The chirping of 11 parrots and parakeets, of different hues, brings a smile to 14-year-old Manisha Michael’s face. The three birdcages, which take up a large part of Manisha’s small room, keep her busy and help her conquer grief.
Manisha was much younger when she lost both her parents and elder brother in the blast that rocked Sarojini Nagar market on Diwali eve, October 29, 2005. She has inherited the love for pets from her father, who would bring home injured mongrels and nurse and feed them.
Her grandmother Saleena Das (60), however, still finds it difficult to come to terms with her loss. Her son Michael’s body couldn’t be found after the blast and daughter-in-law Sunita succumbed to her injuries later. Her grandson Elwin died at the spot. “They were all nice, beautiful people who liked to live life to its fullest,” she said. “I had a son any mother would be proud of and it is hard to accept his body was blown into so many pieces that it could not be found.”
Each time they learn about another blast in any part of the country, their wounds reopen. “I know how it feels to lose your loved ones in such a tragedy. When I see people wailing after a blast, it gets difficult for my own scars to heal,” she said.
Saleena and her husband Bhagwan Dass (63) try not to talk about the tragedy in front of Manisha. “We have to be strong because there is no one else to take care of her,” she said.
Hair tightly wound up, her gentle face radiating a beatific smile most of the time, Manisha tries to remain stoic and looks away, fighting back tears, when her grandmother talks about her parents. “I want to be an IPS officer when I grow up and fight terrorists,” she says.
Unlikely heroes sometimes emerge from terror plots. Like Kuldeep Singh (39).
Sometime after the Sarojini Nagar explosion, Singh, who was driving a DTC bus near Govindpuri in south Delhi, spotted an unclaimed bag in the bus and picked it up to throw it outside. His courage saved more than 50 lives but crippled him for life.
“When I heard about the blast outside Delhi High Court, it brought back the nightmares,” he said.
“So many blasts have taken place in the last six years but nothing changes,” says Kuldeep’s wife Nigam. “Soon, everyone will forget about the High Court blasts, too, except for the token remembrances every year,” she said.
“Many dignitaries came to meet me after the blast but it seems everyone has forgotten about me now,” Kuldeep said.
What, however, rattles Nigam more, is the fact that not one of the 50 people that her husband had saved visited them to just say thanks.