A few minutes after the ill-fated Rajdhani Express left Chapra at 2:15 am, 15-year-old Nishant, travelling in B-2 (AC 3-tier coach), was woken up by his father, Pawan Kumar Dhawan.
Pawan told his son that since he was not comfortable sleeping in the middle berth, he would swap berths with him. Hardly had the father-son duo agreed to do this when Nishant saw the train tumble.
All hell broke loose. Passengers and luggage fell everywhere as the train turned topsy-turvy. Nishant’s mother, Neelam, travelling with them in B-2 was the first to be thrown out as the glass window panes cracked under pressure.
Within seconds, his world had crashed. His parents were no more. Pawan and Neelam were the first two casualties in the mishap, although they were officially declared dead a few hours later.
“It was around 2:20 am that I talked to my father for the last time,” Nishant told Deccan Herald. He is recuperating at the dingy Chapra Sadar Hospital. He was travelling from New Delhi to New Jalpaiguri in the Dibrugarh-bound Rajdhani Express. It was only when his aunt (mother’s sister), accompanied by her husband, reached the hospital that Nishant could not control his emotions.
His aunt stays in Bihar’s Begusarai district. On the adjoining bed was Manju Devi, who was also travelling in B-2 with four generations together. Her father Ram Dayal Singh, her grandmother and her five-month-old daughter were with her.
“As soon as I fell off my berth, I started bleeding profusely. But the first question I asked was about my daughter and then about my grandmother.
Before anyone could answer, I could see my infant wrapped in a blanket with blood oozing out of her nose.
I got myself and her out of the bogie while my father extricated my grandmother,” Manju recounted the nightmarish experience. She, however, was not sure how she would go to her ancestral place Simalgudi (ahead of Guwahati) in Assam’s Sheosagar district.
Yet another passenger, Nirupam Majumdar, also from Assam, was travelling in B-3, along with her husband when she heard a loud noise at 2:20 am.
Before she could realise what was happening, she had fallen on the floor of the compartment with one passenger after another tumbling over her. She is now recuperating. Now, however, she is worried about her luggage.
“I came here only with my purse, though railway officials have assured me that my luggage is safe,” she said.