While the various players involved in the Rohith Vemula suicide case at the University of Hyderabad may have their own agendas, for Radhika Vemula, the death of her son is simply that - a mother's irrevocable loss.
In the midst of passions stirring up, politicians making a beeline for the university and Rohith's suicide turning into a national talking point, one person whose heart has been the most inconsolable has probably stood the strongest so far.
Rohith's mother, Radhika Vemula has seen several hardships in her life, as has been known of her and her family in the last few days, with every minute detail of their lives turning public of late. With the death of her son though, it looks like the tough time has only begun. The intrusion into her personal details, her marriage and past has been raked up insensitively in many cases, by the authorities and media alike.
Embroiled in the controversy connected to Rohith's caste, Radhika has had to face many uncomfortable questions. Aspersions have been cast on her ranging from lying about her caste to question marks on who the real father of her children is, if her husband had deserted her and so on.
Under such glare of the public eye, she hasn't had a chance to grieve the loss of her child. Looking at things from her eyes, stripped of everything else, it is after all the death of her son, the death of a dream that she had been nurturing since his birth; the only identity in her heart of Rohith being that he was her child. The extent of her unspent grief can only be imagined in the face of so much happening around her, even as she pleaded that her son's suicide not be politicised.
Forty four-year-old Radhika has been doing tailoring jobs for a while now and is said to have worked as a daily wage labourer too. After five years of marriage and the birth of her youngest child, her husband Mani Vemula walked away, leaving her to look after their three children by herself.
We've been hearing of accounts of her adoption into a family of the Vaddera community, the ill-treatment at the hands of her "mother", the subsequent marrying off at a young age and the domestic violence at her husband's home that ensued later. The inner strength it must have taken to survive it all and yet hope for better days ahead as her children were growing up, seems immense.
A good glimpse of that courage is seen in her eyes, even as she's dealing with Rohith's loss. A hurried and mostly unceremonious funeral at the hands of the police must have added so much to the pain while she was still in a state of shock. Yet, two days later, she was already talking in terms of seeing justice meted out to her son if the expulsion of the other four students was revoked. It was a selfless gesture coming from a grieving mother, regardless of the rights and wrongs, the should haves and could haves.
Rohith's friends say that he was very close to her and called her everyday, at least twice. When she didn't hear from him on January 17, she was perplexed and called his friend, Prashant Dontha, "just to check". From then to the desperate trip made to Hyderabad from Guntur after Rohith's lifeless body was discovered suspended from a noose, she would have possibly been through the longest hours of Radhika's life.
If she holds angst, anger and anguish in her heart and at life - which she certainly must - it hides behind mostly unflinching composure and her customary grey shawl.