As he lies on a bed in Hinduja Hospital, Parag Sawant’s glazed eyes blink occasionally. But he does not recognise his mother Madhuri. The July 11 blasts on Mumbai’s trains reduced the 27-year-old to a “vegetable”. Parag will be a father in three weeks. He had waited four years to have a baby.
As the hearings of the 1993 blasts drag on and the 11/7 bombings get filed in the archives of public memory, the tragedy of one family is unfolding in this hospital.
Sawant’s family is clutching desperately to the slightest sign of improvement, hoping he will wake up one day and come home. But Dr B.K. Misra, head of the hospital’s neuro-surgery department, says, “His chances are grim.” The depression on the right side of his head and the deep scars on his forehead are the only signs of Parag’s trauma. But he does not register anything around him — his brain function is minimal. “Sometimes, when we hold his hand, he squeezes it,” says Madhuri. “But that is all.”
In Bhayander, his wife Preeti, in her ninth month of pregnancy, is struggling to deal with the trauma. “He was so excited about the baby,” she says, fighting back tears. “Everyone was so excited.” The baby will be the first grandchild in the Sawant family. “We waited four years to have the baby because our families said we were too young to raise a child,” says Preeti.
The fear that Parag may not make it haunts Preeti, his college sweetheart who ran away from home to marry him when she was just 18. That she cannot travel any more to the hospital upsets her even more. The family celebrated Parag’s 27th birthday on August 20 in hospital.
On the day the blasts ripped through Mumbai’s trains, killing around 200 and maiming even more, Sawant was returning home to Bhayander from his office in MIDC, Andheri. A marketing executive with real estate Akruti Nirman Developers, Sawant called Preeti to tell her he was at Andheri Station waiting for a train. Around 7 p.m., she heard about the blast at Khar. “I thought he had escaped.” Then came news of the blast at Borivli, and minutes later another one at Bhayander. “My heart sank. When he did not come home at 7, I knew something was wrong.”
“Fate has been very cruel to us,” says Preeti. That Parag, recently promoted at Akruti, had started travelling first class only 10 days before the blasts is just one of the many ironies in this unfortunate tale.