The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Life burns out at 103

She had suffered for too long. Tired of life, she decided to end it before yet another day began. She was 103.

Panna Khanra, a resident of Akshay Dutta Lane in Howrah Town, was found burnt to death around 6 am on Tuesday.

“We got the news at dawn. Our officers rushed to the spot and removed the body for post-mortem. Preliminary investigation suggests she was suffering from depression and committed suicide,” said Milan Das, additional superintendent of police (town).

Relatives and neighbours confirmed that Panna was “physically quite fit” for her age and had no malady save lapses in memory and a minor breathing problem.

“But she was very sad. Often she would say she didn’t want to live any more and that life was a burden for her,” said 70-year-old Rashbehari Das, her youngest son.

The 103-year-old had every reason to be sad. The mother of two sons and three daughters lost her husband Kartik Chandra Khanra nearly 45 years ago.

Her first-born, son Binod Bihari, and second daughter Mayarani died two decades later, leaving her traumatised.

“Ma never really recovered from the twin shocks. My elder brother died in an accident at his workplace 25 years ago, when he was only 45. One of my three sisters died suddenly after a liver disease a few years after the death of my brother,” recounted Rashbehari, Panna’s last-born. “She used to be so full of life, but these blows left her shattered.”

An investigating officer said the old woman must have been “determined” to put an end to her life. “She wrapped herself in a blanket, doused it with kerosene and set it aflame. We found a new matchbox and a tin of kerosene beside her body. And no one heard her uttering a sound,” he observed.

Mousumi, wife of Panna’s grandson Swapan, recounted the tragedy: “As usual, she had some bread and milk late on Monday evening and went to bed. We went to sleep around 11.30 pm. Around 5.30 am when I woke up and opened her door, she was lying there burnt.”

Panna’s daughters Durga, around 70, and Taramoni, 50, were choked with grief.

“It is not her death that has shocked us, but the manner in which she died. This is too much for us to bear,” said Shankar Kumar Bal, 56, a grandson of Panna.

The death of the neighbourhood “dida” left Akshay Dutta Lane grief-stricken.

“She was such a nice lady. She loved children very much. Only a few days ago she told me she was tired of life. How could we possibly have known that she would take such a drastic step to end her life'” sobbed Namita Rajak, a next-door neighbour.

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