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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 March 2005, 15:42 GMT
Mother's shock at Air India verdict

By Soutik Biswas
BBC News, Delhi

Sundri Arora
Mrs Arora says she is shocked by the verdict
It was the second late night telephone call in 20 years that had made Sundra Arora break down in despair.

Her elder daughter, Shipra Rana, had called her in the Indian capital, Delhi, from Vancouver on Wednesday night to tell her that the two men charged in connection with the bombing of an Air India jet in 1985 had been acquitted.

Mrs Arora's 28-year-old younger daughter, Shyla, was among the 329 people on the flight who perished.

"They have betrayed us, mother, they have betrayed us," Mrs Arora quotes Shipra as saying on the phone.

Two Canadian Sikhs, both born in India, were found not guilty in the trial, one of the most exhaustive and expensive in Canadian history.

Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri had denied any involvement in the bombing.

Sundra Arora says she broke down and cried quietly on hearing the news - just as she had done after a call late at night in June 1985 when she was staying with family at Shipra's home in Toronto.

Earlier that day, they had seen off Shyla, who worked as a flight attendant with Air India, on Air India Flight 182 from Toronto to London.

'Losing faith'

Shyla - fondly called Juju by friends and relatives - had been persuaded by a friend to break off a fortnight-long holiday in Toronto and join her in Bombay (know called Mumbai), so she was not working on the flight.

Late on the night of Shyla's departure, a Canadian friend of Shipra's rang to say she had just seen breaking news on television that a jet had blown up in mid-air.

"Did Juju leave today?" the friend asked.

She was fond of travelling around the world so she decided on becoming an airhostess

When Shipra told her that her sister had been on the flight, the friend began howling on the line - and the news broke as the family collected around the phone.

"That night, I cried and cried. We watched the news and cried. It was a dreadful night," Mrs Arora told the BBC News website.

Twenty years later, she says she felt the same when Shipra phoned with more "bad" news.

"I have lost all faith in justice. I think the Indian government should take this up with Canadian authorities.

"Will we never know who was responsible for this act?" asks Mrs Arora, who attended some of the trial in Vancouver last June.

Shipra Rana echoes her mother's sentiments on the phone from Vancouver.

"We were so optimistic... But the verdict has deeply disappointed us," she said.


Sitting in her Delhi room crammed with Shyla's memories - her photographs, letters, music tapes and art museum posters that she picked up from her travels around the world - Mrs Arora said she almost gave up on life after her daughter's death.

Mrs Arora's home is crammed with Shyla's memories

"It is difficult to cope with such grief, you know, it really is," she says.

She worked as an office assistant with the government, while her husband, Roshan Arora, was a civil engineer with the railways.

Five years after Shyla's death, Mr Arora, died. "He was totally heartbroken. He had no desire to live."

Mrs Arora says she plodded on in her job until retirement, Shipra got married and settled down in Vancouver, and with the $35,000 compensation she got from Air India, she bought herself a house in a middle-class neighbourhood in Delhi.

Today she lives alone with her pet poodle, and two servants, running a maid agency.

"But the memories refuse to go, and haunt me. And the verdict has broken my heart further," says Mrs Arora.

'She loved travelling'

She still cannot forget Shyla on that last fateful family holiday in Toronto.

The night before the news came, Shyla threw a party for the crew. "They really enjoyed it, dancing and singing the night away," Mrs Arora says.

"My daughter was a pretty, vivacious girl who enjoyed life so much."

Shyla had joined Air India in 1981 after doing her masters in French at Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University.

"She was fond of travelling around the world so she decided on becoming an air hostess with an international carrier," says Mrs Arora.

Shyla moved to the western city of Bombay with her job, living as a paying guest in an apartment.

Relatives of the victims
Other relatives were also stunned

Mrs Arora remembers her last goodbyes with her daughter at Toronto airport's departure terminal.

"She was looking beautiful. She was relaxed because she was not working on the flight. She went in after we said our goodbyes.

"And then suddenly, she turned back, walked a few steps towards us, and waved to us. I still wonder why did she did that."

"Did she know it was our last meeting?"

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