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Unusual sculptor of 'terror'

After putting in 105 hours, Bapat prepares a clay model of what could be the face of 11/7, reports Anjali Doshi.

india Updated: Aug 19, 2006 01:58 IST

In a small, dusty room of Sion Hospital’s anatomy department lies a freshly made clay model—of what could be the face of 11/7.

Its creator — a bearded, bespectacled, middle-aged man in a khadi kurta pyjama — stands nearby, looking somewhat uncertain.

It’s tough to imagine Dattatray Bapat as the man who has probably just given investigators their biggest break yet in the probe of the serial bombings.

Bapat, 50, talks very little — in part because he can hear very little — and refuses to be photographed.

His quiet, unassuming manner masks real courage — it takes a rare nerve to be able to stare for hours at a disembodied face that’s been rotting for five weeks, trying to imagine what it would have looked like just before the bomb went off.

Two eyes, nose and a few tufts of hair held together by a scrap of scorched skin — that’s all Bapat had to fashion his block of clay. Plus, some pictures of the victim’s face, digitally constructed at Chandigarh’s central forensic science lab.

“The left side of the face was less distorted than the right,” says Dr Harish Pathak of the forensic medicine department.

“He shaped the right side by taking measurements and tissue markers from the left.” The eyes, nose and mouth were sculpted similarly. The back of the skull proved difficult — there was nothing left to work with.

“It’s the first time I’ve made a model for forensic purposes,” says Bapat softly. He put 15 days into it, seven hours every day. And is he traumatised by the experience? “It had to be done, so I did it,” he shrugs.

The bust, wrapped in plastic, will stay at the hospital till the police take it away. “The ‘body’ is decomposing fast; the model, and the digital images, will help investigators,” says Pathak.

Wax models allow the artist to add skin tone, eye colour and hair, unlike clay models. “This is the best I could do with the resources available,” Bapat says.

If his model can lead to the men who bombed our city, Bapat can still consider it a job well done.