When Sonia came, rape victim's dad felt he was dreaming

New Delhi, Feb 3 (IANS) "I thought I was seeing a dream!" This was how the Delhi gang-rape victim's father felt when he saw Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul at his doorstep.

The 53-year-old recalled Sunday that Congress MP Mahabal Mishra repeatedly telephoned him Saturday evening to say "a very big leader" was planning to visit his house.

When the first of the telephone calls came, the father, a porter at the domestic terminal of the Indira Gandhi International Airport, had gone to a hospital because he had fever.

But he got no clue as to who the "very big leader" could be.

"I returned to my house at about 5.15 p.m... Some 45 minutes later, there was a knock at the door. When we opened it, we saw Soniaji, Rahulji and Renukaji (Renuka Chowdhury)."

"I thought I was seeing a dream," the man told IANS, adding he could not believe that the Congress president had actually come to meet the devastated family.

Eventually, the Gandhis ended up spending more than an hour in the crammed two-room house, located in an area with narrow streets that can't take large vehicles.

The mother-son duo spoke at length, and sympathetically, with the still grieving parents of the 23-year-old woman who was brutally gang-raped in a moving bus Dec 16. The incident triggered unprecedented street protests here and across India.

The young trainee physiotherapist finally passed away in a Singapore hospital after 13 agonising days. All six accused are under arrest, with five of them possibly set to face death sentence. The sixth is a minor.

Congress spokeswoman Renuka Chowdhury Saturday gave a detailed account of the Gandhis' visit.

On Sunday, members of the family told IANS Sonia Gandhi promised to do her best to get them an MIG (Middle Income Group) flat in Dwarka area, not far from their present house.

The girl's father said the family were desperate to get away from their present house because it constantly reminded them of the trauma they have endured since the gruesome incident.

"Everyone knows about us and people keep coming here, reminding us about the tragedy all the time," the father told IANS. "We want to get away from it all. A new house in a new area may help."

He said he heard Sonia Gandhi tell his elder son, a teenager, about a possible job he could be given, now that the sister who would have landed a full-time job was no more.

The son told IANS: "She did not give me any specific assurance but promised to help."

Both the family and the Congress spokesperson said Sonia Gandhi broke down after meeting and hugging the distraught mother.

The father said they were so surprised by the visit that "we could offer them nothing more than water and tea".