For 34-year-old Usha's family, the last three months had been filled with a sense of joy. The teacher from Thanjavur district was pregnant after two years of trying, and her family says, this had made her chirpier than usual.
But things took a tragic turn for this couple on Wednesday, when she and her husband were on their way to a colleague’s wedding in Tiruchy.
Raja had initially thought about taking a bus from Papanasam, but later decided against it, as he thought it would be too much of a hassle to carry the wet grinder they had bought as a present for the friend. Instead, they took their two-wheeler – a ride that would turn out to be Usha’s last, as she died on the highway in an incident that her family says is nothing short of murder.
The sequence of events
"Raja told us everything that happened," says Dhinakaran, Usha's brother-in-law. "The police first stopped them on the Tiruchy-Thanjavur highway because he was not wearing a helmet," he says.
"But with cars zooming past them, a pregnant wife in the back and a wet grinder in the front, Raja couldn't immediately stop the vehicle. He kept moving a little further hoping to find a gap to turn towards the left of the road," explains Dhinakaran. "The police officer mistook this for the couple trying to get away. He went over to them, pulled Raja's shirt and brought them to a corner, and demanded to know why he was not wearing a helmet. They argued back and forth for 10 minutes with the inspector - Kamaraj - who then walked away. Raja thought the matter was over and started to ride away. Seeing this, the cop got very angry and began to chase them on another bike," he says.
Usha was badly injured on her head and blood had poured out of her ears, relatives allege. She breathed her last near the Ganesha roundabout opposite the BHEL headquarters.
‘It was murder’
Usha's husband collecting her belongings from the hospital.
"What happened was cold blooded murder and the police officer responsible must face the consequences," says Dhinakaran. "Usha spent her life helping people and for her to die this way is unacceptable," he adds.
A good teacher, a good human
Usha and Raja had an inter-caste marriage, after convincing their families that there was no place for caste-based hatred in their love story.
"She was only getting a salary of Rs 6000 a month, but she was not doing this work for money. She was doing it because she loved to help these children that society would shun," says Dhinakaran. "She was a very smart woman and had quick and funny retorts to everything. I would even tell my wife who is very reserved that she should be friendly and outgoing like Usha," he adds, his voice breaking a little.
In fact, Usha's meagre salary was the only steady source of income in her household. Raja works as a recovery agent in a Finance company, and does not have a permanent job. His salary is based on the vehicles he manages to recover.
"She was handling finances in the house, dealing with a difficult job and yet, she always had a smile to offer in the toughest times," says Dhinakaran. "This murder has left an irreparable scar in our family.”