Tuesday, March 20, 2007


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.


  1. oh that's quite unfortunate..

    "Hope things work out for him as best as they can."

    Amen to that. Something tells me that the kid would be a strong one, what with no paternal links or even grandparents..

  2. A colleague tells me the boy doesn't quite understand the concept of death yet. The 7-year-old was bemused when asked if he knew where his mom was.

  3. Oh this is horrible, very few people love other peoples children - your post a little while ago showed that. And it takes nothing less than selfless love to bring up a child.

    Cant the child be sent to a decent boarding school, where life without parents could at least be imaginable.

  4. Jai, let us know if there is a way to contribute to any fund BS may set up.

  5. this is the stuff of nightmares...it makes me to shudder to even think of it. i only hope, for the sake of the son, that the mother made some provisions for him, appointed someone as trustee or something. we all think we're going to live to a venerable old age, no?

  6. Tony: even so, one can expect him to be shellshocked, especially after being at the cremation.

    Twilight fairy: strong, yes, but I imagine at this age most of that strength would be derived from his relationship with his mother. Not sure what happens now.

    Aspi: thanks, will let you know. The bigger issue I think will be ensurng that the money's used in the desired way.

  7. Was wondering whether Business Standard published an obit. Wasn't there in today's edition. Maybe it was there yesterday.

  8. Tony: yesterday's (Wednesday's) paper carried an obit with a selection of her photos.

  9. oh god thats something which shakes u, makes u wonder that how can God be so cruel and heartless...

    and how can u take such a small kid to the cremation ground, at times like this I really get frustated and angry with the rituals and the need to follow them.

    don't even how to do i say that i hope things work out for him...

    I will pray for him please let me know if there is anything else i can do...