| Priyanka's mother Sabita grieves at home. Picture by Sanjoy Chattopadhyaya
Calcutta, Jan. 14: The last glimpse Ajay Ray caught of his daughter was the six-year-old waving and urging him to wait.
Seconds later, little Priyanka lay crushed under the monstrous wheels of a lorry as her helpless father watched from the other side of Canal East Road.
Ajay was on his way home from a neighbourhood sweet shop and his mother and daughter had gone out to join him when death came in a tearing hurry.
Before stepping out of her single-storey house in a narrow lane off Canal East Road around 7.15 this morning, Priyanka had told her mother: 'Don't worry, I will be back in a moment with Papa.'
Sabita did not protest as her daughter would be accompanied by her grandmother.
Ten minutes later, Priyanka lay lifeless ' she was first knocked down by the left fender and the front wheel of the lorry and then squashed under its left rear wheels.
Grandmother Rekha, who was holding her hand before she tore away in a hurry to get to her father, fainted at the sight.
'We were standing on the edge of the pavement, waiting for the traffic to ease,' said 65-year-old Rekha.
'She was becoming impatient because she had spotted her father on the opposite footpath. She had just taken a step forward when I saw the lorry approaching from the Manicktala end on the left-hand side at a tearing speed and running close to the edge, and I screamed. I also tried to stop the vehicle by catching the driver's attention, but he sped on...' she trailed off.
Clutching packets of puri and sabji that he had bought for a Makar Sankranti breakfast, Ajay let out a cry but there was nothing he could do to save his only daughter.
'I didn't want to let Priyanka go out but then her grandmother was with her. Besides, I knew her father was not far away. Suddenly someone told me Priyanka was no more. I didn't know what to do,' Sabita sobbed as her father-in-law stood at a distance, numbed by grief.
Soon after the incident, the locals rose in a fit of rage. Having failed to get the number of the speeding truck, they stopped a police jeep, beat up the driver and the accompanying guard, and damaged the vehicle. A large contingent of cops from the local Maniktalla police station rushed to the spot and stopped the situation from spinning out of control.
That was hardly a balm. In fact, for the Roys', the tragedy came as a double-disaster.
Around 6 in the morning, the Roys' received the death news of one of the family members and Ajay ' who works for a local saw mill on Canal East Road ' was supposed to turn up at the NRS Medical College. It was decided that before heading for the hospital, Ajay would see off his family members for a trip to the Ganges on occasion of Makar Sankranti.
Locals too refused to believe that the bubbly-little girl was not around.
'She would pop in and out of our homes, running from one place to another, pulling us out to join her in her games and what not. If only the truck had stopped even after knocking her docn, Priyanka would have been here,' said Arati Saha, the next door neighbour.