‘The sentences mean nothing’
“The blasts were like a second Partition for me,” says the Prabhadevi resident who came to India from Karachi with her husband in 1948. “We lost our home, money and jewellery to Partition. To the blasts, we lost everything once again. All we had left was the charred shell of our house.”
Malkani Mahal, where Mirchandani lives, was severely damaged. Part of a wall collapsed on Mirchandani and her neighbour Ram Advani. While she survived, Advani wasn’t so lucky.
But that wasn’t the end of Mirchandani’s travails. The house, the front blown away, was open for days and drug addicts and robbers stole everything in it. “They didn’t even leave the cushions. Anything that could be sold was stolen,” says Mirchandani.
She remembers the day well. “It was lunch time and my granddaughter Deepika had come home from school. She was eating and I was about to get myself some food when there was a deafening sound. The next thing I knew I was lying on the floor with glass shards all over my body,” she recalls with a shudder. “Seconds later, the wall fell on me.”
On Friday, Judge Pramod Kode will start pronouncing the sentences of those found guilty of carrying out the blasts. But Mirchandani doesn’t care. “The damage has been done,” she says. “No punishment makes sense now.”
A similar despondency has become the defining characteristic of 39-year-old Naresh Gidwani’s life. The blast at the Bombay Stock Exchange took away the eyesight of the then 25-year-old. “Set the accused free. They will suffer eventually,” he says. “The sentences will make no difference to the lives of those who suffered,” adds the Khar resident. “I have lost interest in the law. We are not convicts, but we have faced punishment too.”
Resting on a cushioned chair, Gidwani struggles with the remote control of the air-conditioner in his office, a service centre for electronics. “One moment I was fine; a split second later, my life had changed forever. The blast split my head, tore away my lower lip. I thought I would die,” recalls Gidwani, who has had to undergo 13 major surgeries of the body and 11 of the eye, including three transplants.
Gidwani’s blindness forced him to give up his engine spare parts business, located near the stock exchange, and start the service centre in Bandra, which is closer home. “I used to be on the move all the time,” he says. “Now, I’m exiled to one place… Life’s difficult when you can’t see.”
In fact, he says, it’s not even a life anymore. “It’s merely a question of surviving,” says Gidwani, whose wife Sonia (38) works part-time in a family concern and helps him at the service centre too. “My son Divyesh was a mere four months old then. Today he is 14. It’s him and Sonia I live for.”
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