In a trice, two friends found themselves aflame

February 16, 2010 01:34 am | Updated November 17, 2021 10:48 am IST - PUNE

Two days after the blast that ripped through the tranquillity of Koregaon Park here, the police removed the cordon from the roads leading up to the Germany Bakery. The bakery site itself, though, remained inaccessible, secured with iron barricades. The police have also curtained the site with loud-coloured cloth, and all that curious onlookers could see are vacant windows of the flats above.

Soon after the blast, chunks of flesh were seen hanging from trees around the bakery, which was housed in a small, three-storey white building on North Main Road in the heart of the city. Body parts were flung as far as 50 feet in the impact of the explosion.

One of the customers caught in the bakery was 21-year-old Aditya Mehata, a final-year student of electronics at the Bharati Vidyapeeth. He suffered over 60 per cent burns and both legs had to be amputated below the knees. He was a footballer who participated in inter-collegiate competitions.

His cousin and flat-mate Amit Vermani emerges from the intensive care unit of the Jehangir Hospital with Aditya's father, who has come down from Delhi. He ushers him into the waiting lounge with assuring words, but he knows Aditya's condition is grim. "The doctors are not saying anything at the moment," Amit says. "It takes time for the infection of the burns to spread. Nothing can be said."

Amit says Aditya went to the bakery with a friend, Aditi Jindal, who suffered 40 per cent burns and had one leg amputated. But she is conscious in the ICU at the Inlaks Budhrani Hospital.

Aditi told Amit that she and Aditya were at the centre table when the explosion happened. The next moment, the two were in flames. They tried to put out the fire with bare hands. Next, she remembers being taken to a hospital.

"She asks me about him," Amit says. "I haven't told her that his legs have been amputated. But she knows his condition is worse than what I have had her believe."

Rajiv Agarwala (23) was in the bakery with four friends that evening, looking forward to going back home in Kolkata. "I spoke to him at 4 p.m.," says his mother, looking stoic, in the ICU waiting lounge in the Jehangir Hospital, where Rajiv has been admitted with both kidneys failed and the abdomen burnt. It is learnt that his skin is too tender for an operation.

A final-year student of the Symbiosis Law College, "he was upset that he wasn't getting a placement. He wanted to come home at the end of the month for his birthday," says his mother.

A doctor at the Jehangir Hospital said the condition of all five blast victims in the ICU was very critical.

There are eight others in the ICU in Inlaks Budhrani and one is in the Ruby Hall Clinic. No one is in the ICU at Sassoon. In all, there are 38 survivors still undergoing treatment in different hospitals.

While most of them are critical, there are heartening reports of bakery acquaintances coming to the aid of the victims. Yashpal Sharma has donated blood to Vikas Gaurav (38), who is in the ICU in Inlaks Budhrani. The only bond between the two are a few, brief conversations at the bakery. By word of mouth, Yashpal has gathered quite a few friends and friends-of-friends to donate blood for Vikas.

A woman visitor from Iran has come to donate blood but is disappointed that she couldn't because her haemoglobin count was low. A woman from Iraq donated blood to Vikas. When she went to see him after donating blood, he was asleep. She kept a picture of a god at bedside, having done her bit to save Vikas and leaving the rest to Him.

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