Rediff.com's Prasanna D Zore reports on the tragedy that unfolded after the building collapse in Mumbai.
Nine-year-old Viraj Thak wept bitterly. His father Lalit, 40, too was inconsolable.
Viraj was unable to understand why so many people had gathered around three bodies -- of his grandmother Pramilaben (55), mother Amruta (35) and Renuka, his three-month-old sister, covered in white shrouds.
He wept inconsolably.
He would first look at his sister's body, kept in the middle and identifiable because of its size, then at the other bodies on either side. And then weep some more.
He would not know which shroud belonged to his mother or grandmother; they were wrapped, from head to toe, in white shrouds, when their bodies were brought back from the post mortem at 11 am on July 26 to the chawl where the Thaks stayed till last December before they moved to the Siddhi Sai Apartment that collapsed on July 25 killing 17 people, including all the women in the Thak household.
"Bachcha hai! Isko yeh toh pata hai uski pariwarwalon ki maut hui hai lekin yeh nahi pata ki maut kya hoti hai (He is a child; he realises that his family members are no more but he is too small to understand what it means)," Ashok Narayan Shrigiri, Lalit's cousin, said.
As mourners took his sister, mother and grandmother to the crematorium for the last rites, Viraj wept some more, asking bitterly, "Where are you taking my mother, sister and grandmother?"
Nobody knew what to tell the child who survived only because he was at his tuitions when his sister, mother and grandmother were buried alive under their new home.
Lalit Thak, a cloth merchant, bought the one bedroom apartment only last December.
The Thaks own three small rooms in the chawl just behind the Siddhi Sai Apartment and after his father's death four years ago, Lalit wanted to move to a new home with his family.
He wanted to give his family a better life.
Seven months after they moved to their new home, a forlorn Lalit sat weeping beside the bodies of his daughter, wife and mother.
Unlike Viraj, he knew they were dead; he also knew they would never come back.
Like Viraj, he kept looking at the bodies of his loved ones and wept.
There were scores of mourners offering their condolences, trying to share their grief; but the tragedy that befell the two Thaks, son and father, was theirs alone.
Lalit stayed composed as his relatives lifted the bodies of the two women to be taken for the cremation. For another 15 minutes he would not let anybody come between his daughter and himself.
He then slowly lifted his daughter, cradled her tenderly in his arms, insurmountable grief all over his face, tears rolling down; silently and then loudly, helplessly as he carried the infant for her final journey.
Lalit could have died that terrible Tuesday had he not been standing in the balcony when the building collapsed.
"He had just come out after his bath and was standing in the balcony when the building started shaking," Shrigiri said.
"He immediately asked his mother and wife, who were in the living room, to take Renuka and run down the stairs. Even as they stepped out -- they must have walked a few steps -- the building came crashing down."
"Lalit, who was still in the balcony, was flung down," Shrigiri said, "as his daughter, wife and mother were buried alive."