New Delhi: He chokes as he speaks. His words barely audible as he tries to compose himself in between sobs. For a man in his mid-30s, he's aged beyond his years in the last one year. But the trauma, pressure and despair that he has been staring at, could weaken even the most resilient.
When his three-and-a-half-year-old daughter went to play-school on December 17, 2012, it was just a regular day. His family not entirely aware of the emotional and physical trauma another family in Dwarka was only just beginning to understand.
It was barely eight hours after the 23-year-old paramedic student was gang-raped in a moving bus last year last that his daughter came home feeling ashamed, violated and unsure of what she must do. When his daughter explained what had happened to her, he and his wife realised she had been sexually abused at her supposedly 'safe' play-school, by her principal's husband.
Delhi and India was seething with rage as horrific details of the December 16 gang-rape case started coming to light. That's perhaps where the similarities between the two cases end. As India battled for a 23-year-old's fight for justice, this family soldiered on, alone.
The mother of the toddler told NDTV, "He (the accused) threatened my daughter and said if you tell your mom and dad, I will hang you from the fan." Her husband adds, "Mentally she is traumatised. Her physical wounds will heal. But what about her psychological scars? Many nights she wakes up screaming."
The police lodged an FIR. The child was also made to sign as complainant, though her signature was nothing more than a few letters of the alphabet she had learned at school, something, that she, not surprisingly, couldn't remember the next time she was asked about it.
The child even identified the accused in a police line-up, gave a statement to a magistrate but the case hasn't moved much in the last one year. On the other hand, the accused, who is in his forties, was arrested, and got bail in a few weeks.
The attempt to buy this family's silence came just a few days before the bail application. Her mother says, "The accused's sister came a few days before the bail hearing and offered us money. She said they would give us Rs 4-5 lakh, even more, to stop pursuing the case. They tried to intimidate us by saying it's about our child's honour and that they had enough money to get away. We told them, our daughter's honour is not for sale."
The four-year-old has spent most of the last one year between the court room and the police station. In her case, there was no public outcry for justice - not even a fast-track court. The biggest irony: for her to get justice she has had to remember every detail of her trauma during the court hearings that she is trying so hard to forget.
The family has been threatened, intimidated, even lured. They have had little social support, save an NGO that is helping them with legal aid but the father is the only earning member, who does two jobs to keep the house running.
Ask him how he finds the strength to fight, the father says, "My daughter is my inspiration. Whenever I look at her, it strengthens my determination to fight. I want to see her smile without any fear. I want my daughters to succeed. Most of all, I don't want this to happen to anyone else."
It's this single-minded determination and hope that has kept him going.
One year after Delhi's gang-rape, many have talked of keeping the flame Delhi's brave-heart lit alive. It's a spirit that this father and mother strive for every day no matter what the odds are.