Parcel bomb wound that won't heal

Her father has returned home from hospital after a month and a half but Satabdi Santra is as worried as she is happy. Worried because she does not know how she would clear the hospital dues and that his health might deteriorate now that he knows her mother is no more.

One parcel has thrown the 19-year-old girl's life out of gear. On September 26, her mother Chaitali Santra, 40, opened a parcel delivered minutes earlier to their Shibpur home and was killed in the explosion that resulted. In the adjoining room, her husband and Satabdi's father, Himangshu, 48, suffered 80 per cent burns. The teenager was at her tuition classes in Santoshpur at that time.

"I don't know how I will arrange for the funds or what other responsibilities I will have to shoulder. At times, I feel so shocked by all that has happened that I can't do anything," says the first-year student.

Himangshu, who was taken to Howrah's West Bank Hospital on a motorcycle after the blast, was released on Saturday.

"Through his stay in the hospital, Baba knew that Ma was being treated at SSKM Hospital. I did not dare to tell him the truth. He broke down when he finally got the news from a friend before he was discharged," says Satabdi.

Every time she visited him at the hospital, Himangshu asked her about his wife. Through gestures and eye movement from across the glass partition that divided them, Satabdi told him that her mother was alright. "I could not enter the glass enclosure in which he was kept because I might have spread infection," says the Asutosh College student, who has not been able to attend a single class since the blast.

At home, the glass enclosure isn't there but the fear of infection still is. Relatives cannot enter the room where Himangshu has been kept. "The doctors told us that if we go into the kitchen or the bathroom, we have to change our clothes before entering my father's room," the teenager says.

The Rs 4 lakh hospital due is giving her sleepless nights.

"A part of the Rs 6 lakh bill was taken care of by my father's medical insurance and relatives and friends but how do I get the rest?" says Satabdi, who has been making rounds of neighbours' and friends' houses to collect money.

The savings of Chaitali, who was a freelance reporter for Delhi-based crime weekly Julm Se Jung (War Against Injustice), and Himangshu, who runs a catering business, had gone into rebuilding the two-storey house that was damaged by the bomb.

The main door, the adjoining bathroom door and the door of the room in which the bomb exploded were blown away as was the window adjacent to the bed in which Chaitali was sitting while opening the parcel.

"I have cemented that window. I had to get the repairs done since we have to live in that house," says Satabdi.

The basic work has been done ' plywood doors have replaced the broken wooden ones and walls have been repaired with cement ' but the scars of a destroyed family are visible through every crack.

"It is so strange that I have to put everything in place now. In January, my parents were getting the first floor of the house built and I could not care less. Not even a year has passed and I am in charge of the entire house," she says.

Howrah police had deployed men outside the house till Puja but every time the doorbell rang, her heart skipped a beat.

"Many relatives have been visiting us after hearing about the incident. I do not let in the ones I don't know until they provide proof that they know my parents. After all, a parcel delivered by a fake courier boy changed my life forever," says Satabdi.