"Did you hear about the bomb blasts in the trains in Bombay?" my husband asked me. I turned cold with fear. It was 11th July 2006 – around 6.00 pm UAE, 7.30 pm Bombay time. My brother, sister and brother-in-law leave work between 5.00 pm and 5.45 pm and board the train at Churchgate to travel to Andheri/ Borivili. Any of them could be on one of those trains.
Just got off the phone and with trembling hands and thudding heart dialed Bombay. Just could not get through ? several attempts later got through to my brother in law. He said he was safe as the train behind them was bombed and he was walking back home. He was worried as he could not get through to my sister ? the network in Bombay was jammed. Tried my sister at her residence and she picked up the phone. She was safe! She had heard about the bomb blast in Borivili on her way home. Tears of relief poured down my cheeks as I told her that her husband was safe and walking home. "Any news about Godfrey?" I asked her; she said, "No news. Phone lines are jammed, cannot get through to anyone. I am worried." My brother was not carrying a mobile, so called up my brothers’ residence to find out if they had news. My sister in law had no news. In tears called up my brother in law and told him my sister was safe but there was no news about my brother. My other sister was safe too ? no one from her family travelled the Western Line; but all the same called up as I had to be sure.
Left office and went home and as I watched the news, the horror of what had happened unfolded before my eyes. Television channels were showing uncensored clips of the carnage; mangled compartments with blood, limbs and gore splattered around the place and dead and seriously injured people and weeping family members and friends. As I watched the news, I continuously prayed for the safety of my brother. In desperation, called up Bombay every half an hour to find out if there was any news, knowing fully well that if they had received any news, they would immediately call me back. Hours went by and I was continuously asking my husband, "He will be ok no; he would not have taken those trains."
Hours passed by and no news from him. My entire family and many relatives and friends were keeping a vigil and praying for his safety. Here I was far away in the UAE, helplessly watching the news, praying and hoping every minute that the phone would ring with the good news that my brother had reached safely. My husband tried to console me while anxious relatives and friends called me up to enquire about my brother.
As the hours passed and desperation took over, I realized how much I loved him and what he meant to me. I never took the time to tell him that I loved him and that he was the world to me. Just a hurried call sometimes with small talk. "Please God, let him be safe" I prayed over and over again as I waited for some news.
Memories of my childhood came back ? my brother is the eldest of four children in our family and me, the youngest. I was his baby. He helped my parents in taking care of me. Every day he used to bring me home from the school bus stop. As a child, I had an aversion to milk and still do; my brother would therefore mix a little tea in the milk, make it frothy and feed me this milky tea which I drank happily. When he went to play with his friends; he took me along with him. I was too small to climb over the high wall of the compound where they played. So he would lift me up gently over the wall and hand me over to one of his friends on the other side. On Saturdays he used to come home from work early and we would play cricket in the house with an old badminton racket as a bat and a plastic ball. I always won those matches; now I know that it was not because of my batting and bowling prowess but because he let me win every one of them so I would be happy. He had plenty of nicknames for me and he was my hero!!! My relatives and neighbours often commented about how much care my brother took of me. Yes I loved him so much as a child but as I grew up and got busy with my own life I forgot to tell him that I loved him and say thank you for all the things he did for me expecting nothing in return.
…In the chaos of our daily lives and routines, we forget to tell our family members that we love them…..
It was 11.30 pm UAE time and as I could not bear the thought of worrying my sister in law further, called my sister again to find out the status. She said, "Many people are just reaching home now, he will come soon don’t worry." I knew that she was keeping up a fa?ade of calm so that I would not get worried here and was terribly anxious herself. After that call I broke down completely. It was then that I started fearing the worst but still kept praying for his safety. As I struggled to keep the horrible thoughts at bay, the phone rang!! It was just after 12 midnight; my brother had just reached home safe and sound. He was unable to get in touch with anyone as the lines were jammed. While he was stuck in a bus in the never ending traffic, strangers offered him food and water; complete strangers offered him their mobile so he could call home and inform them of his safety but he just could not get through. As my terror vanished, I called him up. Could not say much as I was crying with relief, but in between my tears I told him that I loved him.
God kept my family safe that evening ? many were not as lucky; their lives would change forever. Around two hundred innocent commuters perished in this mindless massacre. What was their fault? They just left home early in the morning to earn so they could feed their families…they did not live to see another day. They had nothing to do with politics, no one was involved in terrorism; they had their parents, husbands, wives, sisters, brothers and children waiting for them. Didn’t the cowards, the perpetrators of this shameless act of violence even stop for a moment and think of what they were doing? Would destroying the lives of the innocent ever bring them happiness or help their cause? What about the pregnant woman whose baby will never know a father’s love, the son who was the only support of his parents in their old age, the student who had just landed a plum assignment in a multinational and so many others…did these people deserve to die? All these questions lie unanswered.
While people mourned their losses, some elements looted the dead bodies lying on the tracks and politicians made statements and visited hospitals with their party flags trying to turn the situation to their benefit. Is there no conscience and humanity anymore?
As political leaders commended the spirit of Bombay, the families who lost their own lost the spirit of living. Even if the culprits are found and punished, it will not ease the pain of the families who have lost their dear ones, many of whom don’t even have the bodies of their kith and kin so they can see their faces and say good bye one last time before they are laid to rest.
While we thank God for keeping our families safe, let us spare a thought and pray for those innocent people who lost their lives in this dastardly act of violence and the families they leave behind. May God grant them the strength and courage to bear their loss. It took a tragedy for me to realize how often I have taken my loved ones for granted. In the chaos of our daily lives and routines, we forget to tell our family members that we love them. How many times do we leave our homes without making our peace with our loved ones after an argument or quarrel? Next time you are grateful for something say thank you; if you love someone say it, don’t wait for the right time ? life is too short and there are no guarantees.
Author: Rowena Aranha- UAE