Delhi Blast: News reportage and moral dilemmas
Is there any dignity in death?
The question was haunting me while I was returning from a shoot in Dwarka in West Delhi. 5 hours before that the same one-hour drive to Dwarka wasn't an easy one either. I was nervous plain and simple. Nervous, because I was meeting the family of a blast victim. Nervous, because my questions would force the family to relive the tragic moments that changed their lives so abruptly. It was only 5 days since the blast. the wounds were still fresh.
The blast at the Delhi High Court killed 14 innocent citizens and maimed many. Family members of the dead alleged that the hospital where the postmortem was conducted was ill equipped and ill prepared to handle the situation.
Damini was one of those family members. Her father AK Sharma was one of the 14 blast victims.
A PT teacher, National swimming coach, a husband and a father of 3 he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Damini greeted me outside her home and as I went in an eerie silence surrounded me. On the table her father's framed photograph reflected the golden yellow flame of the diya placed in front of it. The furniture had been rearranged to make room for visitors pouring in with their condolences. Damini's elder sister and younger brother had left home to write their exam. It was just Damini, her mother and their pet dog. I was told he had been restless since the day of the blast. waiting for his 'papa' to come riding home on his scooter.
As we began our conversation Damini surprised me with her courage. All of 17 she spoke with a quiet controlled temper that belies her age.
Her admiration for her father was evident in the way she described him. Honesty was the pillar on which her father had built his life on and it was the same honesty that had also cost him his job. Sharma had been exposing corruption in the government organization he was working for. A few false charges later he was terminated from his service four years back. His wife also working with the same organization suffered a similar fate.
Sharma had challenged his termination and had been visiting the High court regularly for the case hearings. On that fateful Wednesday he was doing just the same.
For Damini her toughest time was the long agonizing 5 hour wait outside the hospital mortuary. waiting with her brother for the autopsy to finish so they could claim their father's body. It was painful. And as if that was not enough the callousness of the hospital authorities only added insult to the injury.
The hospital staff was rude and impatient. Sometime during her never ending wait Damini was asked to get a nylon rope, a bed sheet and a plastic sheet to wrap her father's body in. In her own words the task was something impossible for her to do. A gruesome reminder of her father's senseless death.
Thankfully for her, her father's friends did all the running around. Other families were not so lucky. They had to 'shop' for these things themselves with some claiming that the hospital was indeed selling these items but at a rate that was double the market price.
To make matters worse there were hardly any government ambulances around and the few ambulance drivers who were present were numb to the emotions hanging thick in the air. They were negotiating and charging anywhere between 800-1200 rupees from the families to take home the dead bodies.
'It was so insensitive on the part of the hospital to treat victims' families like that. It's just not done', Damini tells me with incredulity dripping from her voice.
Her father's possessions are still missing. The family does not want his briefcase or his gold chain or even his gold ring. They only want his wallet. not for money but for his 'special' reminders. his driving license, his identity card, his pan card.
As we were leaving I took one final look at Damini's mother. A lady who was not only grieving but who was also staring at an uncertain future. I apologized to her for the inconvenience I had caused. She looked at me through teary eyes and said 'It's ok beta. Its part of your job and I understand that.'
At that moment I wasn't very sure if I liked my job.