My week-long ordeal of hospital visits and vigils ended early this morning. At 1.05 am, J finally gave up the fight after 12 long days of suffering the unspeakable pain of 80% burns over most of her body. She was 34, lively, vivacious, intelligent, beautiful, and the mother of a two year old girl.
I can’t wrap my head around it. I can’t believe this can happen in my family. I cannot quite grasp that this wonderful girl I have known and played with from my earliest childhood is just gone, and in such a horrible way! having spent yet another morning in the hospital waiting room, among grieving parents, sibling, and other relatives, I will be glad if I don’t have to see another hospital for a while.
The important question at the moment, however, is whether the husband is going to pay for what he did. As more and more facts emerge, from talking to neighbours, friends, colleagues and such, and as his actions throughout the process of hospitalization and after are examined, the more cause there appears to be EXTREMELY suspicious of him.
He claims it was an accident, and he was not at home at the time, having gone out shopping. The question is, if he was not at home, how does he know what happened? And why is he making a different statement everyday? One day her synthetic fiber clothes caught fire lighting a candle (at 9 in the morning?) and the next day it is a joss stick (which – in my experience – makes holes in clothes, and does not set them aflame).
A small burn from a hot pan makes us yell and scream, and run to the tap for water to pour over it. Even someone choosing to set fire to themselves, tries, after the burning starts, to instinctively put the fire out. Given those facts, in the case of an accident, wouldn’t the first reaction have been to head for the kitchen or the bathroom to pour water over herself?
Even synthetic clothing does not explain the extent and degree of burning she has suffered. Neither can anyone explain the fact that no one heard her scream. The houses, in her city, are so close to each other, they practically share walls. If she was burning, and conscious or able, she HAD to have screamed. And if she had, there is no way that someone would not have heard her. However, the first any neighbor was aware of anything untoward happening was when the ambulance pulled up at the door. They didn’t see him leave or come back, and they certainly didn’t hear her scream.
The doctors who examined her at the first two hospitals, and treated her at this third, have raised a lot of troubling questions too. The way she was burnt, and the depth and extent of her burns clearly indicates that it took a fair bit of time, 30 to 40 minutes at least, according to them. An accidental or even self inflicted burn victim would have made attempts to save herself, rolling on the floor, pouring water, etc. she would also have been screaming loud enough to raise the dead. J seems to have done neither.
Another more significant fact is that while the rest of her body was badly charred and burnt, her feet, and more importantly her hands, don’t even have a single blister. Perfectly manicured and maintained (she was always particular about her looks), the hands have ZERO damage, which the doctors find unexplainable. The first instinct of anyone on fire, is to swat at it with their hands. Unless the hands were incapacitated, there should be a significant amount of burns on them. Were they tied up? Or was she unconscious? It is significant to note that the husband is a doctor. So the questions arise … was she tied up or knocked out before being set on fire? The burn patterns, the absence of screams and the extent of burns all seem to suggest something of the kind.
The husband supposedly came home from the bazaar at about 9 am on Tuesday and found her burning, at which point, according to what he has been telling her relatives, he tried to put the fire out, and then called the ambulance. Surprisingly, he suffered no burns either. Someone trying to put out a fire might be expected to have a few blisters at least one would think. Also, strangely, he neglected to inform her parents and my other cousins, who live some 20 km away, of the incident or of her condition until 7 am on Wednesday, almost 24 hours after the incident, when he had already left with her to transport her to another, bigger city. And how did the parents find out? The maidservant arrived at their doorstep with the child, and a story about how DADA had taken Boudi to bigger hospital in big city.
Arriving in the big city, and being a doctor himself, he still took her to a government hospital, where she was barely given first aid. Anyone living in India grows up knowing that the government hospital is where you go when you have NO other options. It is as good as giving up, and an almost sure way of dying rapidly. She lay there for a day and a half, without any real medical help, until her sister and brother in law arrived from Delhi, made arrangements to have her moved to one of the top hospitals in the country, and insisted on her being taken there. Had they not arrived when they did, chances are that she would have rotted away in the rat infested general ward, and died much faster (was that what he intended?).
The first thought her family had, once she was in a better hospital and marginally stabilized, was to talk to her to find out what happened. Throughout her stint in the hospital, he stuck to her side like glue, not leaving her alone with anyone from her family for even a minute. What was he afraid of? That she would, under the influence of all the medication and the pain killers, reveal the real events? The only time he even took a bathroom break was when visiting hours were over and all other family members shooed out to the general waiting room three floors below. So, one way or another, she died without having made any statement of any kind to anyone.
As more people have heard, and arrived, over the last few days, disturbing facts have emerged, about his being a ladies man, about his continued affair with an older woman, about his rages. Was her being pregnant with an unwanted second child a trigger for a much more violent rage? Or was it, as it seems to me, a more well planned, cold blooded, attempt to do away with this irritant in his life? Neither I nor anyone else can accost him with these questions now. Although he was constantly around for the last few days, even in the waiting rooms when she was in the ICU and forbidden visitors, playing with his child and acting all friendly and good-fatherly, he is conspicuous by his absence since last night. As for his relatives, no one had arrived until yesterday morning, when a single seedy looking uncle showed his face for a few moments. The uncle too is nowhere to be found this morning.
What totally gets my goat, of course, is that after all this, he is still very likely to get away with it. Like many Indian parents who have lost their daughters to domestic violence, already those old refrains are starting to ring out. “What’s the point of going to court, our daughter won’t come back”. “Revenge will not help her rest in peace”. BLAH BLAH BLAH! So, looks like a murderer will not only get away with it, but will actually be given a 2 year old girl to bring up! Given the circumstances, I can only shudder to think what the girl’s life will be like. The father does not seem very likely to be capable or inclined to look after her and love her as she deserves. And if he should bring this other woman home? Well, a woman who walks into a home over the murdered body of her predecessor is hardly likely to care very much for the child.
As of now, the cops are involved because hospitals are required by law to report burning deaths, and investigations and an autopsy are under way. However, it seems highly unlikely that the matter will be pursued by J’s family, and given the fact that the incident and the death occurred in two different states, and given the reality of the law and order system in this country, it is quite unlikely that he will be found, tried, or punished.