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And Monika More begins her new journey...

Last updated on: May 22, 2014 12:47 IST

Image: Monika More, with her new hands
Ronjita Kulkarni/ in Mumbai

'In the days after the accident, Monika would be very quiet and keep to herself. Every time a relative met her, she would break down. But now, she has started talking a lot more. She even laughs.'

Monika More, who lost her arms in a tragic train accident, starts rebuilding her life. Ronjita Kulkarni/ meets the courageous teenager.


She looks down on the letters, and gives out a small smile. Then, she glances over at her mother and cousin, both looking quite emotional.

It's the first word that she has written in four months and eight days.

And this, only on the second day since she tried out her new prosthetic arms.

Monika More, all of 16, slipped under a local train in Ghatkopar station, thanks to a gap on the platform, on January 11 and lost both her arms.

Since then, life has been a series of wins and losses, extreme highs and even deeper lows.

A German-based artificial limb and fitting company called Ottobock has gifted Monika two sets of prosthetic arms -- one functional and the other cosmetic -- for a warrantee period of five years.

The functional set includes an electric wrist rotator and has batteries. The arms are fitted with sensors that will receive signals when Monika uses certain forearm muscles, and this will allow her to control and use her prosthetic arms.

The cosmetic set is water-resistant, as it does not come with batteries.

Monika's prayers may have been answered, but not without a dear price.


And Monika More begins her new journey...

Image: Monika's first written word with her new hand.
Ronjita Kulkarni/

The functional limbs, which cost Rs 22 lakh (Rs 2.2 million) and weigh about 800 grams each, are quite heavy for this frail girl of 35 kilos. And right now, they are painful too.

As the Chembur, north-east Mumbai, clinic's manager Jermin Chauhan teaches her cousin Vishwesh to help her wear the arm, Monika winces in pain. It becomes an ordeal for those in the room to watch Monika put on her brave face, and not shed a tear -- even though she comes close to it several times -- as the first hand is put on.

It is so painful that Vishwesh cannot bear to put on her second hand and her mother takes over.

"The stumps haven't healed completely," Chauhan explains later. "They don't have much muscle. It is grafted tissue. Also, she has developed boils on her left stump."

Monika painstakingly practices with her hands, holding objects and putting them down, and, of course, writing -- routine activities she took for granted before the accident.

As her mother Kavita watches her write, she says softly, "Her handwriting was so good."


And Monika More begins her new journey...

Image: Monika practices with her new hands.
Ronjita Kulkarni/

"I don't like milk, but I have to have it every evening," Monika says, smiling her shy smile.

Monika barely eats anything, complains her mother. For instance, lunch for the young girl was some cabbage and one chapatti.

Mangoes are Monika's favourite, and one of the few things that she eats without complaint.

Occasionally, Monika is treated to her favourite cuisine -- Chinese -- and even sev puri.

Even though she is anxious to leave the hospital, Monika tries to entertain herself through the day -- which begins as early as 6:30 am.

After an early bath and breakfast, Monika spends a lot of time with her new friend Pinky, a young patient, who cannot walk without support. Pinky has been in the hospital for the last six months, and the two girls have become close friends.

They roam around the ward, chat and watch the latest movies on Monika's laptop.

And then, there are the visitors.

There are a steady stream of visitors -- family, friends, strangers and similar accident victims, who share their life stories with her.

A yellow chart hangs over her bed, presented by her friends, which speaks of their affection for her, saying they miss her and want her back. There is a greeting card too, and there are "many more" at home, Monika smiles.

"I didn't get sleep for the first two months," Monika says. 'I could sleep only with medication. But now, I am used to the hospital, and can sleep."

"Her parents would cry nonstop in the beginning. But she never did. She is very strong," says Monika's mausi Sangeeta proudly.


And Monika More begins her new journey...

Image: Nasim and Amjad Chaudhary with Kartik, Monika's younger brother.
Photographs: Reuben NV/ Ronjita Kulkarni/

Among the visitors are brothers Nasim, 25, and Amjad Chaudhary, 24, who had rescued Monika from the accident site.

On the fateful day, the brothers were on their way back from Jhunjhunwala college in Ghatkopar, north-east Mumbai, where Amjad studies.

Nasim, who works with DHL Logistics, had gone to the college to inquire about further studies -- he was looking to do a Master's degree in Arts.

"The train moved from the platform, and then stopped. I got off to find out what was wrong, when I saw a big crowd," Nasim says. "I saw a young girl fallen on the tracks, but no one was helping her."

When Nasim started to help Monika, another man helped him. Nasim's brother Amjad took her belongings.

The brothers took her to the Rajawadi hospital in Ghatkopar, where she was rushed to the ICU.

Nasim then called her father Ashok More about the accident. He arrived as soon as he could.

"A year-and-a-half ago, I was on my bike, when I saw a crowd on the road. I learnt that a child had been crushed by a BEST bus. The father of the child was taking him to a hospital in an autorickshaw," remembers Nasim.

"I offered to take them on my bike, as that would be faster. But when we reached (the hospital), the child was already dead. I had felt really bad then."

"When this accident happened, and I was able to save her, I felt like I got redemption," adds Nasim.

Nasim does not usually take the train; he travels by his motorcycle.

"That day, my father needed the bike, so I took the train. It is as if I was destined to save the girl."


And Monika More begins her new journey...

Image: Vishwesh with his cousin Monika.
Ronjita Kulkarni/

Monika's cousin Vishwesh has become her hands since the accident. From draping her with a stoll, to helping her drink water and wiping her mouth after that, Vishwesh takes care of everything.

He chats with Monika's friends on her phone -- as she dictates -- helping her keep up with her busy teenage life.

Vishwesh was in Pune, where he lives, when he heard of Monika's accident. He rushed to Mumbai the very next day, and has been here since.

He quit his job so that he could stay close.

"I'm the one closest to her," he says. His family would come down to Mumbai for the summer vacation every year, and during the Ganpati holidays.

"Monika was very naughty, a mastikhore," he laughs.

That has changed after the accident.

"In those days (after the accident), Monika would be very quiet and keep to herself. Every time a relative met her, she would break down. Now, she has started talking a lot more. She even laughs," he says.

Vishwesh does everything he can to make her laugh. "I even dance around a bit," he chuckles.

He leaves home for the hospital at 1 pm every day, and come back by 10 pm. He admits he gets tired, but adds quickly that he doesn't mind.

Vishwesh will turn 25 on May 25.

"I won't celebrate my birthday," he says.


And Monika More begins her new journey...

Image: Monika More, before the accident.
Ronjita Kulkarni/

Sangeeta is Monika's mother's younger sister. She spends every night in Monika's room. Her husband and Monika's father sleep in the corridor outside.

"In the mornings, the view is terrific," says Sangeeta, pointing to the sunny window in their room on the hospital's sixth floor, which offers an expansive view of Mumbai.

Monika's mother Kavita used to spend day and night with her young daughter for the first two-and-a- half months, but she fell ill and was asked to go home.

Home, which Monika misses a lot.

"But I miss college the most," Monika says. "Just when my college life started, this (accident) happened. I do get scared of what to expect (when I leave the hospital and resume my life) but for now, I am not thinking about it."

What Monika is thinking about, and even planning, are her exams in June.

She hasn't started studying yet, but promises to do so as soon as she goes home. Discharge, she says, should be in 20, 25 days.

Monika explains she will get a writer (someone to take down her answers) for the exams, and the results will be out "fataak se (in a jiffy)." She expects to be back in college in July.

"But I will never take the train again," she says solemnly. "From now on, I will take the bus."