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March 27, 2001 - March 27, 2001

Special - 'I had all I could ask for,today there is nothing left' Tuesday, March 27, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Two months after his dream home went down, taking with it his wife and 20-year-old son, P S Sukumaran has changed completely. To forget the agony and pain that engulfed him after his family was killed when Shantanu Apartments in Maninagar collapsed on January 26, Sukumar turned to God and religion.
``Today I am alive only because of the blessings of Mata Amritanandamayi. She willed that I and my daughter live. I even heard that she was aware that a devastating quake was to strike Gujarat, but kept it to herself believing that one should allow nature to take it's own course,'' he says.

Since the quake, Sukumar has found solace in her teachings, satsangs and bhajans. And it is in chanting her name that he finds peace. A jeweller, Sukumar, was in his shop when the quake rattled Ahmedabad. ``My son, P S Sunil Kumar, had left for home five minutes ago. The moment they felt the tremor, my daughter Lakshmi and son Sunil rushed out. My wife was in the bathroom so Sunil went back. He was coming down when the house collapsed,'' he recalls. His wife's body was found on the staircase a day after the quake, while the son's body was found five days later.

``He was crushed under our house balcony,'' recalls Sukumar, pain in his eyes. ``I was there for five days looking into the debris, searching for my son. I saw people coming and looting things from the debris. A girl came from Gandhinagar claiming to be our neighbour's relative. She picked up a lot of things and left. Later did we realise that they had no relatives in Gandhinagar,'' reminisces Sukumar.

Life became easier when he spoke on the phone to the Mata, he says. In order to alleviate the pain, he ``completely submitted'' to Amma, as she is popularly called. ``I wanted to submerge my son's and wife's ashes in the sea opposite her ashram so immediately left for Kerala. Here I had an audience with Amma for two hours after which I felt relieved. Amma decided to adopt my daughter and provide her education and take care of her,'' says Sukumar.

Upon his return, Sukumar was handed over the compensation cheque for his wife and son. ``I have lost everything. In monetary terms it would translate to Rs 25-30 lakh. All that we could have even salvaged was stolen,'' he says.

Today, two months after the quake, he lives with a friend. ``I go to the shop and do nothing. There is no aim in life now. The pain remains, I still remember my complete home. I had everything one could ask for wealth, a loving and caring wife, a brilliant son, talented daughter and lots of happiness. Today there is nothing. I simply exist and pass one day after the other,'' says Sukumar, finality in his voice.

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Survivor does not want to talk about Black Friday Tuesday, March 27, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Anyone who saw TV images of Mona Sanghvi, face ashen and haggard, emerging through a hole from a heap of rubble at Mansi Complex on the night of January 28, will not be able to recognise her today.
Far from looking dazed, Sanghvi comes across as a bubbly 27-year-old. Though she does not want to talk about that Black Friday, she cannot detach herself from the rubble of Mansi. ``I come here at least three times a day, sometimes even four times,'' she says, laughing. ``Though I am living at another place, I still want to live at Mansi.''

She, along with dozens of other displaced Mansi residents, still visits her former home daily. ``We come here just in case we find the documents,'' she says. Her parents were killed in the quake, and she also lost all her belongings.

She is ``very finicky'' about her age. When told that she looked middle-aged in the news footage, she said many had thought she was quite old. ``After I was rescued, a fireman address me as Maaji (old woman) and asked me to sit down. I quickly corrected him,'' she says.

Two months after the quake, she is trying to get on with life. Her sister-in-law, who is with her, has enrolled herself in a medical transcription course. ``Please do not talk to her about that day. She still wakes up startled at night and starts yelling that the quake has struck.'' How did she feel about the Swiss rescue team, which in a neat operation, pulled her and 15-year-old Vicky Raval out? ``The Swiss team was a godsend. I feel like expressing my thanks to them,'' she says. ``I remember only one man who bored a hole.'' But she is quick to add that she is also grateful to all those local rescue teams, which chipped in.

However, unlike what many thought about who bored the hole in the slab under which she and Vicky were buried, she said the hole was actually made by a bulldozer. ``A small was already made by the bulldozer. Vicky even passed his hand through it. The Swiss team only widened it,'' she says.

