The 15-year-old footballer's father had visualised her coming back with medals from Australia. Instead, he was delivered the body of his daughter wrapped in a box.
Nitisha Negi was cremated today at Nigambodh Ghat in Delhi.
No more waking up early to go for football practice to the sports club. No more demanding her father for new shoes before an important football match with child-like enthusiasm. No more dreams of being one of India’s top female footballers. All that remains now of Nitisha Negi are memories. In the minds of parents, relatives, friends, teachers and coaches.
“I was so proud of my little girl,” said Puran Singh Negi, Nitisha’s father, as he stood at the crematorium, staring at the dying embers. “I visualised her coming back with medals and certificates, not wrapped in a box.”
Nitisha's last picture with her parents before she left for Australia
Nitisha was found dead on an Adelaide beach on December 12, just two days before she, along with 15 other girls from India who had been selected to play at the School Pacific Games in Australia, were scheduled to return to India. She was swept away at sea when a wave caught her unawares. Four other girls who were also part of the accident, were saved by fellow sportspeople on the same beach as them, However, Nitisha could not be found. Her body surfaced on the beach the next morning.
Nitisha’s family received her body last evening.
“Holidays didn’t exist in her schedule. She was up every day at the crack of dawn to cycle to the Sports Club in East Vinod Nagar for practice,” her father said, his eyes misting over. “She was a very dedicated girl, my Nitisha.”
“I had even booked two tickets for us from Mumbai to Delhi for December 13, as the School Games Federation of India had said they would bear costs only till Mumbai,” he continued as if in a trance.
“I wonder what would’ve happened had the girls not gone to the beach that evening,” he said, looking up at me, his eyes blank.
A childhood shot of Nitisha, on her older sister's lap
Nitisha, 15, was a student of Class XI at Sarvodaya Kanya Vidyalaya in Chand Nagar, East Delhi. It was her first selection for an international trip, and she was full of excitement that she would be representing her country in Australia.
Ashish Dayal, her coach at the Sports Club in East Vinod Nagar, will always remember her as one of his finest players. “I have lost one of the most skilled girls on the field,” he said. “She would have made a fine footballer. I still remember the day she had come to me four years back for coaching. She had promised to train hard, and she did. Her selection for Australia was proof of that. She had so many plans for when she came back from Australia…” His voice trailed off.
Nitisha (third from right, top row) with her football team
Her teammates from East Delhi — Yukti Verma, Vani Mishra, Ananya Arora and Anisha Dogra — who were there with her when the accident happened, couldn’t stop themselves from crying as they looked at the body of their friend. What would’ve happened had the boys from the Under-19 hockey team not been there? Would they also have met a similar fate as Nitisha?
Vani, Yukti and Ananya had returned to India on Friday night, whereas Deepika Venkatesh, the fifth girl caught in the accident, was still under treatment in Adelaide.