On the afternoon of December 27, Sharmila Rai fought hard to save her bag that contained a mobile phone, plastic money and a few thousand rupees in cash from snatchers on Moolchand flyover. Over a month later, the 39-year-old beautician battles to get back her ability to speak.
The arrest of the three snatchers earlier this week responsible for Sharmila’s injuries has made little difference to her life as she remains restricted to a bed in her rented home in South Delhi’s Sadiq Nagar. Her family has exhausted all their savings and is in debt. When Sharmila’s husband, Rakesh, last checked, the family had already spent Rs 10 lakh for her treatment.
They continue to fight the tough battle using the money pooled in by her clients at the beauty parlour she worked at and some charitable discounts at the Institute of Brain and Spine in south Delhi’s Lajpat Nagar where she is being treated.
“The goodwill she generated at work led to 10-12 of her clients pooling in Rs 3 lakh for her after they learnt of our situation. Even the hospital has given us discounts over Rs 1 lakh,” says Rakesh as Sharmila breaks down in tears next to him. “She can’t speak anything but she understands everything,” Rakesh says.
Wife to a chef at India International Centre, Sharmila was travelling to Connaught Place in an auto on December 27 when the three bike-borne men rode parallel to her for a while before attempting to snatch her bag.
An alert Sharmila pulled back her red bag, forcing the pillion rider on the motorcycle to make a second attempt. A tug of war ensued, resulting in the woman falling off the running auto-rickshaw. The snatchers who were tripling and not wearing helmets made away with her bag as she lay unconscious on the road.
Blood clot in her brain meant she spent nine days in the intensive care unit (ICU) of the hospital as Rakesh struggled to arrange the cash needed for her surgery. “I withdrew all my savings of Rs 4 lakh and took a loan of Rs 3 lakh. Sharmila’s customers arranged another Rs 3 lakh,” says Rakesh.
Since the woman is immobile and has to make weekly visits to hospital, the family is forced to rent another flat on the ground floor of the building they live in. He has not returned to work since the incident and Sharmila has been out of job. They are clueless about how they would arrange the money for their two young daughters’ schooling.
But what really worries Rakesh is that Sharmila has not been able to speak after the incident. “She struggles to utter a word because of her brain injury. Doctors have assured me her condition will improve in a few months,” Rakesh says.