Eight years ago...

Radhika and her 10 year-old son used to live alone in Kameshwar vadi in Khadiya, Ahmedabad. Three years ago, her husband Keshav died after getting run over by an AMTS (Ahmedabad Municipal Transport Services) bus while returning from work on his scooter. Radhika had cried a lot that day. She had run away from her house to marry Keshav, who belonged to another community, which her family was against. She was broken by the thought on how she would live her whole life without Keshav. But after few days, when she saw her 7 year old son, she mustered up courage to live life by her own. As she couldn’t go back to her own house, she decided to fight this lone battle on her own. Because she was not educated, it was difficult for her to find a job, but she managed to land work at a nearby shop in Khadiya, where she’d do the cleaning job. Raju was in second standard back then, and he was her only pillar of strength now. As the years passed by, things began to fall in places in their life. Radhika tried to provide everything for her son in her capacity. For her son, she was his mother and his father too. One day, she spotted her son running behind a cycle ridden by another child of similar age. Raju loved riding bicycle, but didn’t own one. Radhika took an advance from the shop she worked and the very next day bought Raju a bicycle. When Raju returned home, he couldn’t believe his eyes seeing a brand new bicycle in front of his house. He danced with glee when his mother handed over the keys to his new cycle. Since then right before going to school and after returning home, he’d go around riding his bicycle. Raju wanted to take his bicycle to school, but he was too young for it. Radhika would also fear about it because she remembers how Keshav had died in an accident. She’d convince her son that he could take his bicycle to school once he grows up a little.

Raju was to go on a picnic to Kamatibaug in Vadodara from his school. His mother had paid the fees for the trip and he was very happy, telling his friends and his mother about his plans for the trip. The evening before, Raju came up to his mother and told her he wants to take some snacks along to eat on the way in the bus. She told him that she will pack shakkarpara for him, to which he declined and said he wished to take Balaji wafers for snacks. Radhika tried to explain to her son that it won’t be enough to fill his hunger. But Raju was adamant that he wanted to take chips. His mother finally agreed and gave him 20 rupees. He happily took the 20 rupees note and rushed out on his bicycle to buy wafers from the nearby shop. The shopkeepers too like Raju as he spoke very sweetly to them. As Raju was coming out of the shop after buying the wafers, a blast ripped from the bag on a bicycle that was parked next to his. Such was the effect of the blast that no one could see anything around them for a few seconds. Once the smoke cleared, the whole area was strewn with dead bodies and covered in blood. Among them was Raju. No one could understand on what had happened, but people were running helter-skelter. Radhika too heard the sound of the blast, but she didn’t feel surprised as it felt like one of the crackers being burst during wedding processions. Meanwhile, a man ran towards Radhika’s house in Kameshwar vadi and told her to come quickly as there’s been a bomb blast and Raju was lying there. The plate in her hands fell and she ran outside. People were running here and there in confusion, she too was rushing towards the market with tears in her eyes. Upon reaching the place, she saw something that made her heart sink. There were people lying around, and so was Raju, next to his new bicycle, covered in blood. His face had become dark with soot. She went up to him and began to call him out, painful voice rent the air, but there was no one to help her. Quickly the police had arrived and without waiting for the ambulance to come, they picked up as many people as they can and took them to the VS hospital. As the police van was carrying the injured to the hospital, its wireless set crackled with messages from other police stations which informed of similar blasts in Shahpur, Maninagar, Bapunagar, Isanpur, Kalupur, Gomtipur and Rakhiyal. The blasts had happened from bombs placed on bicycles. The police were rushing to as many places as possible, but they too were confused to where to reach first and how to help people out. The sound of ambulance sirens had rent the air of Ahmedabad. At that time, a train from Ahmedabad was leaving for Mumbai; it had six youth travelling in a 3rd AC compartment. Even when they were waiting at the platform, their eyes would constantly turn towards the television sets placed at the railway station. They had a serious expression on their faces and didn’t even communicate with each other. As the train arrived, they went in and took their seats. As it was about the leave, the television screens flashed breaking news of serial blasts happening across Ahmedabad city.