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SPECIAL - Survivor does not want to talk about Black Friday Tuesday, March 27, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Anyone who saw TV images of Mona Sanghvi, face ashen and haggard, emerging through a hole from a heap of rubble at Mansi Complex on the night of January 28, will not be able to recognise her today.
Far from looking dazed, Sanghvi comes across as a bubbly 27-year-old. Though she does not want to talk about that Black Friday, she cannot detach herself from the rubble of Mansi. ``I come here at least three times a day, sometimes even four times,'' she says, laughing. ``Though I am living at another place, I still want to live at Mansi.''

She, along with dozens of other displaced Mansi residents, still visits her former home daily. ``We come here just in case we find the documents,'' she says. Her parents were killed in the quake, and she also lost all her belongings.

She is ``very finicky'' about her age. When told that she looked middle-aged in the news footage, she said many had thought she was quite old. ``After I was rescued, a fireman address me as Maaji (old woman) and asked me to sit down. I quickly corrected him,'' she says.

Two months after the quake, she is trying to get on with life. Her sister-in-law, who is with her, has enrolled herself in a medical transcription course. ``Please do not talk to her about that day. She still wakes up startled at night and starts yelling that the quake has struck.'' How did she feel about the Swiss rescue team, which in a neat operation, pulled her and 15-year-old Vicky Raval out? ``The Swiss team was a godsend. I feel like expressing my thanks to them,'' she says. ``I remember only one man who bored a hole.'' But she is quick to add that she is also grateful to all those local rescue teams, which chipped in.

However, unlike what many thought about who bored the hole in the slab under which she and Vicky were buried, she said the hole was actually made by a bulldozer. ``A small was already made by the bulldozer. Vicky even passed his hand through it. The Swiss team only widened it,'' she says.

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Home Losers Assn faces complications Tuesday, March 27, 2001

AHMEDABAD: The Home Losers Association (HLA), a body formed to expedite re-construction of those buildings which either collapsed or were demolished because of the quake, already has it's hands full with problems, some very peculiar in nature.
With the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) and Ahmedabad Urban Development Authority (AUDA) having stalled all procedures involved in passing building plans, even stopping construction activity that was underway as of January 26, it seems that residents of those buildings which fell or were demolished will have to wait for a few more months.

As such the fate of 21 buildings still standing, but dangerous to live in will be decided by a committee set up by the High Court, while no new construction activity will be allowed in the city before the new building laws are announced.

Some of the problems being faced by the residents are not all technical in nature. A resident of Shrinathji Apartment in Maninagar area that collapsed on January 26 said some of the residents are not willing to stay in the same place, as they feel that place may become haunted or jinxed. Another resident of Mansi Complex demanded to know as to what the HLA planned to do regarding re-construction of the complex. While one block collapsed in the quake, the other blocks have been referred to a committee by the High Court.

A third complication brought out at the meeting was what should be done in cases where the builder himself owns three or four flats in collapsed or demolished building. Shah said the HLA has sought the advice of advocates in this and the only solution in such cases is that if the builder owns less than 30 per cent of the flats, a new association of members should be formed and a meeting be held to decide about the builder.

``We have decided to make building plans and submit these to the authorities concerned by April 30 although they will not pass them. We will then meet people in Gandhinagar and the fight will go on,'' said Shreekant Shah, co-ordinator of HLA. He, however, admitted that it will take at least an year-and-a-half before people get to stay in new apartments constructed on the same place where they existed earlier.

Confronted with problems like people not wanting to stay at the same place, Shah said he was urging the residents, to sort these matters among themselves. ``The residents have to sit and agree to a common programme if the apartment has to be constructed soon,'' he added.

The HLA has compiled a list of structural engineers, architects, providers of building materials and others, whom affected persons can meet, and get plans made.

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Homage paid to victims Tuesday, March 27, 2001

Ahmedabad, March 25: The National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL) organised a function at Kankaria lake and lit 20,000 lamps to pay homage to thousands of quake victims.
While addressing the mass gathering, Governor Sundar Singh Bhandari assured people that rehabilitation work will be conducted at a rapid pace and in full earnest. He also assured people that the homeless will be soon provided homes and the affected will be well taken care of.

Volunteers of the NCCL gathered opposite the Ambubhai Purani Vyayam Shala and after the Governor lit the first lamp, they lit the rest illuminating that stretch of Kankaria lake.

Also present at the function were Justice D C Shrivastava, judge Gujarat High Court, P N Roy Chawdhary, CEO, Gujarat Maritime Board, V K Saxena and Sangita Devi of NCCL.

The people present at the occasion also maintained a minute's silence to pay tributes to the departed.

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