Friday, July 14, 2006

Close call

In harm's way
Guest blog from Mumbai, India

My friend and fellow Blogger
Shinu (the Mumbai Marauder) was three cars away from one of the bombs on the rush-hour commuter trains in Mumbai (Bombay) on July 11. Here are his letters detailing the experience. You can see photos here at his Blog.

Warning: the images are gruesome. People have criticized Shinu for even taking the photos, but I feel that real-life photos of these situations bring home the reality of what happens when fear and hatred take over hearts and minds.

It was a close call. Literally. I was in the 7th coach of the a ill-fated (Matunga Blast) train. The blast occured in 4th coach! In fact, the 4th coach is my regular one - it was a phone call that saved me!

I was late reaching the platform, and upon seeing the train ready to leave, just jumped into the nearest available coach. After leaving Dadar, I heard a loud sound, and a metal-scraping-on-metal sound. First, I thought someone is setting off crackers (fireworks). Then the overhead wire fell to the side of the train. People were jumping from the moving train.

All this happened in 50 seconds. I shouted "Don't Panic" but no one was listening. Then my friend came up to me, told me that the overhead wires broke and get down as fast as possible or there will be danger. Got down, looked ahead and saw a coach is completely tore open! At that moment, I thought the engine might have blew up. So sensing a scoop, I grabbed my camera (I was carrying it in my bag) gave the bag to the friend, ran towards the damaged coach.

Once there, I regretted my decision. I didn't recognise it at first. It was so eerie. Dead bodies, blackened from the blast, piled upon each other. Then all came into focus. A half-dead man raised his head from between two dead bodies, and looking at me. I didn't think of anything. It was an exclusive shot. After some 18 frames, I feel like throwing up. So I moved away from the scene.

By then, most of the alive transferred to hospitals by alert fellow passengers and locals. The police and help arrived after 45 minutes of the blast!!! All networks jammed, traffic brought to a standstill, blood and flesh scattered across the tracks, those who were standing on the doorway flew a few meters from the power of the blast and their bodies mutilated beyond recognition, a headless torso lying in the tracks, severed limbs scattered around....

Will get back once my mind is cleared. I still can't believe I am alive and in shock. I want to cry.

Shinu Mathew

Here's a letter from another Mumbaikar friend, Aadil, about his experience after the blasts:

I just returned home after trying to go to work in the night shift but the trains on the Western Railway were not running after the blasts and the roads were blocked totally so nothing moving at all. All traffic was just waiting for hours on end with not even a crawling movement visible. People were waiting outside their vehicles for hours. Sadly returned home and am now online. About 137 people have died (Ed. note: it's now 200) and many more injured in the 8 blasts that took place all on the Western Railway all over Mumbai city. Women are being accomodated in school halls and public are out on the roads giving biscuits and water to people stranded on the roads in their cars.

May peace prevail and those injured get well soon, sad to hear about the loss of lives and courage to those who lost their near and dear ones. Just wish this crazy violence would stop someday soon.

Photos by Shinu Mathew used courtesy Jagraan TV, Mumbai, India.

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