Time freezes for kin of 7/11 coma victims
Parag Sawant, 28, and Amit Singh, 19, had very little in common until the two decided to board the first class compartment of the Virar Local train in Mumbai on July 11 last year.
Little did they know that the journey would lead to a common tragedy. For both the men, injured in the seven serial bombings that ripped open the first class compartment that day, time has remained frozen since then.
Parag and Amit survived that evening of terror that killed 187 people and wounded many more but they cannot yet tell their tales. Both are in coma and it's a tragedy that their families relive everyday.
Life seems a long wait for 24-year-old Priti Sawant, Parag's wife. But she is prepared to wait.
Parag, an assistant manager with a city-based construction firm, had got married just seven months before the blasts and Priti was carrying their unborn child at that time. In fact, he had taken the train from Mira Road that day to make it to his wife's sonography session.
A year on, she sees her husband lying almost lifeless on a bed in a critical ward of the Hinduja Hospital, but Priti is hopeful that Parag will pull through.
Kissing their daughter, who is nine months old now and whom she has named Prachiti, the 24-year-old woman is willing to struggle against all odds to raise the child.
Little Prachiti of course knows nothing of the tragedy that the family lives through every day.
"I have named her Prachiti, which means experience. Though she has not been able to speak to her father, she keeps on repeating the words papa, papa, it's so heartbreaking," Priti told IANS, tears rolling down her eyes.
Parag suffered a brain haemorrhage in the blast at Bhayender station July 11 2006. Today he still lies in bed number 28 of the Hinduja Hospital in central Mumbai's Mahim area.
Priti said her husband has so far undergone five neuro-surgeries and needs advanced treatment, which is only available in Japan.
"Look at him, he is neither alive nor dead! Why did these people (the bombers) have to do this?" Priti said losing her composer for just a while.
"Though the railway authorities have agreed to sponsor Parag's treatment, it will a long time before he is ready to travel," she added wiping a tear, as she cradled a playful Prachiti.
"He needs an injection in the spinal cord, which the doctors say could possibly activate his brain cells and help him recover."
"But the treatment can only be carried out in Japan. It will not be possible to until Parag comes back to his senses," she said.
As for pulling through life alone, Priti, who had discontinued her studies after marriage, has over the past year done a course in computers. She jot a job with Western Railways a month back as part of the compensation package to blast victims as a reservation clerk at the railways Central Mumbai office.
And then there is the story of Amit Singh and his family members.
Like any other college goer, the final year B.Com student was keen on further studies.
On the morning of that fateful day, Amit had left for Elphinstone College in South Mumbai from his Virar home in the western suburbs, little knowing that the return journey would change his life forever.
"That morning he left at 6 am. The last I spoke to home was around 3:30 that evening. He told me, 'Mummy, I am going to pick up my forms from college and will be home at the earliest. But after that I have heard nothing from him - those were the last words he spoke," said Amit's mother
For, Amit like Parag decided to take the same train. He boarded it at Churchgate station.
"It was only after I returned home that horrific evening that we learnt Amit had not come back. After 72 hours of frantic search, we could located Amit at the Jaslok Hospital. But by that time he had drifted into a coma, and he has been in coma ever since," said Dinesh Singh, Amit's father.
"Time has stood still for us ever since. The river of our life has stopped flowing."
"The tragedy of that fateful day was not out there (on the tracks) but here within our home. All we can do now is wait and pray for his recovery. Not only has Amit's life been put on hold, but the tragedy has put on hold the lives of every member of our family," said Singh, who works for a multinational firm.