Rajesh Talwar shook his head as he read this letter on Sunday morning. "I didn't know she wanted a dog... she got none of her three wishes..."
We were in the drawing room of the Talwars' flat in South Delhi. Nupur Talwar had fished out some of their daughter Aarushi's old writings: cards to her parents; an autobiography project for her school; contributions to the school magazine. Other memories came out of the same plastic carrybags: the scholar badges she was awarded by her school year after year; certificates. Among these, was this single folded page, an undated letter with the simple address: 'To Santa'. It was probably written a couple of years before her death - perhaps when she was 12.
The verdict in the nation's most intriguing murders is out on Monday. A trial court in Ghaziabad will decide whether the Talwars killed their daughter and servant. On Sunday, as early winter wrapped itself pleasantly around Delhi, the Talwars's home was quiet - no visitors except me, and perhaps a little colder and darker than other homes.
But what else could you expect?
Surrounded by pictures of their daughter, they were counting down the hours to when a court might tell them they killed Aarushi. If it did, they wouldn't come back home on Monday. They would go to their respective cells in Dasna jail as convicted killers. As this chilling thought settled itself into the house, the Talwars waited.
So what was it going to be?
Over the last six years, the Talwars have resolutely claimed they are innocent. They started out seeking justice for Aarushi; catch her killers, they said. But over the last three years, they have been desperately trying to prevent injustice towards themselves; they are the accused.
They haven't had the time to grieve. Ironically, one of the pillars of the CBI's case against them is that they did not grieve as parents would "normally". Is this is a normal case? Were they ever given a chance?
That's the question Rajesh Talwar asked me on Sunday, tears welling in his eyes, as they often do. Nupur is different. She said: "There's a deep, unbearable pain you feel. That she can never come back... about how she went and what they say about her in court."
But then, she said, they snap back to their reality, it becomes about the nightmare that they hope to wake up from some day. "It becomes about us."
The scent of sex attracts Indians. Any story with a hint of it, even if the suggestion is invented, is therefore a very sellable one. Of all the explanations about why the Aarushi case attracts so much attention this is the simplest--and most plausible.
While covering this trial, I have been witness to press briefings where prosecutors have, with a salaciousness that cannot be anything but 'off the record', talked about the teenager's vagina and the servant Hemraj's penis. And I was mistaken when I thought this stuff surely couldn't be said in court without proof--not about a minor. But the CBI counsel disabused me of this notion.
He is a man who subscribes to the theory that dead men sustain erections; that alchohol wipes off DNA. He is also a man who shouts "intercourse... write they were having intercourse!" during a witness' testimony, as if he was there and had seen the act. And claims as part of "rebuttal" (without a shred of evidence) that the Talwar couple watched porn the whole night after committing the murders - and continued doing so after their daughter's body was discovered the next morning.
Several times during the trial, it occurred to me that we, as taxpayers, actually contribute to his fee. We, as the media, disseminate what he says without question. And we, as human beings, just turn away and get on with our unexciting lives.
Two of Aarushi's wishes will never be fulfilled: she'll never be with her parents, and they can never buy her a dog much as they may want to. But her first wish remains relevant. Her wish that no harm ever reaches them. From all accounts, it has already got to their doorstep. The trial judge will tell the rest of the story on Monday.
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Avirook Sen has been a journalist and writer for over 20 years. A former resident editor of Hindustan Times (Mumbai) and editor of Mid-Day, he has written with passion and insight on subjects as varied as sport and terrorism for top publications across the world. His first book, Looking for America, was published in 2010 to enthusiastic reviews. You can write to him at email@example.com