On Sunday afternoon, when Zia-ul-Haq (45) received a call from a relative in Saudi Arabia about a factory fire in Delhi, he took it lightly and went about his day. As he sat down for lunch and switched on the TV, he understood the gravity of the situation, and was jolted by another call from Muzaffarpur, Bihar.
“My 19-year-old brother-in-law Hussain worked at the factory and his father called to say he had received news that his son had died. I was clueless about where to go, and by the time I realised his body was at Lok Nayak Hospital, it was already night,” said Haq.
On Tuesday, Haq stood outside the mortuary at the hospital, waiting for Hussain’s father to arrive. “Hussain fought at home and came to Delhi with his friends four months ago, after his mother died in a road accident in Bihar. His father did not want him to go because he feared Hussain would get lost or hurt in a big city… his worst fears have come true,” said Haq.
By Monday evening, bodies of six victims had been transported home. The post-mortem of the remaining bodies will be finished by Wednesday afternoon.
Also outside the mortuary was Mohd Nasib (26), a tailor whose brother-in-law Sajid (26), a native of Samastipur in Bihar, died. He said, “Sajid’s wife gave birth to their second child, a daughter, a week ago. He was to visit next month.” His wife has been told Sajid is alive. “When we reach closer home, we will tell her he’s no more,” said Nasib. Sajid’s 17-year-old brother Wahid, too, died in the fire, and their third brother Wajeed is undergoing treatment.
Among the grieving crowd was civil services aspirant Shoaib Siddiqui, who had come to Lok Nayak hospital to identify two bodies — of his brother-in-law Ayub (34) and Ayub’s brother Zahid (32). He said, “Both of them leave behind three kids each, all under 10 years of age. We are waiting for more family members to come and the post-mortem will happen then,” said Siddiqui.
The family of Gyassuddin (19), meanwhile, struggled to come to terms with the shock. A native of Silmadi in Bihar, the teenager would have turned 20 on January 1.
A responsible son, he had been financing the studies of his younger brother back home. “Ek saal se yahan kaam kar raha tha, paise bhejta tha bhai ki padai ke liye. 20 saal ka hone wala tha toh hum iski shaadi ka bhi soch rahe the (He had been working here for a year, sending money back home. We were thinking of getting him married),” said Mohd Qasim, a relative who runs a tailor shop in Noida.