A CREVICE in the debris of his own flat, barely 2 feet high and 3.5 feet wide, was where 53-year-old Rajesh Doshi remained in a half squatting position for almost 15 hours before he could be rescued in the wee hours of Wednesday. “Patte ke mahal ki tarah mere saamne mera ghar toota (I saw my flat collapse like a pack of cards),” recollects Doshi, as he nurses his injured foot in Shantiniketan Hospital.
He is still in a blue cotton shirt and white pajamas, the clothes in which he was rescued, and sobs quietly with his elder sister by his side. Although his family is grateful for his miraculous survival, the property broker is worried about the future. “I could not find a single spoon from the debris. What will we do now? Everything is gone.”
On Tuesday morning, he was resting on his bed in his flat on the second floor. His wife Rekha had gone with son Darshan, as she did every morning, to a nearby Jain temple. Doshi, a patient of diabetes, was on medication and bed rest. At 10.30 am, he says, he felt tremors in the building. It took only five seconds for the floor to give way and his bed to fall into a cavity as the walls came crumbling down. His mobile phone remained in his hand as he fell, still on his bed.
“I squeezed both my legs together and adjusted in the 2 foot space. There was no space to move and for very long it was silent. I started hearing the noise of rescue operations much later,” Doshi says.
From 10.30 am when the residential building collapsed, till 4 pm, Doshi’s phone remained out of network area. He kept trying the numbers of his wife and son. He was in a half squat, half standing posture in a limited space, praying. “I am not very religious, but I thought I would die,” he says.
He finally found a cellphone network after 4 pm and called his son from under the debris. Those who witnessed his rescue operation say he kept crying that he would die when he was being carried to the ambulance.
“But I told him, I’ll die before you. How can you die,” wife Rekha says.
Doshi had purchased the 3BHK flat on Siddhi Sai’s second floor six years ago for Rs 61 lakh. He had fixed a deal for Rs 1 crore to sell it and shift to another flat.
About the alterations done on the ground floor, which is believed to have led to the collapse, he said, “I could hear construction work for 18 hours a day. We were all scared of him (Sunil Shitap) because he has political influence. But none of us were okay with alteration to the building structure.”
Through the day, he survived on biscuits and water that fire officials managed to give him when he was found. His left foot remained stuck under heavy debris and delayed the rescue operation.
“Today, 17 people have died, tomorrow it will be 170. The government should punish those responsible,” Doshi adds.
His 20-year-old son, Darshan, a graduate from Somaiya College, said they had gone to the temple when they received a call from their family friends living in the adjacent building informing them that their home had collapsed.
They rushed back home and started to look for him. “While we were busy looking for him all day, suddenly at 4 pm, I got a call from his number. My father was on the line. He said he was alive and that his leg was trapped beneath some heavy debris,” he says. His family alerted the firemen who started to clear the debris so that he could breath. Darshan added that due to bad network, he was able to talk to his father once in a while until some of the debris was removed.
Darshan said that his father was unwell and had been on bedrest for the past month. “He had developed pus on his foot and we had taken him for a biopsy a few days ago. He was recovering from the procedure and would thus lie on the bed a lot. He was resting when the building collapsed on him,” his son says.
Sharing her husband’s concern, his 53-year-old wife Rekha said that they now have nowhere to live. “The house we were living in earlier was supposed to go into re-development. Since it was going to take long, we sold the flat and purchased this one in Siddhi Sai Apartment. But we have lost the house and all our valuables along with it. How can we afford another house now?” she said. She added that they were currently living with some family friends.
Like the others who have lost all their belongings after the building collapsed, Darshan, who has a mobile business of his own, said that he too will try to sift through the debris kept at Maniklal Maidan in Ghatkopar hoping to find some of the documents they had stored in the house. “Apart from jewellery and cash, we also had passports among other documents,” he said.