A thousand miles from the condemned cell in which Dhananjoy Chatterjee had shut out the world to tune into news on the radio of his impending death by hanging, a home in Mumbai was also desperate to slam the doors.
“Please don’t disturb us. Please,” pleaded the shrill voice on the telephone. After a pause, the line went dead.
A second call and Hetal’s sister-in-law Archana Parekh could barely mumble: “Yes, we have heard about it… How should we react to this' All I can say is that we have been waiting for this for a long time.”
The line then snapped. Several efforts throughout the day failed to find a voice at the other end on the second-floor apartment of Jamuna Mahal in Santa Cruz, Mumbai.
Far removed from the bylanes of Puddapukur, in south Calcutta, where one day in December 1989 destroyed the Parekh home, Hetal’s family members clearly wanted to be left alone as news of the President’s final rejection spread from Alipore Central jail to Santa Cruz.
The resolve to suffer in silence has marked the Parkeh family — from Hetal’s father Nagordas to mother Uma Ben to brother Rajinder — from when they decided to leave the city which had claimed their teenaged daughter and shift base to Mumbai.
The silence was broken once by Hetal’s brother, when he told The Telegraph recently how he had sent a letter to the President demanding “capital punishment” for his sister’s killer. “Why shouldn’t he be hanged'” Rajinder demanded.
This was a month before the President’s rejection of pardon. On Wednesday, as word reached Puddapukur, those who had known Hetal gave vent to their feelings and their fears.
Ask Kajal Bagchi, who saw the girl in her school uniform hours before the incident, or Dr Y. Tandon, her neighbour who lent his camera to the investigating officer hours after the tragedy.
“Believe me, I keep telling my daughter to be careful about strangers, about the driver or the guard. Hetal’s has been such an unnerving memory. The (President’s) directive comes as a relief to us,” said Sangita Shah, another resident of Anand Apartments.
“We would be faxing a letter of appreciation to the President on behalf of a few of us who had to break open the door that afternoon to discover Hetal,” said Utpal Roy.
Mingling with the relief of the mercy plea rejection was a sense of remorse — an admission among the community that some of them had stayed away from the Parekhs in their hour of crisis.
“It was a wrong gesture on our part. No one would visit them for days. Finally, after a long gap, when I met him, Hetal’s father broke down,” recounted Rajendra Raja, president of Calcutta Gujarati Parishad.