At around 4 pm on Thursday, minutes after a bus carrying about 45 children of Bright School back from their picnic overturned, 13-year-old Muskaan Rahim Sheikh found her severed forearm amid the shrubs, herself.
Muskaan, a Class VIII student, was seated in the front seat and was thrown out from the window, crashing through the glass as the bus overturned. Her right forearm was separated from her body. However, even in her blood soaked state, Muskaan dragged herself towards her separated forearm and clung to it, sought help from one of the passers-by and called her father Rahim to tell him that her hand was “broken” in the accident.
Rahim, a government school teacher in Waghodia, said, “I immediately set out for the spot but I thought she meant her hand was fractured. When I saw her holding her arm, I went numb. But she held me and said, ‘Abba don’t cry. I will be fine’. All this while, neither did the school bother to inform me about the accident nor had they reached the spot.”
Rahim rushed Muskaan to a private hospital in Vadodara, with her right forearm stored in an icebox, but city doctors said that peripheral damage on the severed ends of the hand made impossible to attach it by way of plastic surgeries.
Accordingly, Muskaan’s paternal uncle Afzal buried her severed arm at the Panigate Muslim cemetery as per Islamic rites on Friday afternoon. On the other hand, Muskaan, student of the Gujarati medium of the school, is recuperating at a private city hospital drowsy with medicines to mask the pain, and discussions about the accident make her uneasy. She has been told that her arm has been sent to Mumbai for doctor’s opinion.
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Muskaan’s mother Bilkis, a government school teacher, has taken ill with the emotional stress since the accident. Rahim said they never imagined this fate for their beloved daughter, the younger born – her older brother Zahid (15) studies in Class X in the same school.
Muskaan, a class topper wants to pursue medicine. Rahim said, “She wants to be a doctor and I will make her one, the obstacle notwithstanding. She has been telling me to keep strong as she is all right. She has not cried despite the pain because she feels her arm will be reattached. Right now, I am only preparing myself to tell her the truth when we take her home.”
Rahim says he regrets sending Muskaan to the picnic. “This negligence by the school authorities in choosing a bus operator has ruined my daughter’s life. Even if she is given an artificial limb, she will take years to recuperate. And the school authorities are calling these injuries minor, in their official statement. Tell me what a major injury is?” he asked.
Muskaan is not the only one who has suffered severe injuries. Another Class VIII student, Manali, lost two fingers on her right arm apart from the multiple fractures that have left her face distorted. Sources at a city hospital, where four students are admitted in critical conditions, say two students – one boy and girl – are on ventilator.
However, Jayendra Shah, Chairman of Bright School denies students being in a critical condition. “All students are undergoing treatment and recovering very well. Manali has already undergone a plastic surgery to reattach her fingers, but unfortunately Muskaan’s arm cannot be attached. No student is on ventilator as far as I know. The bus was chosen by the resort and not by the school,” Shah said.
On Thursday evening, the bus had overturned near Shivrajpur, while returning from a “jungle picnic” in Caravan resort in Jambughoda in the Panchmahals district, around 50 kms from Vadodara. While 35 students have suffered serious multiple fractures, about seven students are critically injured.