Tuesday, April 26, 2011

To be in a city of death...

         I was in the city I loved. It is my native place ( though it is far more modern that what can be passed as a native place).  I remember the day in all details..
           I was 7.30 am in the morning when the room service ( the lone man in charge at the morning) brought in tea. I was nibbling my buns in peace when he entered and said in all urgency to my father," Switch on the T.V .. A flight has crashed." 
           It didn't ring any alarms. Crashes happened in distant places and had to be seen on TV when still in news. My father asked where the crash happened. 
"In our very own Bajpe airport in Mangalore." His answer jolted me. Everyone in the room sat in complete silence as the news kept pouring in. TV9 a local news channel brought in footages live and shocking.
          It was raining outside, adding to the feel of gloom in the city. The streets were silent. Everyone was mourning. A city coming together in grief.. The only image flashing everywhere was
           
        We were on a eight day visit to the city. We had planned to go to a temple that day which was on the borders of Kerela. It so happened that maximum people on board in the plane were from this region. On our way back , our bus had to stop at multiple halts as the roads were blocked for the quick movement of ambulances. I looked outside the window. There was an ambulance right next to the bus. Inside I could see a deadbody covered in white sheets and tied in various places. The whole lane looked grief-stricken. We could just send silent prayers to the family of all the victims.
  
        In just one crash, families perished. Women waiting for their husbands coming from gulf countries had their eyes on the gate, from which their husbands would never come. Mothers lost their only earning member. Sisters lost their brother coming home for their wedding. In just a few minutes all the celebrations  turned into mourning...
      The initial panic of making sure all our relatives in Dubai or other gulf countries were fine settled down.


       I was in a restaurant very close to one of the hospitals were the bodies were taken into.. Some doctors from the hospital were there to have breakfast. From their conversation I could gauge that they had been working the whole day at the hospital assisting in every possible way the distraught relatives of the victims. Doctors are habitual to seeing dead bodies. When their order came they could not touch the food, forget about having a morsel.. They paid the bill and silently walked out.. A few eyes watched them in silent understanding..


            Later in the evening I knew why they couldn't eat.We were out for dinner at a relative's place. A local channel aired the shots taken at the hospital. Bodies charred beyond recognition. Parts disintegrated. I lost my appetite there. The images were later censored but I just cannot imagine what would have passed over the people in whose home the tragedy struck. Only 6 miraculous survivors to lived through it. and 158 people dead..
            The days following the crash were those only of stories.. Stories of people staying near the airport who live in the agony of those voices they heard before the fire engulfed everything. People who tried help those inside shouting "Bachao bachao" but couldn't as much as go to stretch out their hands.. It was all heart aching...
            The plane didn't land at the required angle and the pilot took the decision too late to take up again , only to realise they have run out of the tabletop runway and tumbled down into the forest...
            
            
            Imagine what must have gone through those people who let out happy smiles when they could finally see their homeland.. They almost touched the motherland.. A whole lot of joy awaiting them.. They could see the distant base where their families must be waving.. But the flight isn't halting.. Why? .. Before they could have another thought they are heading straight into the forest and in no time the entire plane is on fire.. Yes .. they can see a narrow escape.. But they have an entire family to take out with.. They wouldn't be able to live even if they survive alone.. Some people are moving out... But the heat is unbearable now.. The throat is running dry with shrieks that are now inaudible... Slowly there is no sensation.... They lose consciousness due to suffocation and their soul leaves for the abode....
            


           Those waiting at the airport for their loved ones to arrive let out sighs of joy when they saw the plane landing and then the panic on seeing the plane going into the forest and the helplessness when it was up in flames....
         


            To see a planecrash on T.V and keep tracking it till we get all records.. To nod our heads at the helplessness and pray for the departed ones.. To comment on the infrastructure and the cheapness of Indian life.. is all very easy....
           To be in the city of death and live each moment of pain.. To feel guilty for every smile... is something that can only be known to those who have been there...  Worst to those who have lost someone...


         Yes, it was hours later when the blackbox was found and a year after it was decoded ,we get a report.. It was what every Indian knew... The pilot was asleep for 1 hr 40 mins of the 3hr 5min flight. It was between 2am to 5am when it is most difficult to wake up and be alert. So all blame on the pilot who is no longer there to justify his case if the report is true or not.. I don't know what to believe.. This is what the report has to say http://www.hindustantimes.com/Mangalore-crash-Pilot-nodded-off/Article1-627183.aspx


         Yes, the report is out.. There will be amendments and discussions about it.. The relatives of these victims will keep fighting for the discrepancies in the insurance money.. Life goes on.. The rest of the nation has long forgotten about the crash.. No lessons learnt.. Amendments but no one will see if they are carried out as well..until another "short-time eye opener" crash happens.... The cycle repeats...


P.S : If you are wondering what triggered this sudden outburst then let me tell you that this was something I will never forget.. May 22nd 2010 will always be etched.. The report last week just opened those wounds...


P.P.S : Though this isn't necessary, but just for the record this is NONFICTION
  


  

2 comments:

chirag said...

terrifying ,,,
don't know what to say

maithili said...

@chirag : IT is indeed terrifying... I couldn't sleep in peace for many nights after I saw those images...