For Vinduri Mirchandani, a feisty 100-year-old, it has been a nightmare celebrating festivals — especially her favourite — Diwali, since 1993. And she points to the man, whose face is splashed across the newspapers in front of her for that misery.
Yakub Memon, whose face now stares at her from the newspaper after his mercy plea was rejected by the Supreme Court recently, deserves no mercy, said Mirchandani, who still bears the scars of the blasts at Century Bazaar that killed 118 people. Even now she shudders when there is a loud sound. Her hearing is still sharp, despite the glass injury near her right eye which has disturbed her vision.
Although Mumbai’s double-decker buses no longer stop at the Century Bazaar bus stop below her first-floor balcony in Worli, her 32 glass and sharpnel injuries are still visible, 22 years later.
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“I was wearing a nightie just like this and I did not even finish my meal when I heard a loud noise. The next thing I saw was the food on the floor besides the plate, my balcony missing and then the pain hit me. But when I screamed, it was more for my nine-year-old granddaughter, who also had glass pieces all over her and kitchen cabinets fell on top of her,” Mirchandani recounts.
The next few hours that day were just a blur. A social worker picked both of them and took them to KEM hospital. The two were separated from her granddaughter, despite her pleas.
Her daughter Maya, 75, who worked in the Income Tax office near Bharatmata cinema in Parel, rushed to KEM.
“This couldn’t have been a small accident,” Maya recalls. She was told that her niece was admitted to the hospital, but knew nothing of the Century Bazaar blast. Maya managed to find her niece — Deepika shaking and sobbing on a stretcher in the children’s ward. “I spent the next 30 minutes combing the hospital for my mother, with everyone around me wailing, bloodied or injured. I finally spotted my mother lying on a bed, and doctors removing glass out of her bloodied body” she says.
Searching for her sister, who worked for Doordarshan, Maya came to an empty home.
Her balcony which was visible from the road was no longer there, her neighbours were sitting with blackened faces on the pavement across the road, and her own building pavement was filled with blood, shrapnel and bloodied limbs.
It took more than 20 days at Jaslok hospital, where the two were eventually treated, for the Mirchandanis to come home. But for the next 19 months, they couldn’t live in their house as the building was being built from the ground up. “There was a surgery, medical treatment, a looted house, rebuilding of our home and the government calculated Rs 5,000 as the compensation. And it took them more than 20 years to decide on the appropriate punishment for Yakub and the worst part, the masterminds are still at large. Where is the justice in all this?” says Maya.
The wall of her house collapsed on their neighbour who was sleeping -killing him instantly. But the saddest story of that day, according to the Mirchandanis, was of two young brothers, one of whom was named Kareem. The boys, living in the adjacent building now called Zaveri Mansion (Ramodaya Mansion), had gone to their bakery on the ground floor to buy a cake for their mother. “It was lunch time and the boys wanted to get a cake for their mother’s birthday. The blast happened and they never made it to wish their mother that day. This blasts affected everyone,” Maya adds.
Her niece Deepika, now working in the US, no longer wants to recall the events of that day. But Vinduri, who plays snakes and ladders every afternoon to keep herself active, points to the scar and says, “See this? Those people hurt innocents. They don’t deserve mercy.”