Rajendra Bhopte, 32, was sipping tea in one of the bylanes of Zaveri Bazaar when he heard an explosion. As he rushed to the source of the sound, he saw smoke, dust, and mangled bodies.
Instead of panicking, Bhopte, however, snapped into action. For this is the third blast he was experiencing, all in the same locality.
Bhopte, who works at a jewellery shop, has been working in Zaveri Bazaar since 1990. The blast in 1993 was his first encounter with terror.
“That time, I was very shaken. It was the first time I saw dead bodies and injured people,” he said. In 2003, when a blast rocked the area again, he was not as shaken. “I climbed trees to pick up bodies and body parts,” he said.
On Wednesday, Bhopte knew exactly what to do. Spotting a handcart nearby, he began piling the injured and the dead on it. He then loaded them on to a tempo, which left for GT Hospital.
“Whenever a blast occurs, people start by saying it’s a cylinder burst. But I never fall for that. In our heart of hearts, we know it’s a terror attack.”
Mustafa, 52, who owns a business of supplying automobile parts, lives on the street next to where the blast took place. He was offering his evening prayers when heard the explosion.
“There were a lot of injured people lying there. I knew I had to help. I picked up one injured man, made him sit behind me on my scooter, asked another person to sit and hold him from the back. We rushed him to GT hospital,” he said.
“I got him admitted but I don’t know how he is now,” he added.
Asif Zaveri, 38, owner of a jewellery shop on the same street of the blast, said he got scared out of his wits when he heard the explosion.
“I feared it was a blast, hid under my table and instructed my cashier and salesman to do the same,” said Zaveri. “After a few minutes, I peeped out of my shop and that’s when the second explosion happened. I went back in and stayed there for 15 to 20 minutes. I just want to get home safely.”
Salim, 17, who lives on the same street where the blast took place, said he simply assumed an LPG cylinder had blown up as there are a lot of eateries on the roadside.
“I never thought it was a terrorist attack,” he said. When he saw a lot of commotion and smoke from his window, he realised what had happened. “I wanted to help people but my parents did not let me go. But my older brother went down and helped,” added Salim.