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26/11 victim’s wife fights for survival

By Mauli Buch, IANS,

Mumbai: Two years ago, she would relax after her children left for school. But now she has to take her husband – a victim of the 26/11 attack – to hospital, run around to get compensation and look for a job.Her most immediate worry is which friend will lend her money.

Thirty-one-year-old Baby Chowdhary’s husband Shyamsunder, a biscuit factory worker, was grievously injured in a blast carried out by Pakistani terrorists in Vile Parle on the night of 26/11. He recovered only to fall very sick again six months ago.

“Every day is like a struggle for me. For the last six months, I have been practically begging for money from people I know. Apart from the huge medical bills for my husband’s treatment, I have to support a family of eight, including myself,” Baby told IANS.

“I am desperately looking for a job so that I will have a regular income,” she added.

Shyamsunder had almost recovered from his multiple injuries and he was earning from his job as a packaging worker at the factory. That was six months ago. Then he developed a brain disability that left him paralysed.

“The right side of his brain has stopped functioning due to some infection and doctors say the infection is spreading to the left side of the brain too. Chances of recovery or survival appear bleak,” Baby said.

She is thankful that the education of her two children, Varun, 10, and Shikha, 6, is being funded by the Taj Group, which provided relief to victims of the attack.

Congress legislator from Vile Parle constituency Krishna Hegde has committed to supporting her in any possible manner.

“I am trying to find Baby a suitable job so that a regular income, whatever little, is generated. I have also written to Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan, asking for funds from the chief minister’s relief fund,” Hegde told IANS.

On the fateful night of Nov 26, 2008, Shyamsunder had left his home from Sambhaji Nagar slum in suburban Vile Parle for work at the Parle biscuit factory close by. He was on the night shift. As soon as he reached the main road, Shyamsunder blacked out after a deafening explosion in a taxi, the roof of which hit him on his right shoulder.

Residents of Sambhaji Nagar also heard the explosion, rushed to the spot and took him and other injured people to the hospital.

In January this year, Shyamsunder’s health started to deteriorate again.

He started complaining of his hands going weak and frequent pins and needles sensation.

“He also started to stutter and we could not follow what he said. The MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) detected an earlier injury,” Baby said.

In May, doctors detected a blood clot in his brain and pressure on a nerve. Suddenly, one day he developed fits and was paralysed.

Shyamsunder cannot even speak for himself. All he does is to stare at the walls of his small room and shed some tears every now and then.

He is entirely on a liquid diet, which costs a lot of money. “He has been advised to survive on fruits like apples and bananas. Doctors tell me I should give him biscuits mashed in milk,” Baby said.

“Where do I get the money to buy fruits that are so expensive?” she asks.

Before the attacks, the family of eight was solely dependent on Shyamsunder’s earnings. With mounting medical bills, Baby says the compensation of Rs.50,000 is not enough. Besides, the couple and their two children, the family includes Shyamsunder’s parents and his two sisters.

The 60-hour audacious attack that began on the night of Nov 26, 2008, and went on till the afternoon of Nov 29, 2009, was carried out by 10 Pakistani terrorists, including Ajmal Amir Kasab, who has since been sentenced to death.

They targeted sites like the crowded Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus railway station, the iconic Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel, the nearby Hotel Oberoi-Trident, the Cama Hospital and the Chabad House, a Jewish prayer centre, and Leopold Cafe, a popular hangout, killing more than 170 people.

(Mauli Buch can be contacted at [email protected])