Photographs: Facebook Patcy N
It's been over a week since Charu Khandal had her life-changing accident, when an alleged drunk driver rammed into the autorickshaw she was travelling in, which gave severe injuries to her spinal cord.
Charu, who was celebrating the National Award win her team got for the visual effects for Shah Rukh Khan's magnum opus Ra.One on that fateful night March 25, has been in Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital since.
Charu has no sensation below her neck. Her spinal cord is injured, her ribs are broken, she has injuries on the back of her head and several factures all over her body.
On Friday, she is said to have underwent a successful surgery. Her breathing has improved though she is still on the ventilator. Whether she will regain sensation in her body remains to be seen in the next few weeks.
'The Sunday she met with an accident, she wanted to go for a boat ride'
Mauli Singh has known Charu for the past two-and-half-years, since they shared a flat in Seven Bungalows, in Andheri West.
According to Mauli, Charu is a lively, adventurous girl, full of life and zest. She is very artistic. She loves to paint, makes lamps and beautiful bags.
"Charu likes to travel and explore new places. She was always ready to go somewhere. She is not someone who can sit at home; every weekend she needs to make plans to go out. She would go on long drives and explore new getaways around Mumbai," says Mauli.
In fact, the Sunday she met with an accident, she wanted to go for a boat ride. Charu, her fiance Sagar Thackar, her sister Ritu, and Vikrant Goyal, were a foursome and would often go out together. In fact, Ritu and Goyal were with Charu in the autorickshaw when they had the accident, and were injured as well.
Charu's family is very close-knit, says Mauli. "They are very loving. It is a model Indian family, where all of them look after each other, it is a fun family, a very spirited family."
'Charu winked at her friends and said I will be out very soon'
The day of the accident Charu had called Mauli and invited her to the party she was attending, but Mauli had other commitments. "After the party she wanted to go to Colaba so she texted me. She is full of energy. She never gets tired. I was really busy, so I said no to her. She spoke to me just an hour before the accident," says Mauli.
She heard of the accident after getting several missed calls from common friends. "There were so many missed calls so I called them back and came to know Charu had met with the accident. I reached the hospital probably 15 minutes after she did."
Mauli has been to meet Charu, "I don't allow her to speak; I spoke to her. She listened and smiled when I told her she would be well soon and she is a rockstar and we all are with her. She made a sound like 'yoohoo!'
"She is a very spirited girl. To be lying there in that condition and to be able to smile, have that hope and courage in her eyes... Some of her friends went to meet her in the hospital she winked at them and said I will be out very soon, we will party again."
Seeing her shaved head, Charu told her friends that now she looks like Britney Spears! "She still has that sense of humour which gave courage to everyone. She also told us to water her plants," says Mauli. She gets her mother to rub her nose to reassure herself that she still has a body.
'Sagar and Charu complement each other, they are a fun-loving couple'
Charu was to get married to her fiance Sagar Thackar later this year. "They are equally adventurous; they complement each other, they are a fun-loving couple," Mauli says. Their official engagement was to be held this month.
Though she is Rajasthani and he is Gujarati, their parents did not raise any objection to their marriage. Sagar's parents have come down to Mumbai from Ahmedabad to be with the youngsters at this time.
"Sagar is like a pillar right now. He is taking care of her parents. He is even taking care of Vikrant Goyal's parents. Vikrant's parents were staying at my house till Friday but now they have shifted," Mauli says.
Vikrant has been badly injured as well. He underwent a seven-hour operation earlier, and had another one on Saturday. The sensation has started returning in his legs and he can now lift them.
'Charu doesn't know anything about her critical condition'
Mauli has made a page on Facebook called Justice for Charu and Vikrant,' as the accident victims as obviously not gotten it yet. The driver whose car rammed into their autorickshaw Manoj Gautam was let off on a bail of Rs 5,000. The police have also not released his blood test reports, showing his alcohol levels.
"Charu's parents are very busy at the hospital. Friends are following up (on the case). The police did not file an FIR immediately. Only after I went to the police station and told them I am from Mid-Day did they get into action," Mauli says.
"He (Manoj Gautam) was allowed to take his car away the next day. We were not allowed to see the papers of his car. We don't know who he is and where he stays," she adds.
The family has had no time to get a lawyer. Mauli is also trying to arrange funds, as the hospital bills are steadily rising. So far, the costs have mounted to Rs 4,50,000, which Charu's father -- a lecturer in Jaipur -- has paid.
"Shah Rukh has said he will help financially but the money hasn't come yet. I hope he will," Mauli says.
Though Charu has been shifted from Critical ICU to ICU, she still has a long way to go.
"Charu doesn't know anything about her critical condition but she is a very positive person," Mauli says and that is a big point in her favour.