New Delhi, Feb 15 (IANS) His face has lined overnight and he looks haggard, but he keeps a brave front before his family. The facade however shatters when he recalls his last meeting with his 23-year-old daughter, who was brutally gang-raped on a cold December night here.
Tears are not far off and they fall freely.
"I clearly remember our last meeting. She was lying on the (Safdarjung) Hospital bed. She gestured me to come near and asked me whether I had eaten. When I nodded, she told me to sleep. She then held my hand and kissed it," the distraught father of the dead trainee physiotherapist told IANS.
"I can never forget that moment because it was the last time I got a chance to talk to her.
"Then her condition worsened, and she was later on the same day flown to Singapore. I never got a chance again," he said as tears rolled down his cheeks.
Sitting in his modest two-bedroom house in southwest Delhi, the 53-year-old, throughout his interaction with IANS, kept his eyes fixed on the photograph of his daughter, who died in a Singapore hospital Dec 29 last year, 13 days after she was gang-raped in a moving bus.
Life for the family has come to a standstill. But the father now hopes for justice.
"I want the six rapists to hang. Nothing less will be acceptable," he told IANS.
The unplastered brick house, in which they has been living for 25 years since he left his hometown in Ballia in Uttar Pradesh, seems empty to them, as the young woman, who was a first-born, is no more to light up their lives.
"Oh God! Why did I ever come to Delhi?" said the teary-eyed father, who works as a porter at the Indira Gandhi International Airport.
Recalling the fateful day on Dec 16 night, he said he sensed something was wrong when he found his daughter had switched off her mobile phone.
"She had cooked food for us. After lunch, I left for work. She also left and told her mother that she will be back by evening. When she did not return by 8 p.m., we got worried.
"But after 9 p.m. when we found her mobile was switched off, we felt something wrong had happened because she never used to do that. As soon as I returned home at night, I received a call from Safdarjang Hospital regarding the incident," he said.
Looking at his daughter's 15x15 inch photograph, which has been placed on a table on one side of the house, he said despite several problems in their life, he was always hopeful about his family's future.
"But now I'm a broken man," he said. His two sons are both studying.
He described his daughter as a bright and intelligent girl.
"She always stood first or second in class. She was very studious. She wanted to do master's in physiotherapy after clearing her bachelor in January," he added.
Even while she was studying, she worked at a call centre during nights so that she could earn extra money for her studies, he added.
"Except her college fees, I only used to send her one or two thousand rupees whenever she demanded in her four-year physiotherapy course," the father added.
Even while studying in school, she used to take tuitions.
He blames himself for his daughter's fate.
"'Mere hi kisi galti ki saja meri beti ko mil gai' ('My daughter had to meet this fate due to some fault of mine')," he told IANS during the hour-long interaction.
The sheer brutality of the gang-rape shocked the nation. The woman was raped by five men and a juvenile in a private bus who then threw her and her male friend on the road -- bloodied and without clothes after nearly an-hour long ordeal.
She became a rallying point in Delhi and elsewhere as protesters demanded strong anti-rape laws. The spontaneous protests forced the government to take several steps.
"The six should feel the pain and the anguish. They should realise what they have done to us and her," he cried in anguish.
A fast track court is hearing the case. One of the accused includes a boy, who, according to the law, cannot be tried for the crime.
"My daughter awakened not only India but the whole world. I will feel proud if a law is made on her name," he said.
He said his daughter once fell seriously ill as an infant.
"At that time, I managed to save her, but this time, I couldn't," he said.
(Rajnish Singh can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)