Emotional adieu to journalist Sabina Sehgal Saikia

November 30th, 2008 - 4:44 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Nov 30 (IANS) Scores of teary eyed friends, colleagues, celebrities and even people who didn’t know her personally turned up to bid farewell to Sabina Sehgal Saikia, a well-known scribe and food critic who perished in the Mumbai terror strike and was cremated here Sunday.The body of Sabina, a consulting editor with the Times of India, was consigned to the flames at Lodhi Road cremation grounds.

For many, it tragically ended the uncertainty that had prevailed in the media about her death ever since it came to be known that she was among those trapped at the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel when terrorists struck there Wednesday night.

That she was as popular with the rich and famous as among lay readers was evident from the numbers that turned up to pay their last respects. Beauty expert Shahnaz Husain, actor Nandita Das, politician-industrialist Naveen Jindal, journalists Dilip Padgaonkar, Vikram Chandra, Vinod Nair were all present on the occasion.

Raj K. Raj, a senior photojournalist, said: “I had a photo shoot with her just a week ago. I cannot believe this.”

Said a bystander: “I was not a friend of hers. I am here just to express my solidarity at the moment.”

Amidst all this, her husband Santanu Saikia was standing in a sombre mood with his arm around his son and sometimes folding hands and thanking friends for reaching out at this tragic hour.

Sabina was trapped on the sixth floor of the Taj Hotel that was worst affected in the deadly strike by terrorists who attacked 10 prominent landmarks in Mumbai, killing 183 people over the next 60 hours.

Sabina had been SMSing her family and friends until Wednesday midnight, after which they lost contact with her. She had texted her husband for the last time at 2 a.m. Thursday.

A massive fire has gutted major portions of the floor Sabina was on. Till late Friday night, her husband, who is also a journalist, was “hoping against hope” that she would be found alive. But that was not to be.

Her body was flown to the capital Saturday night and brought to her south Delhi home. Sabina leaves behind her husband, a daughter aged 14 and a son aged 11.

She had gone to the hotel late Wednesday to attend a wedding when terrorists stormed it, firing at guests and holding several hostage. The standoff between the terrorists and security forces ended Saturday morning.

At her funeral, her colleagues and well-wishers found it difficult to hold back their tears. “I cannot talk right now. This is not the moment to talk,” said an otherwise composed looking friend.

Some of her regular readers also turned up for a last look at their beloved writer.

“I have been reading her column for a long time. This is really shocking. I came here to make myself believe that I wouldn’t be reading her anymore,” said Nishant Singh, an avid reader of Sabina’s column in Delhi Times.

Some of her friends recalled their last moments with her. “She was wearing her tight jeans and black T-shirt that day and was looking so adorable,” said one.

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