| Students of Welland Gouldsmith School during the prayer. Picture by Amit Datta
Are we weak and heavy laden
Cumbered with a load of care'
Precious Saviour, still our refuge
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Calcutta, Aug. 14: Strains of one of Hetal Parekh’s favourite hymns wafted out of Welland Gouldsmith this morning as her school held a prayer service in memory of the 14-year-old and her hanged rapist-killer, Dhananjoy Chatterjee.
Gone were the anger and the craving of revenge that till yesterday had marked all discussions about whether Dhananjoy deserved to be hanged or pardoned. All that remained was a profound sense of sadness for his family.
In front of a photograph of Hetal — kept on a table on the school Assembly stage — were hundreds of students, both past and present, her classmates of 14 years ago, teachers and other staff. Each one of them had made it a point to turn up for the service — it was called as late as last afternoon — to pray for the souls of Hetal and her killer.
“What a friend we have in Jesus…
All our sins and griefs to bear
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer,” they sang as they reposed faith in the goodness and mercy of God through the 30-minute service.
By the time it ended, every participating member seemed to have been purged of anger. “We feel sad for Dhananjoy’s family,” was the general sentiment among the students.
“We have passed through a traumatic time. He has paid the price for what he had done. We know they (Hetal and Dhananjoy) are with Him. We believe God will comfort them in His own way,” said school principal Gillian D’Costa Hart, who conducted the service.
As “all is over”, she asked the staff and students to try never to discuss the issue again or in any way hurt the sentiments of Dhananjoy’s family. She also urged the media to stop chasing students or teachers for interviews. “We promise to put the matter at rest,” she said.
Three of Hetal’s classmates — Lavina Murarka, Yojana Khakholia and Swati Banerjee, all married now — who came for the prayer service recalled their school days. “Hetal was a very loving friend. She should not have died such a tragic death,” one of them said.
“I distinctly remember that was the day (March 5, 1990) our ICSE history examination was held. Hetal came out of the exam hall, flung her history book and screamed ‘Thank God, I will never have to study history any more’.
“She died a terrible death a few hours later the same evening,” said another of Hetal’s classmates Aditi Ghosh, who is now a teacher in the school.