RAJESH YADAV holds a new doormat, red and blue, its cellophane wrapping still on, outside the morgue at the Dr R N Cooper Hospital in suburban Mumbai where autopsies have been underway since early Tuesday morning.
“I could find nothing else to wrap her body with,” says the 25-year-old. His two-month-old daughter, still to be named, was among the eight casualties of Monday’s blaze at the Employees State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) Hospital in Marol.
Rajesh, a cook with Skygourmet Catering Pvt Ltd, spent all of Monday evening running from Cooper Hospital, where his sister Dimple was admitted, to Seven Hills Hospital, where wife Rukmani was rushed — both were rescued by firemen and hospital staff. Through the evening, he kept asking if anybody had seen a baby girl separated from her parents.
Finally, he found his daughter’s body around 1 am Tuesday when local police took him to Holy Spirit Hospital where an infant’s body had been brought, covered in black soot.
“They told me a nurse found my baby on a bed in the hospital on the fourth floor. Bas wahin padi thi woh (She was just lying there),” Rajesh says. His wife and sister had also collapsed nearby. Forensic experts later confirmed that the baby died due to suffocation.
Piecing together the tragedy from accounts narrated by nurses and the two women, Rajesh’s uncle Ram Prasad says, “The three were together, and the two women had held hands. When the fire started, the baby was in Rukmani’s arms. But there must have been so much smoke that the women collapsed.”
Unlike many others, the women did not attempt to jump out, probably because they had the infant with them. But while the two were rescued, Prasad suspects the baby was not spotted in the thick smoke, and was left behind.
Rukmani and Rajesh had married four years ago. She delivered their first-born two months ago at the ESIC Hospital. On December 14, she was admitted in Ward 4 on the fourth floor with a kidney stone complaint.
“Every morning, I would take our baby to the hospital so that my wife could feed her, and then go to work. In the evenings, I would bring her back home,” Rajesh says. Hailing from Allahabad, Rajesh has lived in Marol for over 10 years.
On Monday, he went to ESIC Hospital at 11 am and left for work. Around 6.30 pm, he got a call from a doctor at Cooper Hospital that his sister had been brought in unconscious after being rescued from the fire. He rushed to Cooper, then to ESIC, and finally located Rukmani at Seven Hills. She was unconscious, too.
When Rukmani gained consciousness, she immediately asked about her baby. A miscommunication led doctors to believe she was looking for a boy, and the family was not told about an unidentified girl’s body at Holy Spirit Hospital.
According to Dr Rajesh Sukhadev, medical superintendent at Cooper Hospital, Dimple had inhaled fumes, but is stable and out of danger. Rukmani’s condition is stable, too, and she was informed about her daughter’s death Tuesday morning. A few hours later, the baby’s body was taken home.