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D Jayant (left) has not dared to board the 5.48 pm local from Mumbai's Churchgate station after he ended up a victim of the 11/7 blasts.
After a bomb went off on the train last year between the Khar and Santacruz stations, he was admitted to the Nanavati hospital in Mumbai's western suburbs for 22 days and has partially lost his hearing."I am still to recover from that incident. I don't dare to be on that train even after one year," says Jayant, an employee at the State Trading Corporation.
"I suffer from 30 percent hearing loss. I have gone to three doctors so far but I have not been able to recover completely," he added.
A year later, the train's timing has changed and Jayant has been spared the agony of taking the 5.48 slow.
As chance would have it, on Wednesday, he boarded the same bogey (coach 864A) in which the bomb had been set off between the Khar and Santacruz stations, killing scores and injuring many including him.
On July 11, Western Railway General Manager A K Jingron flagged off the same bogey after it underwent restoration work. Of the seven compartments that were mangled in the blasts last year, five will be pressed back into service. Two are beyond redemption.
On the occasion of the first anniversary of the blasts the railways had posted a banner at Churchgate station that said: 'Aatankwad ke virudh rashtra ka dhrud sankalp' (The nation is determined against terrorism).
The security at the railway station was strict and the railway police brought in a sniffer dog to check the first class bogey before giving the train the green signal.
Asked why the Western Railway had pressed the the coach back into service one year later, Western Railway Chief Public Relations Officer Pranay Prabhakar said, "The terrorists wanted to break our spirit. By repairing the bogey we have proved that we will not be broken so easily. We want to show as Indians we are together on this day."
Mukhim Tamboli, an artist, was standing near a hoarding that proclaimed, 'We are one.' He lost his friend Shyam Jwala Mukhi in the blast at Mira Road last year.
"I have come here in solidarity and in remembrance of my dear friend who passed away. He will always be in my memory till I live," Tamboli added.
Recalling that fateful day, Jayant said: "I was about to alight at Santacruz station when the bomb went off. I fell down. I could see three dead men next to me."
"My left side was numb. I saw a man talking on the phone next to me. I requested him to give me his phone and tried calling my wife but I just could not remember her mobile number."
After great difficulty he recalled his home number and called his wife to tell her that he was injured.
Ask how he feels about the incident, and he says, "I was unlucky that day. I left the office early to see a dentist. Instead of taking the 5.45 pm train I caught the 5.48 pm train because there was a seat available on it."
"It was my destiny to be one of the victims of the blast and survive."
Viraf Munsif, another passenger that day, was luckier.
He too was a regular on the 5.48 pm train but missed it because the bank he was employed in was on strike. "I survived only because of the strike," he says.
Is he not scared? "I am not scared to travel today; in fact, I travelled the very next day after the blast," he says.
"In Mumbai you are only safe once you reach home. You never know what will happen. If you are scared you will never be able to move out of the house."
Today, the train was crowded as usual; many passengers entered the first class compartment without knowing the bogey's background.
Said Gautam Khanna, another passenger on the train, "We must show solidarity with each other on this day. Some people suffered badly and there is no way their loss can be recovered, but life has to go on. This is Mumbai."
Text and photograph: Syed Firdaus Ashraf
5:19 pm | 5.26 pm | 5.37 pm | 5.48 pm | 5.50 pm | 5.54 pm | 5.57 pm
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