An insight into the life of a bomb blast victim.
|Something feels weird as I open my eyes today. I realize that I’m sleeping on my back. But I also sense that it is not the only thing that makes this morning so peculiar. The ceiling looks damp, dismal, dispiriting and abnormally white. Suddenly everything starts flashing on the blank ceiling, like a film that had been waiting for me to open my eyes so that it could start playing. The loud metallic bang, like a metal bucket being banged on the floor, only louder…louder than anything I have ever heard. The inexplicable sudden heat. The phrenetic panic. The flying things…flying detritus, flying limbs, flying people. The frantic screaming. The gruesome sight of blood spilling from people, people who were moving, talking, laughing just 10 seconds ago. The instant sense of loss, far surpassing the feelings of shock and surprise. Like even before you realize what has happened, you know that it’s tragic, sad. Something stirs deep within me.
I shut my eyes, desperately wishing I could go back to sleep forever. My heart feels heavy, I don’t yet know why. There is this thing about human hearts; they always know when you ought to feel bad, even if you don’t know. I realize that my sleep will never be the same. I will have to open my eyes and meet my family, who probably waited anxiously the whole night in the hospital. Like hundreds of others. I take a deep breath and open my eyes and look around, immediately regretting doing so. There are people with burns on their hands, face, feet, chest…20%, 50%, 70% burns. There are other people, too. People with plaintive eyes, plaintive: 20%, 50%, 70%; eyes that could haunt your nights. I look towards the door of the casualty ward. I find my brother, elder brother, sitting on the bench, opposite the door. He is asleep, his chin resting on his chest. Hands folded. My brother, who I know, doesn’t realize he is sleeping. I want to shout out to him, call him to me, cling to the comfort of a loved one among these physical and metaphysical wounds. But something about the dreary silence around me, doesn’t allow me to do so. I sigh noisily; feel my throat getting choked. I suddenly realize there’s a tear on my cheek. I try to turnover and go back to sleep but can’t. My foot feels heavy. I feel desperately angry. I glance at the door again furiously, and see my brother coming over to my bed, tensed. His usual cool, laid back strut converted to a strained, fast walk. He comes and I find it difficult to look in his eye. He says, almost gabbling, “The doctor said you would wake up by now, it’s my mistake, fell asleep, but I don’t think it’s been long. I’m sorry. Mom and dad were worried about you and went down to talk to the doctor. They were wondering why you were taking so long to...”
“Bhai. Just stop. Please.” I manage to say.
He does stop. He hugs me and I can’t hold it any further. I weep, holler. He just simply hugs me and sheds a silent tear. I don’t know how long it has been, since I started to cry. I sober down and look up, and my brother gives me a grim smile. I sit back on the bed and sigh, still sobbing. We just sit like that for some time. Looking outside the window. Talking hardly, but surely. My throat feels dry. I weakly ask my brother to get water. While he goes to fetch the water, I look at my feet. Bile rises in my throat once again. My basketball team. My dream. I look away. Some time passes till I realize my parents have come. They look tired but relieved. I try to smile, but end up spilling more tears.
“Everything’s going to be okay now, sweetie”, says my mother, teary-eyed herself. “Yes, it’s all okay now. We just had a word with the doctor. He says you’re lucky…Most people in your compartment didn’t make it.” Says dad, perhaps to make me feel better.
But now it weighs down upon me, worse than ever. It all seems horribly unfair. A scene flashes in front of my eyes, yet again. A crowded train. Barely any place to get in. Squeeze, push, stamp. Inside, I notice three girls. Very young…probably in their first year of college. Giggling away at silly things, annoying everybody. Not a care in the world. The old aunty sitting next to them. Sleeping. The chatty ladies. Eating fruits from their dabbas. Some women reading holy books to maybe get them through the journey safely? A prayer grossly denied.
I feel terrible for having survived. I pray desperately and ask for all of it to end; the trauma, the pain, the sympathy…And then maybe when I’ll see those three girls again, I could apologize for getting annoyed at them for having the fun I couldn’t have. I start crying again and have no memory of having fallen to sleep…
…And yet here is the nurse saying that I slept for over three hours. She says it’s probably because of the shock. And of course, the tranquilizers. I smile feebly. Look around and I feel my heart beating loudly. My best friends have come to visit me. They all went to their colleges, too. Took the train at almost the same time as me. Yet, it was me who was chosen. Had they gone to their colleges today, too? No, they said. I bow my head, already regretting the envy I felt at the sight of them. They all look like they haven’t slept much, too. I ask them about small things; how is your dad, Priya? How is your dog, Radha? And you, Sweety? They got flowers, which Uma arranges on my table, sniffing. They stay with me till quite some time. While they stand to leave I look at them gratefully. My eyes start to water. Their’s, too. I say “Thanks”, in a small voice. But that just makes them cry even more.
It’s night time and the doctor says that I won’t have to stay for longer than a week now. That I must consider myself really lucky. Lucky. The word that I had come to hate.
My mother has finally gone home. She has left my brother in charge of me for tonight. My father has gone home for dinner. He’ll be back and then my brother will go for his dinner. I insist to all of them I’m okay. I wonder why. I also wonder at other things. I think of the conversation I had with my friend only yesterday morning. It seems ages ago. She had said that Mumbai was a weird place to live in. The people were hardly friendly, but never hostile. I had silently agreed. Everyone was too busy. Too busy working, too busy laughing, too busy sleeping, too busy traveling. And yet that evening, help had come from nowhere. Alien hands lifting nameless people. Offering help in more than one ways. I only wish that they had chosen a better opportunity to show this resilient spirit.
I then wonder about the people who had done this. It’s almost unimaginable that this was done by people, fellow humans. How would it be for them? Tick, tick, tick. The train comes. Tick, tick. Rush in. Get a window seat. The wind blowing the hair. Tick, tick, tick. A packet on the rack. A death packet, and then, a death rack. Tick, tick, tick. The sour taste of guilt. Push it away. Tick, tick. Get off at the next station. Uneasiness. He won’t be able to make it. Tick, tick, tick. Squeeze, push, stamp. The train stops. Jump. Giddy relief. The guilty rancidity again. Shake it off and run. No wonder they fled. Had it not been for the fear of the Law, they would have not stayed behind even then, to watch their craftsmanship. They wouldn’t want visual millstones on their consciences. I feel unjustifiably tired. I go off to sleep. A dreamless sleep. Full of pure remorse and sadness. Were those people sleeping, too? The one’s who did it? I hope not. Mumbai. An attitude taken for granted…too far. Hundreds of lives ruined, if not finished. Like mine. Scarred till death.