Just a note about the tragic passing away of Rekha Shankar, a photographer at my occasional workplace Business Standard. She died at Safdarjung hospital yesterday, a few hours after her two-wheeler was hit by a truck near Dhaula Kuan. We went for the cremation today and understandably most people in office are very shaken up.
What makes the whole thing even more terrible is that Rekha was a single mother (her husband died, also in an accident, a few months after their marriage) raising a seven-year-old boy. No grandparents in the picture either, and this is going to be harder on the child than most of us can even imagine. (He was brought to the crematorium today and made to participate in a few of the ceremonies – many of us were incensed by this, but that’s another story.) Business Standard will set up a fund of some sort for him, but one never knows how these things pan out, especially if distant relatives get involved.
I never interacted much with Rekha – just the odd joint assignment here and there – but the couple of times that we got to chat for a while (mostly while waiting for an interviewee to show up) all she ever talked about was her kid: about his being the centre of her existence; about how she had to keep balancing the time constraints of her job (there was no option but to work full-time, because of her financial circumstances) with her responsibilities as a single parent and needing to spend as much time with him as possible. Don’t know what must be going through his mind now – or more to the point, how he’ll cope once the initial numbness wears off.
At that age, how do you react on being told that you’ll never see your mother again? The only frames of reference I can draw upon are very scattered memories from when I was seven, built on associations with the year 1984. Getting off the school van on the day Indira Gandhi was shot and calmly assuring my mum that it was all right, the PM merely had a stomach ache and would be okay soon (that’s what the teacher had told us – death had to be soft-pedalled for us at that age, even when a distant figure was involved). My mother buying me the Sharaabi audio-cassette with Amitabh on the cover. Class two Maths homework, and a chart that she drew for a class assignment while I watched Star Trek on TV on a Sunday morning. When this kid grows up he’ll have such memories too, but I’m not sure he’ll know how to make sense of them – they’ll seem suspended in time, with no bridge connecting them to his present, and bearing little relevance to his life as it is then. Hope things work out for him as best as they can.