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7/11 victim: 'I want to get on with life'

Krishnakumar P | July 11, 2008 17:56 IST

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The July 11 blasts left 187 people dead. It also left more than 1000 people injured. Outside of those suffered minor injuries, lot of people lost their hearing and many lost a limb.

Here we look at a policeman who lost his hearing and how he has taken on life's challenge head-on and ploughed ahead.

Police constable Santosh Khandvilkar, 28, took the 17:37 Churchgate-Virar fast local on July 11, 2006. He was attached to the Worli police station and he was taking the train back home like everyday.

"The train was pulling into Borivali station. Two more seconds and it would have come to a halt. If the train had pulled into the station five seconds earlier than it did, a lot of people would have lived," he said, sitting at his Kandivali home.

7/11 Mumbai blasts: Two years on 

It has been two years since the blast. Khandvilkar suffered major hearing loss in the incident. It took him 45 days to get back to work. And his hearing impairment has meant that he is restricted to mostly deskwork. But Khandvilkar has not given up. He is preparing for the State Police Commission exam, which if he passes will make him a sub-inspector. He speaks about life in the two years after the blasts.

I was standing next the exit of the first class compartment and the train was getting into the station, I heard a explosive noise. As the train had slowed down considerably, I got off the train and went out, thinking the pantograph had gone off, causing the noise.

As I stepped out of the station, a passersby pointed to my hand, saying it was bleeding. Even then I didn't realise it was a blast. But even after I reached home, the ringing sound in my ears did not stop.

I switched on the TV and saw that there had been blasts. I immediately went to the nearest police station and asked if I could help. But they asked me to go a hospital immediately and get a check up done. So I went to a nearby hospital and they figured there could be permanent damage to my hearing. They asked me to go to the Nagpada police hospital. I went there and did not return for 40 days. I was under observation and recovered partial hearing.

I joined duty straightaway. Only after I left the confines of the hospital did I realise the kind of problems I would have to face in real life.

One of my first assignments after I joined work was <I>bandobast</I> duty for a religious festival. I did not last long. The noise from the loudspeaker first caused unbearable pain in the ear and then my head started spinning. I went to the doctors and they said it will happen if I expose myself to loud noise. So, that ruled out field duty.

Some days later I had caught a couple of petty criminals and had bought them to interrogation. I sat them down next to each other and was questioning them. They were whispering to each other. I could make out they were speaking to each other but not what they were saying. There has never been a time when I felt so powerless despite being in uniform. I was then moved to a desk job. From then on I have never been part of a detection or interrogation team. These two were something I was considered to be good at.

Another problem I faced -- this is one thing I have been facing for all the two years -- was the way people were treating me. I feel people treat me like I am some lower person ever since I lost my hearing. For some it is pity, for some it is just concern. I am sure nobody wants to hurt. That they do not think I am normal inevitably shows in the way they communicate and also in their behaviour. I am sure nobody means any wrong but it hurts.

I consulted so many doctors but they all ruled out surgery saying, though I may get my hearing back, I would face lifelong pain in the ear and other complications. Also, they could not guarantee that the surgery will be successful.

It was during this low phase in my life that the announcement for the sub-inspector grade exam came up. I decided to take it up. If know that even if I pass this exam I will be restricted to station work. But I want to be prepared and ready to get on with life if and when I get my hearing back.

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