It was a bad day. After Laxmi Chhaya last year, I covered the Bhendi Bazaar building collapse today. And after a long time, I cried while reporting.
I was strangely unmoved all throughout when taking pictures of the site and watching with a sick feeling in my stomach when the rescuers unearthed a bit of rubble and I could see the crown of a woman's head. Part of her green saree could be seen poking out of the rubble a metre away. Then I breathlessly waited till two young men, both miraculously alive and answering questions, were patiently pulled out. A woman who was pulled out shortly before them didn't make it.
Neither did over six children, some of them as young as two or three years old. All of these were mere statistics, though, which every reporter notes down since that is the stuff news reports are made of.
Then Sandeep and I went to JJ Hospital, and kept well out of the way of grieving relatives seated in a line outside the building. So far, so impassive. Then the body of a little boy was brought out on a stretcher uncovered. I saw his little face scratched and his rigid limbs either broken or caked with dried blood. His eyes were open, so were his little lips - in a scream or in surprise? The child probably died in his sleep, at least I hope he did. Then a group of women peeped into the open ambulance and recognised the child as one of their neighbours'.
And suddenly, I was crying. Crying like I'd lost my own child. The other reporters there looked at me strangely, Sandeep patted my shoulder. I kept seeing the sorry little face with its unseeing eyes and its torn clothes and its utter helplessness in its death. I can still see his little body all taut in death and subjected to curious stares even from strangers - who doesn't want to look at a corpse?
A little girl of four also died, and today was her fourth birthday. A young woman who had come to the city just 15 days ago to be with her husband died as well. I filed the story, updated the death and injured toll and then cried inside because there are such few occasions that actually move a reporter.