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They make the difference in Mumbai
Archana Masih | July 13, 2006 11:57 IST
On his hospital bed, Salim, 29, waits for his brother to arrive from Allahabad. His head is bandaged and Iftikhar, a friend who brought him to the KEM Hospital in central Mumbai on Tuesday night, is keeping vigil.
Ten years ago, Salim came to Mumbai and started a livelihood as a tailor. Every day he traveled between Dadar in northcentral Mumbai and his home in Dharavi, the sprawling cluster of hutments known as Asia's largest slum.
On Tuesday evening, he decided to get home a little early. He hopped off the train at Mahim station and was walking on the platform when he heard a blast from an incoming train. The impact blew up a portion of the roof on the platform, a part of which hit Salim's head.
It was a matter of chance that Iftikhar was at the station at the same time. As he helped take the injured victims from the train blast to hospital, he chanced upon his roommate Salim.
"I got him to hospital and have been with him since. I have informed his family and are waiting for them to arrive," Iftikhar said.
The doctors say Salim is alright but he does not know when he will be discharged. As he sits quietly on his bed, Iftikhar explains, "The only worry is what will happen if he needs follow-up treatment after he leaves hospital. How will he afford that?"
The days Salim does not show up for work, he will lose wages and that worries him no end. "I would like to go back to work as soon as possible," he says.
Kanchi was weeping outside ward 20 A at the KEM Hospital. The doctors had amputated her husband Dheeraj's right arm early on Wednesday morning. "They said otherwise it would lead to gangrene. It was his working hand. What will he do?" Kanchi said.
Dheeraj, an excise officer, was recovering in the Intensive Care Unit. The doctors had operated on him twice and had just told Kanchi that he was out of danger.
Kanchi has not come to terms with the tragedy. Her husband perhaps didn't know what had happened to him. Neither did her two school-going daughters. "I have left them with relatives and do not have the courage to call my girls. What will I tell them?"
Her husband's colleague, who was traveling with him, called her at 9 pm to inform her about what had happened. After negotiating a mammoth traffic jam, she reached the hospital at 2.30 am. The doctors told her her husband would be okay, "but there are some other injuries which I hope are not serious," she said, tears welling up in her eyes again.
"Everybody says my husband is lucky to have survived. I realise that but he has lost his hand. How can I understand that?"
Shafiq did not go to college on Wednesday. Instead, the 21 year old sat with friends outside the gates of the KEM Hospital with a list of the blast victims to help those who came looking.
"We have a list of 53 injured and 20 dead. One deceased's identity is still unknown," he said.
Shafiq had been at the hospital since Weddnesday morning and intended to stay on till the evening. "I just want to do something to help."
Nirali, Shruti and Khushbu
The three teenage college girls had decided to donate blood to help the victims. But once their parents discovered their plans, they refused to allow the girls out of their homes on Wednesday morning.
"It is only when we promised that we wouldn't donate blood did they allow us to come to the hospital to help those who we could in our way," said Shruti.
So the girls went from ward to ward at the Sion Hospital in north central Mumbai, distributing biscuit packets. Then they rushed to buy fruits for some patients.
"Please tell us what else we can do to help. What is it that people need? Does anyone want us to make any phone calls for them?" asked Nirali, anxious to do whatever it was to help.
The girls had boarded a bus from the northern suburbs and made their way to the hospital because they wanted to be of some comfort to those who had lost so much.
Like so many other Mumbai youngsters they were restless and wanted to do something in their own way.
If Mumbai manages to look up defiantly from the horrors of Tuesday night, it is because of them and countless others who define what this city is all about.