(Fourth post on the blasts in Mumbai. #1, #2, #3).
Through the rain, miserable rubble-strewn pavements and rivers of water, to Bhabha Hospital. (Two women I pass are saying to each other, the roads in Bandra are so horrible!). Three ambulances scream into the hospital as I approach, crowds surging outside, lots of cops. I ask one guy in a uniform, can I go in to donate blood? No he says, we'll call you, for now please stay out of the way and don't make things difficult for us.
Obvious reporters also in the crowd, discussing body counts. One says to me, 22 brought dead here, number might change. Woman in jeans and a Tshirt steps forward and announces to the crowd, it's no use waiting here, those of you who want to donate blood, please go to Holy Family Hospital! (Nearby). Six men peel off from the crowd -- again, I'm reminded of petals -- and walk up the road with the woman and me.
At the next junction, a few rickshaws, and one offers to take us to the hospital. One of the men gets in, and they motion the woman in. She turns to me and asks in an urgent whisper, you won't come with me? I can't go in that alone!
Before I can respond, the men say to her, it's OK madam! Come with us! Sit in front!
And I say, foolishly, but you don't know me from Adam either! Luckily nobody hears me, and I get into the rickshaw, and she gets in after me. Four of us squeezed in the back, driver plus two more in front, and we head off for Holy Family Hospital to donate blood, all of us.
On the way she tells me, our sons are in the same class, right? Then I realize why she looks slightly familiar, and why, too, she had that urgent whispered plea earlier.
On the way too, the driver tells us all, I brought four bodies in this rickshaw earlier.
At the hospital, I try to give the driver some money and he refuses. Twice. Flatly. We all troop up to the blood bank. While we wait, dripping rainwater all over the swabbed floors, I ask everyone's names. Binaifer the woman. Shoukat the driver. Ravi, Tabrez, Anil, Nawaz and Maaz, the others.
One runs a cold storage. One works for a film producer. One is a pharmacist. One has a mutton shop. One's a student. All of us, here together on a topsy-turvy rainy tragic Bombay night, waiting to donate blood for our fellow Bombayites hit by this madness.
Anil and I, they won't take our blood. Both of us have donated within the last three months.
Out on the landing, a sudden commotion. Doctors and nurses, green transparent plastic aprons over their clothes, appear as if from nowhere. Lift door opens and several nurses wheel a man in shorts on a stretcher, blood down his legs, into the ICU.
Homeward bound, the rain has finally eased. The memories haven't.