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13/7: Diamonds are forever, blast scars hopefully not

Last updated on: September 27, 2011 18:48 IST

13/7: Diamonds are forever, blast scars hopefully not

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Two months after he was seriously injured in the blast at Mumbai's Opera House, Manish R Mehta is back at work. Life goes on, Manish tells Rediff.com's A Ganesh Nadar, because it has to, because there is no other choice.

Ten years ago, Manish R Mehta shifted from Gujarat to India's financial capital in search for a job, for a better life. Soon, he joined his elder brother and other relatives, who worked as diamond brokers at Opera House in south Mumbai.

Manish doesn't have an office; he doesn't need one. Hundreds of diamond brokers like him operate outside Panchratna Building near Charni Road railway station.

In the otherwise sluggish hours of the afternoon, this particular road in the heart of Mumbai's diamond district is so crowded that it is difficult to walk through without banging into people at every step.

It is also difficult to believe that a little over two months ago, a bomb had ripped apart this bustling area, killing several people.

Today, life here goes on as usual.


Image: Manish R Mehta
Photographs: A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com
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13/7: Diamonds are forever, blast scars hopefully not

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We can wax eloquent about the 'spirit of Mumbai', but for Manish, this is the only way of life he knows.

A full-sleeve shirt hides the deep gash that runs across Manish's left hand.

"For this kind of work, all you need are contacts. As I have relatives working here, I have those contacts," he explains.

Since the last ten years, Manish, 36, has followed the same routine. He starts his work at 11.30 am and leaves Opera House by 7.30 pm. Buyers come to him with their specific needs and Manish approaches the sellers who have that particular product. Once the transaction is complete, he gets his commission.

As his work demands his presence at all times -- during sultry days and rainy days -- Manish was right here when the blast had hit this thriving diamond market.


Image: The blast site at Opera House
Photographs: Sahil Salvi
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'Something metallic hit me, I didn't know what it was'

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On July 13, Manish was walking down the road when the bomb exploded nearby. He remembers seeing a car being lifted off the road and falling down due to the impact of the blast.

He realised that he had been hit by shrapnel. "Something metallic hit my left h#8743 I didn't know what it was. I ran towards Aryan School. My brother Jignesh was with me. The entire road was deserted. People had run away."

A man on a two-wheeler rushed the two brothers to the nearby Harkisandas Hospital.

Manish, who was bleeding profusely, was taken to the operation theatre. He received 15 stitches on his hands. A few days later the wound was re-opened, the shrapnel and dust particles were removed and his hand was stitched up again.

Now, he says, "There are no shrapnel in my hand".

His left eardrum was also injured in the blast. Manish may have to undergo another surgery if it doesn't heal in three months.


Image: The blast site at Opera House
Photographs: Sahil Salvi
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'There are more policemen on the road'

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Manish has received Rs 2 lakh in compensation -- Rs one lakh from the state government and Rs one lakh from the Centre.

After being discharged, Manish had to stay at home for over a month to recuperate.

On September 7, he was back at work.

"A few changes have taken place. There used to be a lot of hawkers on the road, now they are gone. There are more policemen on the road and security cameras have been installed," he says.

The policemen would be here for three months or maximum up to six months, believes Manish. "They will not be here forever, nothing will change," he laments.

In retrospect, Manish considers himself a lucky man as he was taken to the hospital in time and his injured arm didn't have to be amputated. Many of the bomb blast victims have lost their limbs; many lost their lives.


Image: Opera House, a month after the blast
Photographs: Abhishek Mande/Rediff.com
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'Cameras can't prevent further blasts'

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"During July and August, I was out of business. I lost my customers and getting back into this business is very difficult. Finding a good customer is not easy," he said.

Manish is not satisfied with the security cameras that have been recently installed in the area. "These cameras will provide information after an incident occurs. They cannot prevent further blasts," he says.

According to him, the entire market should be cordoned off and gates should be installed, where people should have to undergo a stringent checking process before being allowed to enter the area.

Though such measures may be difficult to implement, Manish believes that diamond traders will follow the new rules as they will know that it is for their safety.

Some traces of the devastating blast remain in Manish's life.

Everyday, before he makes his way to the bazaar, he has to visit the hospital for a physiotherapy session. He still finds it difficult to move the fingers of his left hand.

Doctors have told him that he will be completely okay within the next two months.


Image: A private security guard stands next to a sign that reads 'Diamond market shut' at Opera House
Photographs: Vivek Prakash/Rediff.com
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'We have to go on with what we are doing'

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How does he feel when he passes the blast site every morning?

"Even if I am scared, I do not know what else to do. This is the only business I know," admits Manish.

His wife, Dikshita, is understandably anxious when he leaves for work every day.

"But she does not say anything. We discussed all that when I was at home recuperating," he recalls.

In a matter-of-fact tone, he adds, "We have to go on with what we are doing. I am going to carry on with this work. I do not have a choice".

Manish receives a call from a client and hurries off for his next transaction; he is soon lost in the crowd.

The hundreds of diamond sellers, brokers and shoppers here -- some sipping tea, others chewing on supaari -- look deceptively relaxed even as millions change hands.

After all, bomb blasts or no bomb blasts, diamonds are forever.


Image: A police van at the blast site at Opera House
Photographs: Vivek Prakash/Rediff.com
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