March 12, 2008

life in general: exactly 15 years ago in bombay

Exactly 15 years back to this day, on 12 March 1993: I was not a journalist yet. I was working as an executive in Stock Holding Corporation of India Ltd. I was in my company's 2nd floor office at Mittal Court in Nariman Point working as usual. It was a little after lunch time when suddenly a loud bang noise shook us and the building. One of the bombs of the dastardly serial blasts had just gone off at Air India building in Nariman Point, about 300 metres from my office building.

As a 23-year old youth, I had already undergone severe disillusionment looking at and reading about the cold-blooded murder of Muslims in January of that year by the goondas of Shiv Sena, BJP, Bajrang Dal, VHP and even Congress and RPI. This was the infamous post-Babri-masjid-demolition violence in Bombay.

So, that Friday, on 12 March, I was again shocked at what was happening in my dear Bombay where I have lived all my life. The bomb blasts were the design of Pakistan and Dubai-based underworld elements in retaliation for the violence against Muslims in Bombay in January that year.

The bomb blasts were terrible. Here are some excerpts from S.Hussain Zaidi's non-fiction book, Black Friday, on the issue:

"....At 2.55 pm, a bomb seemed to go off in a crowded double-decker BEST bus outside the regional passport office (RPO) at Worli. It was so powerful that the five-ton bus was lifted into the air, and the upper deck blown into the hutment colony of Nehru Nagar. Residents panicked as pieces of metal and bodies rained down on them. There were no survivors on board; not even the bodies could be identified. The body of the driver was hurtled across the road into the colony. Vehicles around the us too caught fire, and four buildings—Rupala Sadan, Ramodaya Mansion, Malkani Mahal and Manjrekar Sadan—along the road, which housed shops and an Udipi restaurant, were badly damaged. Many buildings in the area had their windowpanes shattered, including the RPO, the Brown Boveri building and Century Bhavan. On the road, a deep crater marked the spot where the bomb had exploded.

The sights were gruesome. A paanwala's head was severed from his torso and deposited on the counter in front of him. The body of Neogi, manager of the Bata shop, was found sandwiched betweeen two walls that collapsed on each other. Flying shrapnel was lodged in the stomach of Darius Khavarian, who had come from Iran to see his brother Minocher, owner of the Asian Stores and Restaurant. Sudesh Bhandari of the Blue Star Laundry died when shrapnel pierced his heart. Karim Ramodaya and his brother Rajabhai, the owners of Ramodaya Mansion, who were standing outside the Taj Cake Shop, were also killed.

Pradeep Manjrekar, the owner of Manjrekar Sadan, was using the telephone at the wine shop on the ground floor of his building when the blast occurred. 'First there was a cloud of dust, followed by thick white smoke, and then came the bang that shook the bottles in the wine shop. I saw limbs and objects flying all around, and vehicles on fire.' He said he saw at least five BEST buses and some fifteen cars burnt completely.

Raj Nath Ganjoo, the marketing manager of BASF, never stepped out of his office during working hours. But on that day, his watch had suddenly stopped working and he had been feeling uneasy about it. The bomb went of as he went out to get his watch repaired at a shop a few yards away. He was killed instantly.

Prachee Vartak and Sandhya Roy, traineee airhostesses at East West Airlines, were driving down the road in a company car. This had been Prachee's first day at work, and she was just returning from her first flight from Vishakapatnam. She was looking forward to going home to Worli and telling her parents about it. Hers had been a long battle to get the job, for her sister Aruna was already employed with East West and their company policy did not permit employing family members. The blast destroyed the car. The driver Rajan was charred beyond recognition. Prachee was rushed to the King Edward Memorial (KEM) Hospital with thirty-five per cent burns, and died after three days. Sandhya sustained only minor injuries.

Darshan Lalan, in his first year at Lala Lajpat Rai College, had gone with four friends to see the 3 p.m. show at Satyam Theatre. His friends had already crossed the road to enter the theatre when the bomb exploded. Darshan, who had stepped back to dodge a speeding taxi, was blown to bits. His friends were fine; only one suffered a minor leg injury.

This was eventually to be deadliest of the blasts, killing 113 and injuring 227."


Dhvani said...

hey i almost forgot about the incident... your blog has made me think that day... which was the last day of my elder sisters 10th board exams.. and all they were told was... to go straight home.. and no celebrate... and only after we came home.. we saw the news... And the next day we were told in school that a class mate lost his father who was working in the stock exchange... And we all moaned for a while in class... There was no in my circle who was affected... and the incident never came across as hard... as it comes across now... after so many years...

Rajesh said...

hey dhvani... your comment gives an interesting insight into what school children went through... of course, the incident would not have come across hard to you and your school colleagues.. uptil teen years is the time to take it easy in life too (except of course for the horrible exam pressure)... i remember was in 9th standard when indira gandhi was murdered in delhi and then delhi was rocked by ugly violence against sikhs... although i was an active newspaper already but still the intensity of the event came across to me only many years later when i used to not just read much more but also write on social and political issues..