Sushil Sharma says that he has regretted the murder of his live-in partner from the moment it happened. But he isn’t sure if he missed her thereafter.
Sharma was arrested in July 1995 and was subsequently convicted of shooting his partner Naina Sahni before burning her in a tandoor (clay oven) on July 2. He stepped out of Tihar jail on Friday night, reached home around 9 p.m. and touched his parents’ feet.
Recalling the night of the incident and the months preceding it, he told The Hindu that the two started living together in 1990-91, but never tied the knot. Over the years, the relationship went downhill because, as he admits, he was “over possessive” and possibly “put her in a position to lie, if she ever did.”
Sharma, in his own words, was aware that there were issues between them which may have ended with separation a few months before she was murdered. On July 2, he came home and she was talking on the phone; when Sharma questioned her, she allegedly said she was talking to a family member. But he redialled and found himself speaking to another man at the other end.
“That night, after the phone call, we fought and shouted at each other and I went out to the balcony. She then said she was going to commit suicide and also wrote a note. My gun was lying in the cupboard and I heard a gunshot. I went in and she said she wants to end her life. I said ‘what rubbish,’ after which arguments started again and then everyone knows what happened.”
He said a copy of the note which he tore was with the police in their investigation files. “In the note, she asked me to perform her last rites.”
Sharma said regret was an overriding emotion ever since it happened. Therefore, the first thing he did was to go to Tirupati Balaji and have his head shaved. He was arrested on July 10 and was finally sent to Tihar in the last week of July after remaining in police custody.
Recalling the first day in jail, he said he was shocked. “There was a toilet in the room. I took my mat and slept outside. An inmate came and asked me why I was sleeping outside and I told him there was a toilet inside. The inmate said that’s how we live here. Eventually, I got used to it. Now when I think of it, it seems funny,” he said.
Jail time, he said, “is trial for death” because you leave all your loved ones outside just like when you die. “You never really understand the value of liberty and freedom when you’re outside.”
For the initial few months, he said, he often thought about ending his life. But another inmate came to his rescue. Sharma claimed to have met an accused, “another Brahmin who was arrested on charges of dowry death,” who told him to read religious scriptures.
“I did that and it helped me. Then I spent a lot of time reading other religious books and meditating; became an introvert and contemplated on what had happened.”
Sharma’s future plans include doing “something” to make sure couples are counselled before they get married in order to prepare them for life thereafter. “I’ve experienced the worst side of this and had I gone through counselling, then who knows how things would have turned out,” he said.
Another initiative he wants to take up is for road rage. “I met a lot of road rage accused inside, who admitted that it happened in a fit of anger. The need of the hour is awareness around containing that anger and counselling the accused,” he said.
However, his primary responsibility in the immediate future is his parents. A teary-eyed Sharma said his 80-year-old mother and 85-year-old father, a retired bank official, are happy that “he returned before they closed their eyes.”
The mother, smiling, said, “Hamari zindagi 10 saal aur badh gayi [Our life span increased by 10 years].”