Skip navigation

The children of Air-India

Continued from Page 2

Friends began to arrive, and Susheel went out to deliver his newspapers. At the end of the route, not wanting to face the crowd at home, he sat on the edge of a creek that ran near his neighbourhood, and cried for his mother. Two days later, he boarded a plane for Ireland with his father.

It was not until he was in university that he began to study seriously what happened to the plane and the police work that followed. He has read the books, and his father collects the news clippings. "I don't know how anyone can avoid it," he says.

Of the investigation, he says, "I don't think it was the best that's ever been done," and he wonders whether a warning about the bombing was ignored.

As for Inderjit Singh Reyat's five-year sentence for manslaughter, "I don't understand the math," he says. "I only hope there's a lot more information that we're not privy to."

He is still debating whether to ask for a transfer to Vancouver, so he can watch the trial of the two remaining accused firsthand.

He finds it hard to describe what he's lost by not having his mother in his teenaged years. His father, an engineer and physicist, assumed both roles, cooking the meals, caring for the house and setting strict rules for his sons.

If he is confident today, Susheel Gupta says, it's because "I learned to rely on myself a lot more."

He wishes only that he knew more about his mother; growing up, he worried about his father's feelings too much to ask many questions. He has her passport picture, enlarged and framed, in his bedroom. And every year, on the anniversary of the crash, he takes the day off, and if he can, he goes home to attend the memorial service in Toronto. On his mother's birthday, his family has a cake and lights a candle in her honour.

"I know that some day, when I have kids, I will miss her a lot. That was something she really would have loved."

-- Erin Anderssen

'You don't get to say goodbye'

PREETI BERAR

Burlington, Ont.

Lost her father at 3

The baby wanted her bottle. It was dawn, on June 23, 1985. Oddly, her aunt and uncle were at the door, and everyone was crying. Preeti, 3, just wanted her bottle. "Just a minute," her mother whispered.

Soon, all kinds of relatives began to arrive. But it wasn't the normal family gathering with great food and her father playing the violin, piano and guitar. Everyone looked shocked. One aunt was wailing. Something about a plane, the sea and her father.

An uncle whisked away Preeti and her sister, Mona, 10. That evening, he announced that they would sleep at his house. Mona silently acquiesced, but Ms. Berar remembers feeling frightened. She insisted on going home, where one of her mother's friends tried to cheer her up, joking and pinching the little girl's fat cheeks until she had a temper tantrum.

"I can't remember when I realized what it meant," says Ms. Berar, now 21 and statuesque with a chestnut mane and her father's expressive eyes, fringed with impossibly long lashes.

Her memories of him are episodic and painfully scant. Once, he turned off the ignition and let her sit in his lap and pretend-steer the car. Once, he let her help to wash it. She remembers splashing with him in a round vinyl pool. "He was a hairy man," she says with a tiny smile.

Mainly, the flashbacks are built around a void. At her Grade 8 graduation party, when all the girls were asked to dance with their fathers, "I was the one sitting in the corner." At her graduation from Sheridan College, he wasn't there to see her glowing, in cap and gown, with an armful of rose.

Jogeshwar Berar was 45 when he boarded Flight 182. He missed his oldest daughter, Reena, 14, who had been sent back to Punjab two years earlier to live with her grandparents and go to high school. Everyone knew he was going to see Reena, except Reena. He wanted to surprise her.

Ms. Berar remembers the first week after her father died. To purify their Burlington home, a Sikh priest came daily to pray, clad in a long white shirt, white trousers and a white turban. "I thought he was God. I was scared of him. I thought, 'I can't act bad in front of him.' "

Recommend this article? 54 votes

Back to top