For Ansarul Haque Ansari and many of his former neighbours, at the ironically named Lucky compound in Mumbra, the collapse of Smruti apartments a few kilometres away on Friday has opened up old wounds.
The illegally constructed Lucky building came crashing down on April 4 this year, killing several people and injuring many other residents. Smruti, too, was a dilapidated building, which came crashing down, killing at least 10 people.
Today, there is only debris where the highrise once stood. A small tea stall stands a few metres away. Ansari, the owner, sits desolately in a corner. There are few takers for his tea, as the area has turned into a necropolis.
Ansari lost three of his children when Lucky came crashing down. Four of his children survived but two of them suffered serious injuries and are still unable to walk properly. But even if the physical wounds are healing, the mental anguish hasn’t.
Even memories of the collapse bring tears to Ansari’s eyes. The patriarch of the family has been running the tea stall for several years. Remembering that dreadful day of April 4 he says, “My family used to reside on the second floor of the building and from my stall which was hardly 100 metres away I could see the building.
That day, my son was waving to me from the window. I waved back. When I looked up within minutes, startled by the noise, I saw the building come down in a heap.” Three of his children, Sajeeda, five, Sanjeeda six and Saad who was nine-months-old, died in the collapse.
Ansari says life after the collapse has been tough. “Having lost everything, we had to take refuge at a relative’s home for a few days,” he recalls. Now a family friend has volunteered to give them some space to stay for a few days in Mumbra itself. His two children who suffered severe injuries because of the accident are still taking treatment, as they find it difficult to walk. Only his two-year-old daughter Sadhiya had a miraculous escape and suffered no injuries despite being in the building when it collapsed. The mother of the children,Hasina Bibi, who was stuck in the debris for 12 hours, saw one of her daughters suffocate and die before her eyes. “Each time I go to feed my kids now, I think of my other three children,” she says. One of her daughters Hamida, 10, who is unable to walk because of the injury, says that although they have pictures of her siblings, her father does not allow them to see them. “Abba photo dekhne nahi dete (Father does not allow us to see the pictures),” says Hamida.
Little from the government
The family received a compensation cheque of Rs 50, 000 each for the two injured children. However, with most of the money already spent for their treatment, they are back to living a hand-to-mouth existence. “At least before the crash there was some human habitation here and we sold enough tea to make a living. Now my business has been badly affected. I hardly make Rs 3,000 a month as compared to Rs 8,000 earlier,” he said.Clearly, the lessons from Lucky’s crash haven’t been learnt by others living in dilapidated or illegal structures in and around Mumbai. And with politicians doing what they do best --making popular statements to save their vote bank even at the cost of human lives -- Smruti, Lucky and now the Piyush apartment in Dahisar, may not be the last crash to be reported this monsoon.