If proof was needed that terrorism spares no religion, it lies in the women’s ward of JJ Hospital.
Here, side by side, lie three women — a Hindu, a Christian and a Muslim — all injured on November 26, when terrorists invaded Mumbai and went on a murderous rampage.
Anamika Gupta, 26, was at Café Leopold; Betty Alphonso, 50, at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus; and Sabira Khan (40) at Mazgaon. The first two were shot by the marauding terrorists, while Khan was injured by a bomb that went off in a taxi.
The only three people left in the women’s ward, despite their drastically different backgrounds, they have bonded over the past fortnight sharing their experiences of terror and fear, talking about the wonder of having survived, the pain of having to survive.
“All three of us pray for each other’s speedy recovery in three different ways,” said Gupta, a beautician, with a grin as Khan pats her on the head. “Bhagwan, Allah, God – one of them will surely listen.”
Despite three bullet wounds in her stomach, Gupta is bubbly and talkative. A resident of Colaba, she was at Leopold Café with her three friends, sitting at a table right next to the one occupied by one of the terrorists. They were admiring his comely looks, when he rose and unloaded his machine gun.
Alphonso, a tour guide of sorts, was caught in the mayhem at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus and a bullet hit her right leg. “We have only politicians to blame,” said Alphonso, who lives in the Victorian building. “All of us are sensible enough not to link the attack with any religion. We all are grief-stricken, when we share our experiences with each other, while they are resting in their air-conditioned homes.”
Alphonso grew up in an orphanage, and got married, but was later abandoned by her husband. Since February, she has lived at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. She had moved there from Churchgate after someone told her the Terminus was safer. “I wish I had not listened to him,” she said.
Khan, a teacher, was injured by a bomb that exploded in a taxi at Mazgaon. Her head and left leg were worst affected. “I am hoping I do not end up handicapped,” she said. “My left leg is not responding. I have four school-going children.” They must now rebuild their lives, slowly, bravely.
Gupta has something concrete to look forward to. “It’s my brother’s wedding in Benaras tomorrow,” she said. “I was suppose to leave for it on December 7. He is my only brother. I had bought the most expensive dress in my life, a designer saree, for the occasion with matching sandals and a purse. Now, I cannot move out of the hospital for at least a month.”
But she ensured that he did not cancel the wedding on her account. “The bride would have felt bad,” said Gupta, adding on a lighter note, “If I had followed Raj Thackeray’s advice and gone back to UP, my home state, I would have attended my brother’s wedding in one piece.”