Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A fatal journey

Callous bus driving leads to the death of a young student, Fasini. A month later, the family is struggling to come to terms with the tragedy

By Shevlin Sebastian

For three days, following July 4 -- the day T.M. Fasini, 16, died -- her pet cat, Anshu, went missing. Then, Fasini's mother, Nabeesa, discovered it in an alcove, under the staircase.

"It was starving," she says. "When I gave rice, Anshu refused to eat it. Finally, when my son, Fasil, gave a saucer of milk with Horlicks, it had it." The cat walked around the house, with downcast head, for a few days. However, on the 18th day, after Fasini's demise, Anshu was run over by a car in front of the house. "We buried it beside the road," says Fasini's father Muhammad Kutty.

It was clear that Anshu was unable to get over the death of her mistress, Fasini, 16, who, on the morning of July 4, was about to get down from bus, Shabna, near the Town Hall, when driver, Rajesh, 25, suddenly pressed the accelerator.

"She was thrown off and her head hit the edge of a stone slab with great force," says her elder brother Manaf. Fasini died within minutes after she was admitted to Specialists' Hospital. It was only her third day at the Darul Uloom Vocational school at Pullepady, where she was studying to be a medical laboratory technician. "Eventually, she wanted to be a nurse," says Manaf.

A month later, the Kutty household at Palluruthy is enveloped in sadness. "I have been unable to sleep during this past month," says Nabeesa. "The moment I close my eyes, I see an image of Fasini." The doctor has prescribed sleeping pills, but to no avail: the sorrow has eaten up the sleep. "The only thought in my mind is this: my daughter has been snatched away from me. It has been a terrible shock. I can't believe I have only three children now, instead of four."

Muhammad Kutty misses Fasini's exuberance. "There was a sense of liveliness when she was around," he says. "She was a special girl." For twin Fasil, who was on the same bus, and had alighted safely a few seconds earlier, he sees her often in his dreams. "She is always talking to me," he says. "I feel she is alive."

Nabeesa says Fasini was a fun-loving and sweet-natured girl. "Whenever I used to scold her, she would have a smile on her face. So, it was difficult to remain angry with her for long."

P.A. Nadiya, 16, her former classmate at the Shree Dharma Paripalana Yogam school at Palluruthy says Fasini was quiet in class. "She would speak little and smile a lot," she says.

Her Class 10 teacher K.S. Bindu confirms that Fasini was a shy, but peaceful girl. "She was very good in field work and projects," she says. A.T. Tintu, 16, another former classmate, says, "She was a friendly person. I was shocked at her sudden death."

The family remembers the morning of July 4 with an aching intensity. Elder sister Thasini says that as Fasini was going out, she told her to put some talc on her face. "Fasini ran to the bedroom, put it, smiled at me and left," she says. "I cannot forget that smile."

The bus, Shabna, started at 8 a.m. from near the house. Fasini got a window seat. Manaf and Nabeesa were at the door when the bus went past. "I waved," says Manaf. Since Nabeesa was standing behind Manaf, Fasini leaned out, caught her mother's eye, waved, and smiled. That was the last the family saw her alive. Forty-five minutes later, she was dead.

Fasini had a close shave with death earlier. Nabeesa had a Caesaran delivery, but Fasini was not breathing. "Oxygen had to be administered," she says. "She was barely alive and the doctors said she would probably die." However, thanks to the ceaseless efforts of Dr. Mary, at the Port Trust Hospital, she survived.

So, does Nabeesa feel angry with God about what has happened? "Why should I be angry with God?" she says. "He is not at fault. The fault lies with the driver."

Nabeesa says severe punishment should be meted out to the driver. "Only then will the other drivers become scared and be careful when they are driving," she says. "But these tragedies continue to take place. I cannot read about it any more in the newspapers. I feel traumatised."

What has really angered the family is that despite the statement by the authorities that the permit has been revoked, the bus is back on the streets, with a new name: Sahla. "I travelled on it recently," says Fasil. He gives the number: KL-7/BC 7114.

Manaf says that no matter what happens, bus owners will ensure their business is not hampered. "Because of the extensive media coverage, the bus did not ply for two weeks," he says. "Otherwise, it would have been on the streets the next day."

(Copyright: The New Indian Express, Kochi)

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