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29/10 hero wants to drive again

Kuldip Singh faces an uphill battle to reclaim his life after Delhi blasts. Tell us about your trauma | On blasts' trail

india Updated: Jan 04, 2006 14:04 IST

He became a national hero when he saved dozens of lives in an instant when a series of bombs rocked New Delhi a month ago, but as he lies in hospital, Kuldip Singh just wants to drive buses again.

Blind and partially deaf, and still writhing in pain, Singh faces an uphill battle to reclaim his life.

At least 66 people were killed by the explosions, two of which ripped through weekend markets buzzing with festival shoppers. The third was planted in Singh's bus, but the driver's quick thinking prevented a worse tragedy.

On October 29, Singh, 28, was on his last run, driving a bus packed with at least 80 people and loaded with nine gas cylinders, when a passenger from the back shouted: "Bomb, there's a bomb on the bus!"

"I immediately pulled over and asked everyone to get off," Singh said from his hospital bed.

"Within seconds the bus was empty. Then I saw a small box -- like the one a cable guy carries. It had three wires -- red, blue and green -- and a timer.

"First I thought I should take off the red wire like they do in films, but decided against it," he said.

"I took the box out of the bus and placed it on the side. I turned and then I don't remember what happened."

Just as Singh was backing away, the bomb exploded. Both his eyes and ears were badly damaged and his right arm was severely injured. He can faintly hear from one ear but, despite an operation, he can scarcely use his eyes at all.

"Can you see me?" his uncle asked, standing barely inches from him.

Singh only swayed his head. "I can only see a shadow."

Rewards and compensation have poured in for Singh, but for the low-paid driver they mean nothing.

"I want my eyes back. I want to drive my bus again," he said.

Bombers on the loose

The Delhi Police, which formed a special team to track the bombers, have so far arrested three people, including one from Srinagar who, they claim, was the main coordinator and facilitator.

But they say the bombers are probably still at large.

"We are not worried but we are definitely concerned," said Anita Roy, a senior Delhi Police officer who was at the site of the first blast within minutes.

At least 200 people were injured in the blasts. Many bodies were charred beyond recognition, and several relatives fought over remains which could only be identified by DNA tests.

The government told parliament on Tuesday that at least 10 people were still missing and media reports said three mutilated bodies were lying in a hospital morgue, awaiting claimants.

In South Delhi's sprawling and cluttered Sarojini Nagar market, where 43 people were killed, life has returned to normal.

The shoppers are back, the beggars are back and so are the street dogs lazing around on the pavements.

"Why should life stop?" asked Damyanti Suri, a 60-year-old housewife. "They can even plant bombs in our homes. How can we stop them? If we get scared, how will life go on?"

At the Shyam Juice shop, where one of the blasts took place, a TV crew was filming around the small bomb crater.

Eager customers thronged the shop, buying fresh juice and local snacks.

"Bodies were falling from 20 feet in the sky," said a worker at the shop who witnessed the blast.

"I was saved as I was behind the shop. One body landed right next to me," he added. "Why should I leave this place? No one can move me from here."

First Published: Nov 30, 2005 11:22 IST