Four-year-old Vijay has questions his family cannot answer. He wants to know why he cannot play with his friend Kishan, whom he has not seen since the Gaffar market blast on September 13.
“How can I tell him that Kishan died in the blast? He does not even know what death is,” says Vijay’s aunt Saroj.
For children like Vijay and six-year-old Sunil, who lost family and friends in Saturday’s blasts, life has literally come to a standstill.
While his mother, grandfather and sister are still admitted at Jessa Ram Hospital, Vijay is too dazed by the developments. “He repeats ‘bomb phutt gaya’ over and over again, and asks for Kishan,” says Saroj.
Others, like five-year-old Simran, cannot comprehend the magnitude of their loss. And it is not what they will remember in the long run but what they will forget that worries their families.
“She is too young to understand that she has lost her father forever. By the time she grows up, she won’t even remember his face,” says Simran’s mother Kalavati.
The shocked children seem to find comfort in familiar surroundings and routines.
Khushi, 5, has taken to what she likes doing most – drawing. After surviving the blast and seeing both her parents injured, Khushi has been drawing cards for her parents and seeking assurance that her world is safe and sound.
“Whenever I am sad or happy, I like to draw. I have drawn cards for mom and dad so that they can get well soon,” says Khushi.
Although Khushi was unusually calm after the blast on Barakhamba Road, she needs constant assurance, says her mother Shweta.
“Till the time the family is together, Khushi is fine, but she worries when she does not see either of us. I keep reassuring her that we are all going to be fine,” says Shweta.
The older children are having a more difficult time getting over the tragedy.
Ram, who carried his bloodied brother to the hospital and lost his father, gets nightmares about Black Saturday.
“The entire scene keeps playing itself out in my mind – from the moment I put my brother in the car to the time I completed his last rites,” says the 14-year-old.
The blast has also matured Ram overnight. “I suddenly feel very grown-up because both the earning members of the family are now gone and I am responsible for my sister-in-law and niece,” says Ram.
Young or old, their scars are here to stay, say doctors. “Children have shorter attention spans and may forget to mention an incident. But it does not mean the scars are not there,” says Dr Aruna Broota, clinical psychologist.
She adds that children have different ways of expressing themselves. “This is a time to watch their words. They will be perfectly normal and suddenly you might find them play-acting the entire blast scene and talking about bombs and terrorists,” Dr Broota says.
With inputs from Karan Choudhury