My two friends and I offered to take him to Safdarjung. We careened through the brightly-lit city, traffic flowing so you wouldn't believe this monstrosity had happened, piled out at Safdarjung and immediately ran into a police officer who shook his head almost as we began asking. "Nobody from Paharganj here," he said. "Only the victims from Sarojini Nagar." But seeing the desperation in Sanjay's eyes, he offered: "Well, you can check the list of people brought here if you like. Up on that wall."
We pored over the list. Strangely, it was stuck on the wall right below a printed notice for an "Annual Conference and Cadaveric Workshop", October 14-16. It announced 51 injured and named; 36 dead but unnamed. Just as I finished and started a second scan, just to be sure, Sanjay spoke at my elbow. "She's not there."
Trying to decide what to do next -- check AIIMS which the same cop says also has only Sarojini Nagar victims? Try some other smaller hospitals? -- Sanjay gets a call from his relatives at RML. Then he turns to me: "They've asked me to come back there to see if I can identify one unclaimed body as my mother."
Careening back, and between more calls, he fills me in again. "I saw this ody earlier. But they said it was of a 35-year-old woman, the face was blown off too, and it wasn't in the sari my mother went out in." But he thinks the face being blown off is a sign of sorts, for the baby's face was also ruined and he has the idea, I don't know from where, that his mother was carrying Shuchi's baby when the three of them were out shopping. As the calls come in, I can hear him telling his relatives, "Take a look at the knees! She had an operation on them!"
Back at RML, Sanjay's sister Kajal -- a slender and quietly sobbing woman in blue -- has just arrived, and the other relatives feel she, the only woman among them, should identify the body. But they fear she is not strong enough to do it, so they begin pleading with the hospital staff -- "we think that unclaimed body is her mother, but she can't come in, please let us take something from her clothes to show her outside, please sir, please!"
Just as the man relents, the second period I mentioned is upon us. Suddenly, we are pushed back by a line of cops and a thick yellow rope. Back, back, they shout; and a few greatly official cars stream in, cops with guns tumble out, more cars stream in, more cops with guns tumble out, the assembled press corps goes into a frenzy, and the home minister is here. He walks swiftly into the hospital, and for the next 45 minutes while he is in there, everything else is at a standstill. Calm like you wouldn't believe this monstrosity had happened.
In particular, Sanjay and Kajal and relatives are on hold. Nobody will listen to them or their entreaties. Forty-five minutes of this, all so that the press, frenzied again, can hear some inconsequential words from the home minister when he finally emerges.
But he leaves, and it's 11 pm, and the now familiar chaos resumes. Subdued somewhat, because the flow of injured is now a trickle. Sanjay and Kajal resume their entreaties. Finally Kajal says she will go to the mortuary, and a small group walks over there. Nearly midnight by now.
The brother and sister brace themselves and disappear inside.
Five minutes later, they emerge. From how Kajal is sobbing, from how Sanjay has his hand around her to keep her from sinking, I know.
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