Havoc blows no horns before wreaking itself. Twenty-seven-year-old Suraj Kumar, a welder at a company in Dahisar, had moved with his family to the Lucky Compound building in Mumbra not more than 48 hours before it was reduced to a pile of rubble. He had only recently shifted his wife and children to the city from his hometown in Uttar Pradesh so he could be with them. His desire to be with his family is his biggest regret today. Suraj lost his wife Kamlavati Devi (22) and daughter Nilu Kumar (5) in the building collapse.
His three-year-old son Karan Kumar, who suffered head injuries and fractured an arm, has only recently been shifted out of the emergency ward of Kalwa Hospital. Karan has been moved to the paediatric ward, and has received his cheque of Rs 50,000, the financial relief offered to those injured in the collapse. Karan is too young to understand what has happened. He frequently asks for his mother and sister.
He used play with Nilu by dragging her around while she sat on a chair. He now points questioningly to an empty chair next to his bed. His father doesn’t know what to tell him. He is still waiting for the compensation promised by the government to the kin of those who were killed in the catastrophe. Said an inconsolable Suraj, “I regret my decision of bringing my family to this city, only to get them killed.
They would’ve been alive and safe had they stayed back home.” Before moving to the Lucky Compound building, Suraj and his family lived in the company accommodation provided to him. It was too small to accommodate his family. So when his colleagues informed him about the Lucky Compound building, Suraj was swift to move to a sixth floor flat in the structure. Death and tragedy struck two days later.
That dreaded day
On April 4, when the building collapsed, killing 74 people and injuring over 60, Suraj was at work in Dahisar. He was trying to call his wife in the evening but in vain. One his way home he overheard co-passengers talk about the collapse and kept hoping it wasn’t his building. Suraj said, “I called my wife around 7 pm while returning home from work to ask if she needed any groceries for the house, since we had just moved. When I heard a man talking about a building collapse in Mumbra, my heart started pounding. I kept trying my wife’s cell phone but couldn’t reach her.”
His worst fears came true when he spotted several police vans, fire engines and ambulances parked next to what used to be his house. “A huge crowd had gathered next to the compound. And at the spot where our building stood, there was only a pile of slabs,” he said. Suraj was denied entry on the site. The police made him stand with bystanders on the road. He prayed that his family had left the building before it collapsed, but he heard the locals say that nobody could manage to escape.
After running around from one hospital to another, he found his wife Kamlavati’s body at the Thane Hospital morgue. His children were still missing. Soon, he found that Karan was admitted to the same hospital. But then he also got to know that his daughter’s body was at the mortuary at Kalwa Hospital. Suraj says that but for his son he has little reason left to live. He has decided to bury his dreams, go back to his native place in UP and never ever return to the city.