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From the ashes of grief

Continued from Page 1

Although his wife found it difficult to discuss her private life, Mr. Thampi felt it was important to share their thoughts on the disaster and its aftermath. "We are not reluctant to talk about this. Vivek is the most beautiful addition to this whole thing. ..... We live our lives every day as family, and we treasure this."

Vivek, an active 15-year-old, said he often thinks about how he would not have been born if the Air-India attack had not occurred, and reflects on how his parents' lives evolved as a result.

"It's interesting," he said. "They get involved in grief and everything, and then they become happy just to be with each other.

"They were two people who lost someone and needed someone else," he said, as if retelling a fairy tale with a happy ending. "Each one was missing something, like missing pieces of a puzzle ..... and those pieces just came together, and they created me."

Although his own life is linked directly to the disaster, Vivek said he has not paid much attention to the tragedy over the years and does not have strong opinions about what happened.

A typical carefree teenager, he is enthusiastic about tennis and wishes he could play more often. He volunteers at a rehab hospital and helps organize a biweekly food-and-clothing drive for charity. He enjoys school, especially his math and science classes, and his civics class has started to pique his interest. The Air-India disaster is just not a big part of his life.

Vivek said he was about 6 or 7 when he first heard grownups talking about an airplane blowing up over the ocean years earlier. He did not give much thought to it. He did not understand what had happened, and did not connect the Air-India disaster with his life in his safe suburban neighbourhood.

Two or three years later, his parents and sister sat down with him and told him about their previous families and the disaster. He remembers feeling sadness and anger. "I thought it was so inhuman. What kind of person could kill another person just for their own pleasure or happiness? It just did not make any sense to me ..... Why would they do it?"

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Nisha Thampi is now 25, and in her third year of medical school. She speaks easily about growing up in the wake of the tragedy.

She went with her father to Ireland in 1986, when families gathered to mark the first anniversary of the disaster near the site where Flight 182 crashed into the ocean. She was one of two children who lifted a curtain draped over the stone memorial. She remembers wearing a blue dress and a white hat, and laughing a lot.

Mr. Thampi recalls how difficult it was at that time to raise Nisha alone, trying to be both father and mother. "I did not know how to handle her," he said. He changed jobs in 1987 so he could spend more time with his daughter, starting a small business that allowed him to be home more.

He was pleased when Jayashree took an interest in Nisha, who was close in age to her own lost daughter, though he knew it was not easy for her. "There were days when I could see her hurting," he said. Nevertheless, Jayashree developed an extremely close relationship with Nisha.

"I don't remember the first time I saw her, but I remember I thought she was really cool," Nisha recalled. "I liked her because she was a lot more fun than him," she added, nodding playfully toward her father. "He would always fall asleep at the movies. She actually enjoyed them, and talked about them with me. ..... She was a lot more encouraging of my childhood."

Despite her parents' past, the Air-India disaster did not figure prominently in Nisha's teen years during the 1990s. She rarely saw media reports, and no one was talking about it. Her parents had told her about the disaster, "but I did not care to know, because it was all a personal experience we all had gone through, and that was the extent for me."

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