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Terror's youngest victim

December 18, 2008
Text: Savera R Someshwar | Video and photographs: Hitesh Harisinghani

It is a long walk from the main gate, through the Sir Jamshetjee Jejeebhoy Hospital's labyrinthine innards and up a slope, before you reach Ward No 41, on the first floor of the building dedicated to the care of sick children.

At the far end of the ward, two beds away from the head nurse's station, four-month-old Sheetal Yadav looks around curiously. Her beautiful large eyes focus on you -- a new curiosity within the bland, flaking walls of the multi-bed hall that serves as the children's ward.

You pick her up and she gives you a bright, pleased smile. But her clothes are wet; her skin wrinkled from the damp. She is not wearing any underwear.

"Kya karoon (What can I do)?" says her 25-year-old mother Sunita helplessly. "I only have a few clothes for her, and she's wet them all."

Sheetal is much too young to understand the horror that has befallen her family. But her mother is reeling under the impact of the devastation that targeted them on November 26.

When the terrorists launched their murderous spree at Mumbai's Chhattrapati Shivaji Terminus on November 26, Sunita's family was one of the many destroyed in the brutal attack.

Upendra Yadav, a data entry operator for a company in Vapi (located at the southern tip of Gujarat; it touches the state's border with Maharashtra), was taking his wife and daughter back home to Basawan in Uttar Pradesh. They were accompanied by Sunita's brother, Upendra's cousin sister and her five-year-old son.

In a voice so soft you can barely hear it, Sunita says her husband is dead; she believes he died almost instantly in that murderous hail. The shock of her unexpected loss is evident -- she moves like a zombie, eyes vacant, voice without emotion, as she mechanically goes through the motions necessary for the mother of a four-month-old baby. She does not eat enough to survive, says her father sadly.

"I picked up my baby and ran," Sunita says tonelessly. She, too, was hurt. Sunita had been hit by bullet in her chest and shrapnel struck other parts of her body.

As she struggled to find her way out of the panic-ridden station, her blood drenched her child. Then, she could no longer run. The loss of blood had made her giddy and she fainted, holding tightly to her precious child.

Also see: 'Al Qaeda is a corporate entity'

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