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A last call to his wife

December 5, 2008
Text: Vaihayasi P Daniel

Bhagan Shinde, 40, heard the sharp sound of firing at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus from his home at the GT Hospital staff quarters about half a kilometre away.

He froze because he immediately remembered his wife Sunanda, who had gone visiting to Dadar (central Mumbai) with their daughter Ashwini, 11, would be planning her return. He urgently slipped out of the house to call them, hurrying down the dark little lane that connects the rear of The Times of India building with Mahapalika Marg on which St Xavier's College and the Cama and Albless Hospital are located.

At about 10.30 pm, Sunanda got a call from Bhagan. He told her not to return home because there was trouble at CST. He suggested she stay at her mother's home and not return that evening.

That done, Bhagan was walking back to his tiny quarters when he was shot from behind. He was fell there alone in this dark lane, even as the terrorists moved on ahead looking for fresh targets.

Sunanda sits on the floor, her face huddled in her knees, at the rear of her modest home, where she has been living for the last 14 years, ever since she married Bhagan, who was employed as a ward boy at the GT Hospital, like his father before him. Her two children sit by her side. Ashwini, probably not able to comprehend the situation, gives you a bright smile. Her brother-in-law and two sisters-in-law are with her.

"And then I got a call from his sister a little while later that he had been shot," she says. His neighbours -- their son Ashish, 13, was at home, nearby, but did not know his father had been shot -- managed to wrap him a sheet a run with him to GT hospital where he died there the next day

As she recounts the sad details of an evening that changed her life forever, there is a small commotion just beyond the door. Bhagan's cousin comes running in and requests us to step out for a short while because the collector has come. "It will only take ten minutes."

Image: Sunanda Bhagan Shinde, centre, with her son Ashish, daughter Ashwini and sister-in-law. Photographs: N V Reuben

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