“When I grow up, I want to become a police officer. I want to stop terrorists from killing innocent people like my papa and mummy.”
Manisha Michael is just 11-year-old but is very clear about what she wants to become when she grows up.
Two years ago, she lost her parents and elder brother in a bomb blast that ripped the Sarojini Nagar Market.
She survived, as on that day she was not accompanying her parents and had decided to stay home with her grandparents.
Two years since the blast killed 50 people in the bustling market, families of the victims are still trying to come to grips with the tragedy.
“Even now she wakes up at night and starts crying. It is very painful for us also. Both my wife and I are old. We spend every moment worrying about Manisha and what will happen to her when we are not there,” said Saleena Das, her grandfather.
An insensitive government machinery has added to the woes of the Das family. “We are yet to receive the compensation for my grandson who went missing in the blast. The authorities have told us that we have to wait for seven years till we can claim the money. Is this fair?” At least if we get the money we can invest it to make Manisha’s future more secure,” said Das.
It’s a similar story for many of the families who lost their loved ones on that fateful day in October 2005.
Kalyani Mukherjee, 71, a resident of Kolkata, lost her elder son, Satyabrata, daughter-in-law Supriya and grandson Sayan in the blast. She is yet to get the compensation due to her. “The police completed their verification long back. We have applied for compensation but are yet to hear anything from the authorities in Delhi. My mother suffered a cerebral attack last year. Just tell me, is it possible for my mother to travel to Delhi in this state of health?” asked Kalyani’s younger son, Navbrata.
Aarti Bisht & Vinod Poddar
However, there are a few like the Bisht’s and the Poddar’s who are trying hard to make peace with the past and move on with their lives.
As she cradles her two-month-old baby boy to sleep, Aarti Bisht looks satisfied. The clothes and toys she purchased for her baby girl almost two years ago are finally being put to use.
She was eight-months pregnant when she, along with her two sisters, went to Sarojini Nagar on Diwali-eve. While she survived the blast, it claimed her baby girl — who was born prematurely.
Infections the baby, who had a hole in the heart, received from Aarti’s burn injuries proved fatal.
“It seems we have got a fresh lease of life after we were blessed with a baby girl two months ago. The baby has filled the void left by the death of my seven-year-old son Karan,” said Vinod Poddar, who himself was critically injured in the blast.
“I lost my son. One of my legs was amputated and my 12-year-old daughter received burns. My wife slipped into depression. We have gone through the worst in the last two years. Now we are slowly trying to rebuild our family,” said Poddar.
At 75, V.S. Murthy was a man fond of life. “He was always trying to help others and that is why he went to Sarojini Nagar Market that day. To buy gifts for someone else,” says his son Sudhir.
Initially, we were told that it was a “small fire”, he says. “I got a call saying there was a fire so we did not really worry. But in a few hours we realised what had happened,” he added.
Three sons and his wife survive Murthy, a Saket resident. “We try and keep our mother busy. As of now, we can safely say that my mother is as close to recovering as we can be after losing a loved one,” adds Murthy’s second son Sridhar.
Murthy’s son had suffered facial injuries. “God has been kind to us. We had a lot of help from everyone which helped us in recovering from the trauma,” said Sudhir.
Two years have passed since half of Indu Bansal’s family was wiped of in the Sarojini Nagar blasts. Her 41-year-old brother Inderjeet Gupta, his wife Prachi and daughter Sonakshi died on the spot and Indu claimed the bodies on the same day from Safdarjang Hospital.
Despite proving her relation to her dead brother, Indu’s claim for compensation was rejected. “The government makes us feel like beggars. My brother’s entire family is dead and the government says that I am not eligible for compensation because I am married. It does not make any sense but to challenge it I would have to go to court and I have no strength left for that,” she said.
According to Indu, the authorities first asked for a ‘No Objection certificate’ for other close relatives. “Once I gave them the NoC, they said they are deliberating on the definition of ‘next to kin’ and if sisters are indeed considered next to kin, I will get that amount,” she added.