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The children of Air-India

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She is almost apologetic about her search for an explanation. "It won't help any, to understand the cause behind it. I just need to know where it comes from."

Although still striving to piece the story together, she concedes that "it will never fully make sense to me."

She has found some pieces of the puzzle at the B.C. Supreme Court. She braces herself before walking in and seeing those accused of killing her father. But she feels she must. "We waited so long for this. It is important to be there," she says.

She grew up expecting to become a lawyer. Her mother often joked that her father predicted that because she liked to talk so much. However, she now expects to complete an undergraduate degree this spring in criminology and wants to do postgraduate work in the field.

"Some suggest it is hard for a victim of crime to look objectively to other offenders, but my experience has helped me gain some understanding," she says, adding that she's not the only child of an Air-India victim to go into crime fighting.

She says she is not looking to the court for revenge. "I want those who are responsible to be dealt with by the criminal justice system.

"But I realize, no matter what happens, it's not going to change the way I feel. My life will be the same, regardless. Nothing we can do to them would make it any better for me."

-- Robert Matas

'I've been angry all my life'



Lost his mother at 12

Susheel Gupta wishes that his final memory of his mother was seeing her off at the Toronto airport, her long black hair newly permed to match his own curls, her face bright at the thought of visiting her family in India for the first time in years, her last motherly gesture delivered in a hug and gentle warning to "be good" for his dad.

He has so few memories as it is; he was only 12 on that Saturday afternoon in 1985, a "brat" by his own account, with a paper route and knack for mouthing off at his teachers. He didn't know he would need to remember. Death was not something he understood, let alone death delivered by design.

But he learned quickly. Because when he thinks of his mother, which is often, the most vivid image is the one he wishes he could rub out: standing beside his father, Bal Gupta, in a room in Cork, Ireland, searching for her grey face in the rows of head shots posted on the wall.

His father, he remembers, knew some others -- an entire family that was blown out the sky, friends they hadn't even known were making the trip.

There, among more than 100 lost faces, they found Ramwati Gupta, and were eventually led into another room, where her body lay on a hospital slab, as if sleeping, waiting for someone who loved her to name her and take her home.

Looking back 18 years later, her son is glad that his father was not alone, but he has a hard time recalling his mother without placing her on that table. "I search for other memories, but I don't have a lot. That kills me every day."

He hopes that she would be proud of him today, a 30-year-old federal prosecutor working cyber-crime cases and advising the government on computer offences. He is there, in large part, because what happened to her made a little boy think seriously about justice and evil and what he intended to do about it.

"I think," he says, "I've been angry all my life," a factor he believes drove him to excel, fast-tracking through high school and then university. "I understood how shitty the world could be for some people." Now, he volunteers with the local school board and the police department, teaching kids about Internet safety.

Everything changed for him at 6:30 the morning after his mother left. His father awoke to a call from a friend who had set his alarm clock thinking it was Monday and heard an early radio report. The elder Mr. Gupta awoke Susheel and his 18-year-old brother, Suneel, and told them that an Air-India plane was missing. There was no Internet to track news, so he started to phone the local media.

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