Dilip reveals that the father-son duo had plans of turning their modest shop into a jewellery showroom.
"I have lost my son and with that my support and power is gone," moans Dilip, clenching his fist.
"We thought of getting him married. Uske jaane se hamari ek poori pidhi kho haye hai (One whole generation of ours is wiped off with his passing away). Two months after his death the government gave us Rs 5-7 lakh in compensation. But we have lost what we needed most. The money won't help because we won't get back what is gone," he added, his voice raised with a tinge of anger.
As the conversation flows, Dilip starts to reveal his emotions, even though very slightly. Even when he speaks about the government and his take on the state of the security in Mumbai he puts forth a calm demeanour.
"I don't want to talk about the government because we all know that they don't make decisions for the public. This government is very weak. They aren't doing enough to take care of the public. They don't know how to run the country. Even after nearly a year since the blasts I still fear for my security. I don't go to Zaveri Bazaar for business as often as I used to."
Asked if he followed the investigations of the blasts, Dilip said the family does not want to read or watch anything that would remind them of their son's demise. Dilip expressed anger and irritation over media persons who have been hounding him for the last week or so.
"A couple of days back a print journalist came over and started asking my younger son, Vipul, about Pankaj and things related to his death. Since then Vipul has been down with fever and missed two days of school. Another TV reporter had come to interview us and I shooed him back. I don't understand why the media comes to remind us of our sorrow? We just want our son's soul to rest in peace" he says, in a raised tone.
One can't miss half a dozen frames of Goddess Laxmi and other dieties hung around the shop of the Sonis. And so, the question of faith had to be asked.
"I had lost faith in the Almighty, Dilip says, as he stares blankly into space.
"We had stopped our daily poojas and my wife had also stopped visiting the temple. This phase coincided with the time I had lost interest in work. But our family, friends and well-wishers helped raise our spirits. They made us understand that we needed to be strong and we weren't the only ones who had lost our son in the blasts. We are getting our lives back on track slowly and our faith is now getting restored."
It will be a while before the Sonis come to grip with normalcy in their lives. Till then, hope and faith spring eternal.
Photograph: Pankaj Soni