She prefers to call herself an ‘iron woman’ . “After all, I have several metal pieces in my legs,’’ says Amrapali Chavan, one of the survivors of the 2010 German Bakery blast, in which 17 people were killed and over 60 injured.
Despite a 60 per cent physical handicap and 54 per cent burn injuries, Chavan will mark the ninth anniversary of the blast by participating in a paragliding event at Kamshet.
“I can barely run, half my femoral bone is not there and several shattered bones in my left leg are joined together by metal rods. Half of the heel on my right foot has also been damaged and due to the metal pieces, I often get blood clots which have to be removed. I have had seven major surgeries and will have to undergo another three,” says Chavan.
But Chavan refused to allow her injuries to dictate how she shaped her life after the blast. She decided to learn paragliding and spread the message of peace. “The feeling of flying is indescribable. The world seems so beautiful and worth living,” adds Chavan.
It has been nine years since the blast shook Pune to its core. Some of the survivors have found their peace and moved on. But, even after all these years, the report of a bomb blast in the media is not just a piece of news for them. “When a life is lost in a terror attack, I feel a strong connection with the family members… when I shut my eyes, the entire moment flashes by,” says corporate lawyer Sumeet Singh, another survivor of the blast.
On the day of the blast , Sumeet was meeting four of his friends at German Bakery for a quick snack, before heading for the Symbiosis College festival at Koregaon Park.
“I still have to deal with a ringing sound in my left ear. There are several scars on my hands and legs that have not let me forget the ordeal that I went through. But now, it is my personal memory and I have learnt to live with it. I am a lot calmer… and I also got married,” says Sumeet.
Another survivor of the blast, Rishabh Agarwal, is a High Court lawyer who has had to undergo several surgeries. “… The blast left all of us shaken. We lost dear friends… some of us do keep in touch with the family of Rajeev Agarwala (who died in the blast),” says Rishabh.
For Shrikrishna Thapa, one of the waiters who was working at German Bakery that day, the sound of the blast still reverberates in his mind and heart.
“Dil aur dimaag mein se nahi gaya ab tak,” says Thapa, who now works as a captain at a local hotel. “I had burn injuries and ear problems, but life goes on…,” he shrugs. The survivors of the blast are a motivated lot of people who have managed to come out of this shattering experience with a positive attitude, says Dr Sumit Saxena, a consulting plastic surgeon who has treated many of them at Inlaks and Budhrani Hospital.
For Amrapali Chavan, who suffered severe burns in the blast and had to be put on ventilator support for some time, the planned paragliding event on February 13 would be a remarkable feat, says Saxena, adding that some scars bring the best out in an individual.
Rupali Saikhedkar, founder-president of Dhruv Foundation, which is organising the paragliding event, said Dhruv Saikhedkar, a 13-year-old, was inspired by Amrapali and will also fly along with her from the highest mountain of Kamshet to support her cause of spreading the message of peace. “Where there is a will, there is a way,” adds Amrapali who, along with Dhruv, will also attempt to create records in the Limca Book on Wednesday, under the category of ‘Youngest solo paraglider’ and ‘First female differently-abled person doing a solo paragliding’.
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