In the Nehru Nagar chawls in Lower Parel, the decision of the Supreme Court rejecting a plea seeking euthanasia for Aruna Shanbaug is still being discussed. This is where Shanta Nayak, the elder sister of Shanbaug, resides.
Shanbaug, a nurse who has been lying in a vegetative state for the last 37 years in KEM Hospital after she was sexually assaulted by a ward boy, lived with her sister at the chawl for a month before the incident in November 1973.
“Had Pinki Virani (who filed the petition in the SC) asked for my opinion even once before filing the petition, I would have told her that I don’t support it at all. I did not get the opportunity to spend too much time with Aruna in my life but she is my sister after all,” said Shanta Nayak, 75. Nayak, who walks with great difficulty. She added that though she does not want to go meet Aruna, she definitely wants her to live.
Shanbaug was only a-year-old when Nayak came to Mumbai from Haldipur in Karnataka. “I never got the opportunity to bond with my sister since she was very young when I got married and came to Mumbai,” said Nayak. Nayak raised her three daughters and a son by delivering milk bottles to homes in BDD chawl and Nehru Nagar chawls. Her husband used to sell cold drinks at a shop, which was later sold owing to a family feud.
“My eldest brother brought Aruna to Mumbai after she became a nurse. That’s when she joined KEM Hospital,” said Nayak. She added that Shanbaug did not tell her directly about her finace Dr Sandeep Sardesai or her decision to get married to him. “Our eldest brother came and told me that she wanted to get married to the doctor,” said Nayak.
After the attack on Shanbaug, Nayak and her family would visit Shanbaug in KEM Hospital whenever they could.
“The hospital authorities started pressurising me to take Aruna home but I was not in a position to afford to take care of her. I asked the dean to give me a room in the BMC quarters in Worli, a nurse and a doctor and the money to pay for them if I had to take care of Shanbaug. The dean never replied,” she added.
“At the time when the hospital asked me to take Aruna home, my husband fell ill and was bedridden. My children got married and this is when I stopped going to meet Aruna,” said Nayak.