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A year after Delhi blasts: Light 'n' live

For many of the victims' kin, kids show the way forward this festive season, reports Aasheesh Sharma. Pics

india Updated: Oct 21, 2006 05:26 IST

Her physical scars have healed. The ones on her psyche may take longer. But 12-year-old Diksha Poddar, injured in the pre-Diwali bomb blast at Sarojini Nagar market on October 29 last year, is sure she will be celebrating Diwali this time.

Diksha intends to light diyas and 'at least two anaars', one of them in memory of her seven-year-old brother Karan who was killed in the explosion. Her father, Vinod Poddar, lost a leg.

Diksha remembers Karan every time she spots a burning anaar in full flow. "My brother loved anaars," she says. "When other kids in the neighbourhood were busy exploding crackers, he would tug at my finger and urge me to light an anaar."

But life goes on. And many of the bomb-blast victims of last year find their children showing them the way ahead in this festive season. The Poddars are reeling under mounting medical bills - Vinod's artificial leg alone cost them nearly Rs 1 lakh - but Diksha is the bright spot in their lives. "She shows immense poise for her age," says Vinod. "My wife and I are not celebrating Diwali, but if Diksha wants to light candles and burst firecrackers, we will not stop her."

Ten-year-old Jagruti Ochani has also displayed poise. She spent 18 days in the intensive care unit of Safdarjung Hospital after being badly hurt in the Sarojini Nagar blast. She had serious burns on both her legs. A three-inch long bone of another blast victim lodged in her thigh. Her younger sister, aunt and grandmother, who had been with her, were all killed. Today, it is Jagruti who cheers up her mother Monica whenever Monica misses her other daughter who passed away. "Don't cry mama, I look just like Ishika," she says as she embraces her mother.

Ask Jagruti about her Diwali plans and she says: "I will not celebrate Diwali this year in Ishika's memory."

In another part of the city, 10-month-old Deepak has brought a smile to the faces of Kuldeep Singh and his wife Nigam. "It is his first Diwali. Although he is too young to ask for anything, we will try our best to make it special for him. Sweets, clothes, sparklers - we will get him everything," says Singh, 43.

Last year, while driving a packed Delhi Transport Corporation bus, Singh had found -- just in time -- the bomb that had been placed in it. He ordered all the passengers off the bus, and removed the bomb as well, but it exploded in his face just after he had thrown it away. Singh lost his sight.

Deepak, born two months after the blasts, offers him hope. "The months of recovery were bleak. My best day was when, after many operations, vision was partially restored in one of my eyes," says Singh.

"I could see my son smile and make out the colour of his clothes."
Ahead of Diwali, there is plenty of vigour and hope in the Das household too. Its source is a pocket-sized 10-year-old dynamo called Manisha. The family lost three members in last year's blasts.

Bhagwan Das's son, daughter-in-law and grandson all died. But his granddaughter ensures that Bhagwan Das does not grow bitter.

The vivacious Class IV student keeps exotic birds — cockatoos, lovebirds and Australian parrots - and three Boxer dogs. Her grandfather and she look after them together.

"I will spend Diwali with my pets and my grandparents. Dada has bought me sparklers and firecrackers too. I would love to light a phooljhari," she says.

Apathetic authorities, insensitive surroundings, disability - families affected by the blasts have to cope with a great deal. Their children are showing them how.

Email:aasheesh.sharma@hindustantimes.com