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Scarred by the blasts: Tale of two wives

Last updated on: July 15, 2011 08:17 IST

'When I called on my husband's phone, a policeman answered'

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Vaihayasi Pande Daniel in Mumbai

When Rinku Vishwakarma first saw the startling news of the July 13 triple blasts in Mumbai on television at about 7 in the evening at her home in Sion-Koliwada, a central suburb in the city, she was seized with sudden fear.

Especially, when she heard that one of the blasts had been at Dadar, near Kabutarkhana, where a string of hardware shops are located.

"I knew my husband (Mankeshwar) had gone there to buy ply (wood). He had called and said he was going to Dadar. He makes furniture. He does not have a workshop but works onsite. He was working near CST (Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in south Mumbai) on a construction job for a hotel. But he had come to Dadar to get samaan (material)."

She recalls miserably, "When I called his phone, a policeman answered. He said he had his (Mankeshwar's) purse and phone. He told me to come to KEM hospital."

Rinku has been sitting outside the second floor neurology ICU at the King Edward Memorial hospital off and on since Wednesday evening after an unconscious Mankeshwar was brought in with a gaping head injury. Her one-year-old daughter Soni is at home and is being looked after by the neighbours. "I was crying too much so I could not keep her with me here."

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Image: Rinku Vishwakarma outside the neurology ICU at KEM hospital, Mumbai
Photographs: Satish Bodas/Rediff.com
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'We are all there for her. We will manage something'

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The young woman, who has been alternating between despair and faith, was on Thursday afternoon feeling considerably calmer. She was able to see Mankeshwar, who was still unconscious. But she feels he is much better today. She is full of hope, and says as much with a smile.

The doctors spoke to her, she says, and she and her family are happy with the care they have received at the government hospital. Rinku sits on a bed-sheet on the slippery ground and is surrounded by some of her neighbours from Sion-Koliwada as well as a few relatives. "My mausi's bahu is here with me. And my neighbours."

But most of her relatives and inlaws are back in the village. She has already called them and informed them of Mankeshwar's precarious condition. Rinku has only been living in Mumbai for the past two years. Her family -- they are Sharmas by jaat (caste), she says -- hails from the tiny village of Siswa Pandey in Deoria district in eastern Uttar Pradesh, not that far from Gorakhpur where they do kheti (farming).

The doctors at KEM attending on Mankeshwar are very cautious while commenting on his progress. They only offer that he is stable and that it is good that he pulled through the long night.

Twenty-four hours after the blast, Mankeshwar is still tussling with a serious brain injury and is far from out of the woods yet.

Nor does the future bear looking at, and the Vishwakarmas are not even contemplating it. As the sole bread-winner of his family, what will happen if Mankeshwar is not able to go back to work for a time or longer? Will they need financial support? Say the kinsmen sitting around Rinku supporting her, "We are all there for her. We will manage something."

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Image: Rinku says she and her family are happy with the care they have received at KEM hospital
Photographs: Satish Bodas/Rediff.com
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'He moved his hand to assure me he was okay'

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Just one floor at KEM -- and fate -- separates Rinku and another anxious Mumbai wife, Pallavi.

Pallavi's husband was also picked up, severely wounded, from the wreckage of the Kabutarkhana blast site at Dadar and rushed to KEM hospital 24 hours earlier.

Pallavi and Shirish Kandalgaonkar (whose name was misspelled on the initial KEM casualty lists) live near Kirti College in Dadar. A jeweler (karigar), Shirish crafts gold jewellery and works from home.

"He was in that area to either deliver or get some work. He was on foot and was probably coming from there (from where he had gone for work). It was he who called me. He said aise aise hua hai and mujhe laga hai (this all has happened and I have been hurt). He called at about 7 pm. He said: They have taken me to KEM so come here.

"And I came directly here. We reached at about 7.45. I was taken to see him immediately. He was conscious, but not totally so and his treatment was underway. He had glass injuries on his arms and chest. There was blood everywhere. He had a few injuries on his face, too. He made a movement with his hand to assure me that he was okay and that I should not worry."

The Kandalgaonkars, who hail from the village of Kankoli on the Konkan coast, have two daughters. Mrinal, who studies in class nine, and Nidhi, class five, are doing vigil for their father at home. Says Pallavi, "I have told my daughters that he is injured. They did get scared but I made them understand that he is better. They want to come here to see him. But I have told them that young children are not allowed here."

Like her husband, who actually called from the accident site to inform his family that he was hurt, Pallavi is calm and collected. "He had an operation yesterday because either a piece of stone or glass hit his liver. I saw him again this morning at about 8.30 or 9. He says he is hurting all over quite a bit. He has not yet told me how it happened and all those details. He is having difficulty speaking. He says his ears are hurting. And he feels something has gone in his eyes."

Pallavi is very positive. "The doctors are saying that it is not a matter of tension and that he is doing fine."


Image: Pallavi Kandalgaonkar's husband Shirish, was severely wounded in the Kabutarkhana blast at Dadar
Photographs: Satish Bodas/Rediff.com
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