Traumatised lot

Published : Jan 02, 2009 00:00 IST

Near Nariman house, residents participate in yoga exercises for stress and trauma relief.-GAUTAM SINGH/AP

Near Nariman house, residents participate in yoga exercises for stress and trauma relief.-GAUTAM SINGH/AP

A woman who witnessed the terrorists enter Nariman House is one of many who suffer from post-traumatic stress.

THE woman stands out from the crowd of 200-odd people who are in quiet meditation. Her eyes are shut but the eyelids flicker. Her cheeks and lips quiver and from time to time she takes a deep breath as if to ground herself in reality. She is close to tears and is clearly in need of the calm that the trauma camp will hopefully bring her.

The location is a small square surrounded by low houses at the heart of the Colaba market. It is the sort of place where people sit at their doorsteps and chat with others across the way. At this moment, the open space in between the houses is covered with plastic seating for the men, women and children who are participating in a trauma camp held by Sri Sri Ravishankars Art of Living programme.

Please do not give my name or tell people where I live. I am only talking to you because you saw what happened and you have come to our camp. It is only after this reassurance is given that the 52-year-old woman agrees to describe what she saw on the night of November 26.

She lives at the bazaar end of the Nariman House gali, away from the main road, which is where the attackers came from. She said: I was standing on the road after dinner. My family was upstairs watching TV and I had come down to talk to some friends. Shops were closing down. We werent doing anything in particular. It is actually difficult to remember now and I still cannot believe what has happened. The bazaar is never quiet and I remember there was some loud music playing.

We saw some sort of frenzied activity at the other end of the gali but thought it was some boys in a mock fight. Then there was a horrible explosion, jaise ke atom bomb phut gaya, lekin us se be zyada [like the diwali atom bomb but even louder]. Then crackers. We were stunned by the shock of the noise. I felt it in my chest and we were irritated by the noise. Then people started running and screaming and boys were shouting something, and someone said Bhago re [run] and I remember I said Kidhar? Kyun? [Where? Why?].

After that, it was all confusion. I also ran but not far because I didnt know why I was running or where to go. I saw boys, I think there were two or three, Im not sure. They were dressed in dark clothes. They ran straight to the Yehudi house. They stood for a few seconds at the gate and fired some more at the gali and up and down at the buildings.

There was glass everywhere. People around me were screaming and saying they [the attackers] were using guns. They really sounded like crackers; even now I cannot believe guns were used near my house. The sounds of firing came from inside also and people were shouting. Everyone was on the mobile phone.

I think they were calling relatives and I heard one boy calling the police in Marathi. The noise was frightening but we were also very excited. I cannot believe the way it turned out to be. It is not the sort of thing that one thinks one will ever see in ones life. It was like a film.

I am sorry I cannot remember the time but I still cry when I think of those three nights. That is why I am attending this camp. I do not sleep well. I wake up at every sound and I think thieves will enter my house. I have had a fever since that day.

Doctors say these symptoms are classic symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They recommend counselling for such individuals. This would be impossible as long-term treatment for people who live in and around Nariman House, but they do have what is possibly a good alternative, support from the community and a sense of sharing in what occurred.

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