The other day, we drove some 50 km (in Melbourne this is not far, given that we drive 100 kmph) to meet a remarkable lady. Melton, the suburb she lives in, is not very exciting and the typical gloomy winter day did not help either. But when we arrived at the door, we were greeted by this very affable soul. Her home was lit up with warm yellow lights, the soft sound of bhajans (devotional music) playing in the background and a tray of snacks I could not resist from.

At a glance, Ravinder Kaur’s life resonates with loss. You even wonder how she is able to put up a smile given that life has not been easy at all right from the start. She grew up in Jalandhar and like every other woman got married on time - there is so much emphasis on getting married young in India. But when she was pregnant, her husband left her without any notice. He went off to Dubai and sent a divorce notice to her. Unable to take in the shock, she chose to stay married till he appeared before her in person and clarified things. That happened about seven years later and when he did meet her, she finally acknowledged the fact that the marriage was long over.

Ravinder took the decision to leave India and come to Australia to start a new life with her little boy. She studied and worked to make ends meet. Happiness began to find its way into her life, seeing her son grow and become a fine young man. Rehmat, she reflects, means mercy or kindness and he represented all of that, and more. They were the best of friends, she cheerily describes. Australia was now home, and Rehmat her family. Life felt complete and content.

A handsome, young lad, Rehmat embraced life with gusto. He played basketball, was part of Punjabi bhangra dance group Federation of Bhangra that won many awards, he did well in his studies and ran his own cleaning business. Ravinder was able to buy a house that they both designed and the two never had a dull moment. “There wasn’t a day when we were apart from each other,” says Ravinder. His 21st birthday was swarmed by friends as a proud Ravinder looked on.

On the night of December 5, 2014, Ravinder went to catch up and stay over with a friend. In fact, Rehmat had asked his mother not to stay over as he wanted to spend Sunday morning with her but the visit was long overdue so Ravinder insisted that he too put up with his friends for the night. For most part of that evening, the mother and son exchanged calls and messages ensuring both were OK.

For some unknown reason, Ravinder recalls waking up very early the next morning feeling a bit of unease. Little did she know what lay ahead. She recalls being contacted by some of his friends wanting to know her address. From there on, she only remembers seeing the friends at the door, and later the policeman who had come to break the news of something she did not imagine – even in her wildest dreams.

Rehmat was at his friend’s place in Southbank in the city and plunged to his death from the apartment building.  He died after falling from the glass balcony of 26th floor. Ravinder says she saw his body only after three days as slipped in and out of consciousness dealing with life's greatest blow.

It has been four years. Helped by her friends, friends of Rehmat and members of the community, Ravinder started the Rehmat Sandhu Foundation in memory of her only son. Today the foundation does charitable works in many fields. And that is the reason why she is able to wear a smile on her face.

When I asked Ravinder if she was OK talking about Rehmat, she replied, “It is very important to talk about him. It is the only way to remember him. I cannot afford to forget him.” 

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