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Politicians in vanishing act
M.C. Puri

New Delhi, Dec. 29: Mukesh Chander Puri died trying to protect his student Lalitha from a terrorist’s bullets.

Lalitha’s narration of this final act of bravery has left the math professor’s family and friends emotionally overwhelmed.

But outside his immediate family ' wife Raksha and son Saurav who are simply broken by the tragedy ' there is a touch of anger that until 24 hours after the shooting, no politician had turned up at the Puris’ door at Mount Kailash Apartments to mourn.

Till Thursday evening, only a former Delhi mayor had visited the family.

“We don’t need their crocodile tears. All of them want to know when the body is arriving just so that they can get their publicity,” said Naresh Jagota, Raksha’s cousin.

Even getting the body back from Bangalore did not prove easy for the family, which, in frustration, was considering bringing it over by Jet Airways. After several requests by the family, it was put on an Indian Airlines flight (IC903). “The body is coming by the evening flight and in these cases, we don’t even take charges,” said an airline spokesperson.

At the airport, M.S. Bitta, a Congress leader with no standing in the party, became the first politician to show up.

Back in the house, V.K. Bhalla, Puri’s brother-in-law, related how Lalitha described his final moments.

“Lalitha, who had gone with him to Bangalore, told us that he died while trying to save her life. She was walking in front and when he saw the gunman approach, he just pushed her to the ground and took the bullets himself.

Saurav, who had gone to Bangalore to collect the body, was told that his father had taken two bullets ' one just below his right collarbone and another which pierced his lungs, entered his liver and got lodged in the intestine.

Professor emeritus at Delhi IIT, Puri died at a conference he had attended every year for 30 years since it began.

Among those waiting for Puri’s body to return, there was one who still thought that it was another homecoming ' his grandson. “Amogh refuses to believe that his nana is not coming home. He thinks that his grandfather will come and take him to Goa. Prof. Puri was his father, mother, grandfather and everything. He was very fond of the boy,” said Bhalla.

Puri had planned to take his grandson on a vacation to Goa and tickets for the whole family had been booked for January 3. “He had even showed Amogh the tickets before leaving. He had told Amogh ‘I have never taken you out for a vacation. I will take you to Goa’,” Bhalla added.

He narrated how unassuming Puri was, citing the instance of the marriage to his sister. “He married my sister with one rupee and a handkerchief. He told us that he wanted a simple marriage. There were just eight persons at the wedding and he came on a motorcycle.”

“The Mata ka Mandir at New Friends Colony where we were going to do his chautha even gave us back the small deposit when they found out who he was. They said he gave his life for the nation.”

The cremation will take place at 11 am tomorrow at the Lodhi Road crematorium.

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