Ssshhh! A 90-year-old man, Govind Ram Jethani, told police officers to be quiet, lest they wake up the maggot-infested corpse on the floor of his single-room home in Kalkaji.
He was living with the decomposing corpse of his 85-year-old wife, Gopi, for four days before he came out of their home of 42 years on Monday morning and asked a neighbour for help.
Police arrived after the neighbour’s call and found the woman died of natural causes, though people who knew the childless couple in the neighbourhood suspect malnourishment killed her.
An officer said Jethani is probably mentally disturbed, which is not uncommon among many elderly people living alone in cities. They suffer from urban loneliness, a disorder that exacerbates as a person grows older and his finances and friends dwindle.
By evening, police traced a nephew, Narinder Kumar, who lives in Safdarjung Enclave, and handed him to them. Jethani had stopped speaking since noon. He was admitted to a hospital.
Kumar said the couple had adopted him when he was young, but a dispute ended the relationship. “But I have been sending them money.” Jethani’s brother, Roopchand, however, said, “the couple never adopted anyone.”
Another relative said Jethani owned a garment business, but some of his relatives usurped it.
The couple seldom interacted with anyone and always kept their doors and windows shut.
“I last saw Gopi aunty around four months ago. Uncle used to take a walk, but he had stopped it a few days ago,” said Pramod Kumar, a lawyer and neighbour.