I feel handicapped with guilt and debt: 13/7 survivor
On July 13, 2011, Bapi Motilal Khetu had barely sat down at a shop in Khau Galli in Zaveri Bazaar locality of Mumbai when a bomb placed in a Honda Activa scooter exploded. A year later, he is scared of leaving his home and complains that life will never be the same for him. Divya Nair reports.
Bapi Motilal Khetu, son of a farmer in Singur, West Bengal, was in his 20s when he had come to Mumbai almost ten years ago to struggle for a living. Since he was educated only up to fourth grade, Bapi chose to help his cousin brother set up his business.
Over the next few years, Bapi who did not know Hindi or Marathi quickly mastered the art and business of making and supplies cheap rubber cases for imitation jewellery. He made good contacts and did all the legwork for his brother.
Although he did not earn more than a few thousands a month from the profit, he saved enough to buy himself a house in a chawl in Kalyan, which he now shares with his younger brother, two cousins and an uncle.
Bapi, who was emotionally attached to his family, had few friends in the city. A happy, content man, his parents often suggested that he marry and settle down before it was too late.
On July 13, 2011, Bapi left his home to collect raw materials from Super Tools, one of his regular shops located in Khau Galli at Zaveri Bazaar.
At around 6.50 pm, Bapi must have barely sat down inside the shop to have a chat when there was a loud sound from behind. Among the many disowned scooters parked outside the shop, a bomb placed in a Honda Activa scooter had exploded.
"For the next few minutes, I could see or hear nothing. I don't know if I woke up and walked or if I was thrown away by the explosion. But when I opened my eyes, I was in a corner, away from the shop. I could not feel any sound. My eyes were covered in blood. I could not move at all. The police also let me lie there for a while until an ambulance came and took us to a nearby hospital. My body was split in various places, but I lost consciousness from time to time," Bapi recollects.
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Image: Bapi Motilal Khetu
'I could not lie on my back for months'
Meanwhile, Bapi's younger brother Jitendra Khetu who was in Kalyan and had heard about the blasts on the television sensed that something was wrong when his brother failed to return home by 9 pm.
"My cousin brother and I tried to call him on his mobile, but there was no response. The phone lines were jammed. We were worried and decided to find out ourselves. At around 10 pm, someone answered his phone and told us that he was admitted at JJ hospital. We were already in the train and immediately rushed to the hospital. We reached there around midnight and found him in the ICCU. His condition was critical. He was bandaged at several places and there were casualties all around us," remembers 26-year-old Jitendra.
Two days later, Bapi was shifted to the general ward where he shared space with several other injured men. Although the hospital authorities were doing the best they could, Jitendra and Bapi's parents who had by then, flown down to Mumbai felt that their son deserved better.
"The wounds were fresh and needed dressing from time to time, but it was difficult to ask for special care given the situation there. Since dada (brother) could not move, we had to fly away flies and other insects from infecting the wound further. Someone had to be by his side all the time," said Jitendra who helped his brother shift to Mangalmay Hospital in Ulhasnagar a week later, where he further underwent surgeries on his ear and back.
Bapi who has difficulty listening from his right ear, leaned forward and backward as we talked.
When Jitendra finishes, Bapi fills in the details showing me some of the injuries which are now dark scars of an unfortunate incident.
"My back was almost burnt. I could not lie on my back for months together. I could not move my arms or my legs. My right hand wrist was disfigured. The flesh under my knees was gone. Shreds of glasses and metal had pierced the skin on my arms and stomach," he said.
Even though Bapi was entitled to monetary compensation of Rs 2 lakh, he has already spent over Rs 6 lakh in surgeries and treatment and continues to take medicines.
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'This accident took away everything I earned'
"My father is a farmer in Singur and I am the eldest of his two sons. I am not educated, so I can't take up a job. With much difficulty I had managed to save some money through the business. But this accident took away everything I earned. My parents and relatives exhausted all their savings to save me. I feel guilty for the debt I owe them," he adds.
Bapi further blames his carelessness for losing the only gold accessory he ever owned because of the accident.
"When I was taken to the operation theatre, someone removed my gold ring and taaveez and placed it in my hand. I have no memory of what happened to it. None of my family members remember seeing it after the accident," he concluded.
After spending two months in Mumbai, Bapi's family decided to take him to his village to help him recover. Bapi who had never travelled luxury class in his lifetime took a first class train to avoid any inconvenience. Although his family and relatives took every little care to revive him from the accident, Bapi is yet to recover from the aftermath.
"I wish I was dead," he says and everyone in the room, including his brother and uncle stand there, unfazed, as if immune to his words.
"This life is no good now. I was dependent on my parents for more than six months. Even now, I can't move my fingers, I can't lift things. I can't walk fast or run to catch a train. I don't know how long the accident will continue to affect my life. Nothing is normal, nothing will ever be. When I go to sleep, the few seconds flash before my eyes and I wake up instantly. I still feel a booming sound inside my ears. I am trying to move on, but I don't feel the same. I feel handicapped because of the debt I owe to my parents and my family. I hope I can put the accident behind and bounce back," he says, looking down, playing with his fingers that only reflect his expression -- deadpan.
Before I stood up to leave, he asks me if I can help him with a railway pass for the handicapped so that he can avoid the crowds in the general bogie.
"I travelled as a handicap only once, and I was told that I can't travel in it without a proper pass. It's a cramped place, you know? Barely 3-4 people can sit there. I pray that no one lives to see such a day," he informs honestly.
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