Loud wails of ‘En kozhandha soodu thaanguvaala’ (Will my child bear the heat?) engulfed the small street in Chrompet in Chennai on Friday morning as the lifeless body of Subhasri, wrapped in a fresh red cloth was brought out of the house, to be taken to the crematorium. The atmosphere inside the temporary shed in front of the small, teal coloured house at the end of the street was one of deep sorrow.
On Thursday morning, Ravi and Geetha sent their only child Subhasri off to work, hoping to see her back in the evening as usual. However, all that they received was a phone call informing them about the fatal accident, and hours later, Subhasri, in a white cloth bundle.
Subhasri’s sudden, gory and unfair death has sunk the entire street of around 11 houses in gloom. As friends and relatives throng her house for a last glimpse of their loved one, neighbours stay around with a brave face, offering a comforting shoulder to the inconsolable family. The 23-year-old techie was crushed by a tanker lorry on Thursday afternoon, after an illegal hoarding fell on her bike. She was on her way back home when the accident happened.
Like a cinema star
Sasikala, a 36-year-old neighbour of Ravi and Geetha, remembers Subhasri as a cheerful young woman. "I have never seen her sad or dull. She always used to be chirpy and looked like a cinema star," Sasikala says. Ravi and Geetha relocated into their brand new house on this street around 21 years ago, when Subhasri was a toddler. Ravi, an employee of an alloy foundries company and his wife Geetha lived in West Mambalam before that. The couple also run a book shop near a popular college on the GST road.
"Last evening, Geetha came home in a car, crying out loud and that's when I got to know that Subhasri was in an accident and had died. We were with them through the night," Sasikala says. Sasikala says the young engineer was talented and ambitious. She was supposed to go to Canada soon to pursue her education, she recalls.
"I got to know of the incident only this morning after reading the newspaper," says Dhanalakshmi, who has been the family’s neighbour for around 15 years. She says that Ravi and family are one of the nicest people around. “Every year, their family would be the first to start Deepavali celebrations in this street,” she recollects.
Ramagopalan S, Subhasri’s batchmate from college, remembers her as a straightforward, bold, independent and very ambitious woman. “We were classmates in college and also colleagues at work. Subhasri was very affectionate towards everyone she met,” he says. For the young woman, her family and friends were everything, Ramagopalan says.
Subhasri was also a creative person, he adds. “She was a certified Zumba trainer and has conducted a lot of successful Zumba sessions across Tamil Nadu. Recently she learned how to make soaps and perfumes at home and used to sell it in a small-scale to people whom she knew. She was very happy when she got repeated customers, asking her to make more of the soaps,” he reminisces.
‘She had asked me to visit her in Canada’
“It was her dream to go to Canada,” says Subramaniam, a friend of Ravi’s family for the past 25 years. Ravi and he are colleagues in an alloy foundry company for more than two decades and he still remembers the day Subhasri was born.
“She was about to go to Canada shortly and had promised to take me along with her,” he says fighting back emotions.
CCTV footage of the accident
One voice, one request
If there is one thing Subhasri’s well-wishers want to say, it is that stringent action must be taken against everybody involved in this gory accident. “None of them must be spared. An incident similar to this should not happen to anybody else in the state,” seethes Dhanalakshmi.
For Ramagopalan, justice will be granted only if the police do their jobs without fearing those in power. “Corporation and police officers knew that the hoardings were put up there despite court orders clearly banning them. Why was no action taken by the officials when they saw those? Why did they remove the banners only after a life was lost on the road?” he asks.
David Manohar of Arappor Iyakkam, who was also present at Subhasri’s house to offer his respects, says, “There are CCTV cameras installed everywhere now. So the authorities just cannot say that this happened without their knowledge.” Pointing out that the charges registered in the FIR after the accident were flimsy, he says, “This was in no way a negligent act. Everybody knew very well what they were doing and its repercussions. So I would say that section 217 (public servant disobeying direction of law with intent to save person from punishment or property from forfeiture) of the IPC should be added to the FIR to get justice for Subhasri.”
“The government itself must build a strong case against the erring officials in the court for the case to stand and see justice. Only then would the officials also be true to their duties,” adds Prashanth Gautham, another activist with Arappor Iyakkam.