Eight-year-old Vaishna wakes up every morning expecting her parents, her twin sister Vaiga and her younger sister Vaishali to be back home from the hospital. It has been thirteen days since she last saw them.
Thirteen days since her father, Suresh, threw her and her two siblings into the well in their compound. Her mother Dhanya had jumped first, probably to make sure that she was there to receive her children.
Thirteen days since Suresh hanged himself on a tree after pushing his children into the well.
But while the rest of the family met their end that night, Vaishna survived to tell the tale.
On the morning of March 27, the neighbourhood woke up to the faint cry of a child from the well. Bodies of 33-year-old Dhanya, 8-year-old Vaiga and 6-year-old Vaishali were recovered from the well in Sureshâs house. 37-year-old Suresh meanwhile was found hanging from a mango tree.
Vaishna, the sole survivor of the tragedy, held on to the motor pump inside the well all night.
Why did Suresh do it?
Formerly a tiles contractor and a chit-fund owner, 37-year-old Suresh used to sell lottery tickets for a living, and was reportedly in a lot of debt. He wanted to sell his house to clear the debts. However, that wasnât as simple as he thought it would be.
In his suicide note, Suresh wrote that "certain people" had made it impossible for him to sell his house and clear his debts. His friends and family have alleged that he was referring to the âland mafiaâ, who had pushed Suresh to take the extreme step.
"The land where his house is situated costs almost Rs 80 lakh at current market price,â says Manikandan, Sureshâs brother. However, there were rumours that it wasnât a good property to own because it was next to a temple.
âBrokers offered him only half this amount, with which he could not have cleared off his liabilities. That's how the network of land brokers work. Once they decide a price for a land, they make sure that the property is not sold for a penny more,â Manikandan says.
Desperate for money and with nowhere to turn, Suresh reportedly decided to kill himself, and his family.
Manikandan says that the family had no idea he was struggling for money.
"We had no idea that Suresh had taken loans from so many people and defaulted. We knew that he was trying to sell off his land and house, but were not aware of the difficulties he been facing,â Manikandan tells TNM.
âAfter their death, people are telling me that itâs the land mafia that drove my brother to take his life. All fingers are pointing at the land mafia, but we have no clear answers to anything. The only person who could clear the air is now no more," Manikandan says.
The police though say they have no evidence to link any land mafia to the case. While rumours had it that it was the land mafia that drove Suresh to take the extreme step, these rumours lacked faces and names.
The Erumappetty police have registered a case under section 302 (murder) and 307 (attempt to murder) against Suresh. His family though have approached the Thrissur Rural SP, demanding that a case under Section 307 (abetment to suicide) be filed against the land mafia.
But the investigators maintain that there are âno recordsâ to prove such a case. The SP told TNM that the police can only take a case of abetment to suicide once the land mafiaâs involvement is proven.
"As of now there are no documents to prove the allegations. We are investigating that angle though, and have accepted the family's petition," the SP said.
For Manikandan, none of this is helping.
"Somebody said that they saw a car going to Suresh's house recently and the people who came in the car threatened him. Who was it? Nobody knows. Who is the land mafia that people are talking about? Who did Suresh refer to in his suicide note? We do not know. It could be people from our own neighbourhood, or people who are powerful. Or may be there was some other reason. It is up to the police to find out why my brother did what he did," Manikandan says.
All Vaishna knows though is what her father did on the fateful night.
The 8-year-old told investigating officers that her father had returned from work on March 26 a little past 9pm. The family watched two Malayalam films together.
"After watching the film, father gave us some pills, saying that it was for de-worming. Vaiga, Vaishali and mother took them. But I felt suspicious and refused to take the medicine. Then, he gave me ice cream, but it was bitter. By then, mother had gone to sleep. After sometime, father took us all outside the house. First, mother jumped into the well and then he pushed us inside," she told investigating officers.
"Once inside the well, Vaishna tried climbing up. She called out to Suresh a few times, but when no answer came, she climbed down the well again,â Manikandan says.
Vaishna now lives with Manikandan and family, a couple of kilometers away from her home.
For days after the incident, she would wake up in her sleep and scream. She later underwent counselling at Child Welfare Commission in the district. However, she remains oblivious to what that night took away from her.
"When they come back, I will get to eat my favorite cone ice cream," she tells TNM and runs off to join her cousins.