He was the sole eye-witness to the barbaric gang rape of a young woman Dec 16 last year. A year after the heinous incident that outraged the entire nation, the woman's friend, Avanindra Pandey, said he is still plagued by guilt and shock, and will never be the same again for years.
The 29-year-old Pandey, who had boarded the private bus from south Delhi's Munirka bus stop along with the 23-year-old trainee physiotherapist on that fateful night, said the only satisfaction he has was that four of the accused have been sentenced to death.
But Pandey has one more demand: the accused minor should be given harsher punishment.
"I often ask myself if I am to blame for this? Why did I go to that mall? Why did I board that bus? I was not able to even speak properly for two weeks afterwards," Pandey, a software engineer, told IANS over phone from his residence in Ballia district of eastern Uttar Pradesh.
"I survived that night and am alive to tell the tale," Pandey said. His friend died 13 days after the brutal attack.
Recalling the 84 minutes of horror he had spent in the moving bus as the rapists, including a minor, tortured and brutalised his friend, Pandey said: "When we planned to watch the movie 'Life of Pi', I had never thought that it would lead to the barbaric incident which is still a nightmare for me even after a year."
"After watching the movie, we tried to hire an auto and go to her home (in Dwarka in southwest Delhi) but the drivers refused to go. Then, we asked one of them to take us to the Munirka bus stop from where we were to head for our homes.
"We reached the bus stop after a 15 minute ride where we spotted the private bus that was already standing there. A boy (one of the six accused) was calling us to get on board," Pandey said.
He said he felt that something was wrong when they sat down in the bus.
"I had an intuition that something was wrong. The five men behaved as if they were the passengers. A boy came to us and asked money for tickets. I gave Rs.20. They locked the doors of the bus and switched off the lights," he told IANS.
"The three men then came towards us and one of them punched me on the face. A scuffle broke out between us. I broke the glass of the partition door. My friend was screaming with fear and trying to call someone for help on phone. They snatched our phones and beat us with rods.
"They dragged me away so that they could attack her. I tried to scream and seek help from outside. I also tried to break the window pane but couldn't as I was semi-conscious," Pandey added.
He said after raping his friend, the attackers threw both of them out of the bus without any clothes on the cold December night.
"I tried to get up and wave at the moving traffic. Some cars stopped, saw us and left without helping. A highway patrol van spotted us and called police and we were taken to the hospital," Pandey told IANS.
The young man, who was also injured, said he was deeply shocked to see how people kept staring at him at the Safdarjung hospital but no one even tried to give him clothes.
He said after his pleading, someone called his father, but did not give the name of the hospital where he was admitted.
"My relatives kept looking for me in every Delhi hospital and with the help of police managed to trace me."
The youth said he was satisfied that one of the six accused Ram Singh met his end by hanging himself in Tihar Jail around three months after the incident, while four others -- Mukesh Singh, Pawan Gupta, Akshay Thakur and Vinay Sharma - have been given the death penalty.
"The juvenile should also be given a harsh punishment because he will easily get freedom from reformatory home though he was the most brutal," Pandey added.
A Juvenile Justice Board had Aug 31 sentenced the minor to three years in a special home - the maximum punishment for under-age criminals for any offence. The boy now is 18 years and will be out of the home in December 2015.
A Delhi court Sep 13 had sentenced the four accused to death after heavily relying on the testimony of the victim's friend. The Delhi High Court is hearing their appeal against the sentence.
"I am yet to recover from that night. I am still in shock. I am unable to shake away the guilt. I don't know, it will take years for me to be the same again. I am scared for life," said the youth.
(Rajnish Singh can be contacted at email@example.com )