July 11th, 2006
I was in the 12th grade. One of the most crucial year of any student’s life. College had recently reopened. I was filled with excitement, yet worried. Worried if would be able to make it. Worried if I would get a seat in one of the best medical school. Worried if I would live up to everybody’s expectations.
It started off as a regular day for me. I got free from college earlier than usual, as a few lectures got cancelled. As it was the onset of monsoon, the weather outside was pleasant with light and occasional drizzle. Just one of those perfect days, when you would want to go the nearest cafe, and enjoy a perfect cup of coffee over random conversations with your friends. Unfortunately, a friend of mine was adamant of not letting this happen, as she wanted to go and buy a cellphone. Buying a cell phone wasn’t the problem. She wanted to go buy it from a specific store in Irla, Vile Parle. I tried to argue(d) with her saying how it’s stupid to travel to the other part of the city buy a cell phone. But, in vain. Finally, I gave up and agreed, thinking I would at least get to spend time with my friends. So, the four of us took a train from Wadala to Vile Parle.
By now, it had become sort of a mini-picnic for the four teenagers, as we were not used to travelling so far. Little did we know, we weren’t prepared for how the day was to unfold.
We reached the place, bought a phone, ate in a jiffy and headed straight to Vile Parle station. The train was relatively empty and we were standing comfortably by the door, enjoying the greenery on both sides of the track and talking away in glory.. Just then, we hear a loud noise. And immediately, the train halts, between two stations. Everyone starts wondering, was it some huge cracker? Or was it some noise from a nearby factory? Nobody could even guess, that it was bomb. I peeped outside the train, and on one side, I could see a couple of trains that had halted, just like ours. And on the other side, I could see Khar station. We were approximately 0.5 kms away from the station. It had been almost 5 minutes since the train halt. By now we had heard the dreaded word, bomb, a couple of times. But nobody was sure about anything. We heaved a sigh of relief, when our train started, only to be disappointed again. The train went ahead and halted at Khar station, and it wasn’t going to go ahead. Yes, we still weren’t 100% sure that it was a bomb blast.
We got out of the station and tried to find a bus that would take us home. Every single person on the street was discussing the same thing. We had no option but to believe, that it was indeed a bomb blast. The phone networks were jammed by now. The roads were jammed with vehicles and groups of people who were trying to find their way home, as the life line of Mumbai came to standstill. The train services were stopped for a few hours. The blast that we heard (witnessed), wasn’t the only bomb blast. There were 6 other blasts that followed it.
7 bomb blasts within 30 minutes.
Hearing that, shook us. If, for a 16 year old, being stranded on the road in a completely new part of the city, wasn’t disturbing enough, we hear about 7 bomb blasts. In my mind, I really wasn’t sure if I would reach home that night. I was only thinking about my parents’. I knew they would be scared and worried by now and there was no way to inform them about my location.
After about 3.5 hours of struggle, a bus, rickshaw and a cab commute, I reached home. My mom was in tears when she saw me. She had been consistently trying to call me since 4 hours, in spite of knowing that the phone networks were jammed. I was too shocked to express or say anything. But I put up a brave face and didn’t cry, so that she would stop crying. I was obviously relieved that I had reached home safely. The news was ON and I sat in front of the TV, besides my parents’. They were showing glimpses of the train compartments, the injured people, the shattered and blown apart body parts, the dead bodies lying on the tracks, blood. I couldn’t believe that I was right there, when all of it happened. As thankful as I was for reaching home safely and being #together with my parents’, my heart went out to thousands of those, who had lost their loved ones on that dreaded day, who didn’t even know that they were seeing their father/ mother/ child, for the last time, that morning. My worry of not getting a seat in one of the best medical schools, seemed like such a minuscule and trivial need after this incident. I was numb.