On the rain-spattered evening of July 11 last year, Mahendra Pitale was on a train from Vile Parle to Borivli. A bomb dismembered the train as it was about to leave Jogeshwari station. Pitale remembers this. “There was an explosion. I remember nothing afterwards.” When he came to at the hospital, he found that his left hand was mangled.
Not many remember Pitale, or the ones like him whose lives changed forever after the 11/7 bombings. Mumbai’s vaunted but unvanquished spirit, much talked about when the trains were back in business the day after the explosions, has not made much difference to the lives of 34-year-old Pitale and those who shared his misfortune.
The bombings killed 187 people and injured 890. Only 164 families of those who died have received full monetary compensation. Among the injured, not many have received all the compensation they are entitled to. While some, like Pitale, have received their compensation, it has not restored their old lives to them.
Pitale used to work as a designer in a glass shop in Vile Parle. He still does. But something died inside the fine arts graduate from Raheja School of Arts: his passion for sculpture and clay modelling.
“My art went when my left hand was amputated,” he said. “I cannot use the tools needed for sculpting and stone carving with my prosthetic limb.”
The prosthetic hand that Pitale has allows him to move it in small arcs. He cannot curl his fingers around a glass. He has had to sell off his motorbike because he cannot grip the handlebars.
He says he needs a myoelectronic prosthetic, the kind that allows the limb as much freedom of movement as the wearer wants.
But one of those costs Rs 4-6 lakh. Pitale got Rs 50,000 from the state and Rs 50,000 from the railways as compensation, money that has long been spent in his long, arduous, partial recovery. A month back, he got Rs 2.4 lakh from the Railway Claim Tribunal (RCT). That is still not good enough.
He is learning to cope, though. He has gone back to painting — it is easier to grasp a brush. He has learnt to ride a scooter — it is not as heavy as the motorbike he had.
And his plan of getting married, derailed after his accident, is back on track. “My parents have once again gone back to their job of finding me a wife,” he said.
He has learnt, in the year that has passed since 7/11, to make do. “My parents and I have learnt to face reality.”