Sunday, September 14, 2008

Putting Faces On Numbers In Delhi Bombings

The numbers vary from source to source; as the calendar moves along the numbers will change ever more. But some things will not change: the five bombs (out of the nine planted) that tore through busy Delhi markets and parks during weekend religious festivals made no differentiation between men and women, young and old, rich and poor. For many families, loved ones went out to fulfill some mundane chore, or a lark at the park, and then never came home.

It's easy to just think in terms of numbers; how many attacks, how many casualties from the attacks. But these numbers represent lives. These people have names, faces, and stories.

Here are some of the stories of those in the wrong place at the wrong time, suffering at the hands of people who are now said to be putting Mumbai in the crosshairs of their next homicidal attack.
It’s likely that 25-year old Kamlesh will never forget this day of death. The terror bombings claimed no less than 10 members of her family: her husband Ashok, 30, his brothers Harichand, 35, Archant 50, Ganga Kishen, 40, their wives Saroj, 30, Rama, 40, and children Kusum, 2 and Raju, 4.

Sometimes it's the lack of any news at all that causes the most despair. This seems to be the case for the wife and brother of 25-year old Raju:

[He] was standing outside his house in Karol Bagh when the bomb went off. Since then, no one has seen him.
His grief-stricken wife Yashoda has now been hospitalised, Raju's brother Shyam told IANS.
"The police say they have no information about my brother and that we ourselves should visit every hospital to check out."
One young man was blown to bits for having decided to do a favor for his beloved mother:

Subroto Mondal's wish to buy a new mobile phone for his mother proved fatal for the young man, as he perished in the blast at New Delhi's Gaffar Market minutes after he bought it Saturday.
"When he came here the last time, his mother told him she had lost her mobile. Then he promised her that he will get her a new set. Yesterday (Saturday) he bought the new instrument to fulfil his promise. But god is indeed cruel," said his brother-in-law Haren Hazra.

Gloom descended at Subroto's residence and the village Sunday as the news of his death came like a bolt from the blue.

"It never crossed our minds that he could be among the victims. Because he did not live in that area. So, when one of his cousins called up from Delhi Sunday morning to give the news we found it difficult to believe,' Hazra said, as Subroto's parents looked inconsolable.

"He was a very good boy, We all loved him," said a neighbour, wiping her tears.

I can't imagine the guilt that the mother must now feel... nor can I easily put myself in the place of young Shishir Jain:

It was a birthday party that 21-year-old Shishir Jain will never forget. While he was busy clicking photographs of friends during his classmate's birthday celebrations at the Central Park here Saturday evening, a bomb explosion left him critically injured.

"We were having fun at the Central Park and Shishir asked for a final group photo before we leave for the hostel. As he moved back to focus the camera, a blast took place leaving him injured," Shishir's friend Prashant told IANS.

Shishir, a mechanical engineering student at the Jamia Millia Islamia, suffered injuries as a splinter from an exploding bomb pierced his spinal cord. Some of his friends too received minor injuries.

How haunted will his life be for him, if he ever gets out of the hospital?

Finally, the tragic news awaiting an expectant mother, who now has lost the father of her second child:

Till Saturday, Balbir Singh had the ideal family: two sons, a daughter-in-law expecting her second child in a week's time, a four-year-old grandchild and a younger son who had got married just six months ago. On Sunday though, Singh looked like a shell as he waited to claim the body of his elder son Tejinder at the LNJP mortuary.

Standing alone in a corner, Singh seemed to be divorced from the rest of relatives waiting to claim Tejinder's body as the police asked for details. Said Sunny, Singh's nephew, "My bhabhi is expected to deliver next week. We haven't told her about Tejinder yet. How can we, when even uncle is still to get over the shock?"...

For 36-year-old Tejinder, one of the first victims of the Ghaffar Market blast, the day had started routinely. "My cousin works in an electronics shop and was on the way to another shop with his friend when the bombs exploded. He and his friend, Manmeet, were both taken to Jeevan Mala hospital, where he was declared dead in only a few hours. His condition was so bad that doctors told us that survival was not possible. His face and torso were badly injured, and both his arms were broken," added Sunny. Tejinder's friend Manmeet fared better, and is being treated for severe head injuries in the same hospital, he added.

The immediate concern for the family though is breaking the news to Tejinder's wife. "We don't want to jeopardise her health by breaking the news right now," said Pankaj, a neighbour.

Even after all this bad news, dare I end on a positive note. As many of these terrible stories as there are, the number of them would have been higher still, were it not for the alert initiative and public spirit of two quick-thinking heroes:
Located at the bottom of the urban social pyramid, ragpickers are the smelly boys in tattered clothes whom everyone quickly passes by. Even street dogs, sub-consciously aware of their lowly status and often confusing them for thieves, chase them in shabby bylanes.

On Monday, one such ragpicker and a roadside vendor will be treated as heroes. Reason: their timely action saved dozens of lives in the Saturday bomb blast. Ragpicker Krishna and cloth seller Kundan detected live bombs and alerted the police.

Police point out that if the live bombs had not been detected in time, the death toll from the blasts would have been close to 100. ...

[For our other posts on the Delhi bombings, see
Another Terror Attack In India, and
Delhi Terrorists' Email From Hell.]

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