In memory of Rajlaxmi

(Quite a few months back, I had chanced upon the story of Rajlaxmi and her distraught family. Me and a few friends tried to pitch in by taking the story to the masses through media and get justice. Sadly, we have been not successful, and to a great extent our own lethargy is to blame. But everytime I pass through that stretch of street, I can almost see a ghostly apparition waiting on the sidelines, wondering whats gone wrong. I am publishing this piece that was meant to be circulated to all newspapers et al. May her soul rest in peace)


Next time, you happen to be drunk and whizzing across the Link Road in the Western Suburbs of Goregaon or Malad, or just plain reckless, and happen to run over a person. Be calm; get out of the car, act concerned and offer to take the unfortunate person to the nearest hospital. Hoping there is no one accompanying him or her, drive down to Siddharth Hospital and admit the person (don’t forget to remove any belongings that might give the person’s real identity like a diary or so). Pose as a Samaritan in front of the doctors and nurses. Remember to give a false name and worry not for they will not ask for your contact numbers or any other details. In fact, they would not even bother to jot down your vehicle number or anything. Finding an opportune moment, under a pretext of getting medicines or something like that, give a slip. The staff at Siddharth Hospital is not only rather careless in the way it functions but it suffers from collective amnesia.

You might think it is just another fictional account, or another accusatory claim. Yet it is the horrific truth, for there is no other reason in the world, why woman in her forties met a sad end and her murderer is still at large. Rajlaxmi Pillai, was in her late 40s, unmarried and employed in a company in Kandivili (W). She lived with her old and ailing mother in Bangur Nagar, Goregaon (W). Everyday Rajlaxmi would leave for the company early in the morning and return in the evening. As she was ranked in the lower echelons of the employer, Rajlaxmi earned a few thousands every month. To be able to fend for herself and her ailing mother, she would cut every corner she could to save money.

Thus, Rajlaxmi would pack last night’s leftovers in her rather old steel tiffin-box and tug it along to office. She would often walk down to nearby places and travel strictly by the BEST buses. It would be a rarity, if she indulged herself and led a staid and somber existence till September 14, 2007. The day she met with a deathly accident.

It was around 6.30 p.m. in the evening, and Rajlaxmi had just disembarked from the bus at Bangur Nagar bus stop. The road has become quite crowded ever since Inorbit and Mindspace has come up in the area. She was in the process of crossing the street, and was half through when a speeding vehicle dashed into her. The impact was so strong that Rajlaxmi was lifted in the air and thrown quite many meters away — evident from dents on her tiffin box and her wrist watch that froze at that moment in time. Her head took the maximum impact and she lapsed in a coma immediately.

It is after this point that the story gets hazy. The people, namely slum dwellers, and a nariyal paani wala that who witnessed the accident cannot recall a thing about the person and the car. The coconut vendor (who would not have been more than 20 meters away from the accident spot) feigns complete ignorance of the incident. All that one can gather from the numerous interactions is that the murderer got out of the car, looked at Rajlaxmi and fearing public outcry offered to take her to nearest hospital. According to one person, there were two people, but it cannot be substantiated. The time was around 6.50 p.m.

Putting her in the backseat, the murderer took her to Siddharth Hospital in Goregaon (W). Dr. Nishad was on duty that day. According to Nishad’s account, the person  — aged around fifty and seeming like a south Indian – claimed that he had witnessed the accident was helping out a fellow being. There was no record made of him on the hospital registers (OPD Case 42273) and the hospital staff customarily wrote down the name, Shivkumar, as mentioned by the person. The hospital is also not equipped to handle serious cases. There are two creaky beds and there is no provision for even an X-Ray machine. Thus Rajlaxmi was given first-aid the kind given when you bruise your knees. The royal exception was a saline drip. According to Nishad, that is the best they can do and calls it ‘stabilizing treatment’.

Next the doctor says, they realized that Rajlaxmi (whose name was not known to them) needed to be shifted to a hospital with neurological care. So supposedly the doctors prepared an OPD document that would be required for the shift. The height of incompetence being, they did not have a copy of that document and even handed it to Shivkumar. It was around 8.30 p.m. and the police were yet to be informed..

The story gets even more bizarre. Under some pretext, Shivkumar makes an escape from the hospital with the OPD document. He drives away in the car and not a soul (namely the security folks) note down anything. After around an hour, the doctor is supposedly looking after patients in a ward and the nurse on duty calls him up to inform him that the murderer had escaped. Nishad rushes down and makes a note of Shivkumar’s car. “It was a red Alto and the last three digits of the registration number were 735,” he states. So, though he might seem incompetent, he had indeed bothered to ask about the vehicles number from Shivkumar but remembered only last three digits. Why did he not make a note of the number in the register itself? Time, around 9.30 p.m.

The hospital staff finally decides that it is time to call the police and rings up the Goregaon police station. Vinayak Jhimil a constable at the police station makes a trip to the police station, and makes note of the case. As murderer Shivkumar had removed Rajlaxmi’s diary, the police could not confirm the identity and were completely clueless about when and where the accident took place. Meanwhile, Nishad had left for the day and Dr. Bansode took charge (who was supposedly late and hence Nishad was working late). With no clues to go the constable returns back to the police station near Cinemax theatre on SV Road, with Rajlaxmi’s handbag that contains a small purse with some cash and a dented lunchbox.

Back in Bangur Nagar, Rajlaxmi’s mother is anxious. “My daughter was always on time, as she knew how worked up I used to get,” she recalls with tears streaming down her face. She calls up her daughters who stay with their families in nearby suburbs. Her two son-in-laws make inquiries at her workplace and find out that Rajlaxmi had left as usual on that day as well. The mother fears the worst. After some deliberation, the duo visit Goregaon police station to register a missing complain. It is past midnight and constable Jhimil shows them Rajlaxmi’s purse, which they recognize immediately.

They family rushes to Siddharth Hospital, and finds Rajlaxmi in coma. The hospital staff has made arrangements for her to be shifted to KEM Hospital in Lower Parel, as there is an ambulance that is waiting to take her there. The family is aghast and someone suggests that it would be more feasible for them to take her to Sai Clinic, a private nursing home rather than a government hospital. The arguments are clinching, as a trip to KEM would take over an hour at the least and Sai Clinic happens to be in close proximity.

The grief stricken family takes Rajlaxmi to Sai Clinic, and admits her at 1.30 am in the night. Not even once has Rajlaxmi showed any signs of life. The doctors attending to her at the clinic give a gloomy assessment. But there is little that the family can do except hope and pray.

Over the next few days, a number of tests are performed on Rajlaxmi, which display extensive damage to her brain. The lady had lapsed into a vegetative state. After 4 days and Rs. 75,000 later, the family decides to shift Rajlaxmi to Nair Hospital. The shift was necessitated by economics more than anything else. Rajlaxmi’s brother Vijay Kumar, who worked as an AC technician in the Middle East, had to chuck his job to return back to India. Thus, Rajlaxmi was admitted in Nair Hospital on September 19, 2007.

The hit and run case is being handled by Inspector Hande from Goregaon police station and he calls up Rajlaxmi’s brother-in-laws a few times to enquire about her state and to find any clues. They register the family’s views and could not go any further. After many agonizing days, Rajlaxmi succumbs to her injuries at Nair hospital. The date was October 3, and the post-mortem mentioned head injuries as the cause of death.

It had been over a fortnight since the car had knocked down Rajlaxmi, but the investigation carries on at a snail’s pace. It took police officials 3 days after Rajlaxmi’s death to complete the panchnama procedure. In fact, in was on October 27 that Inspector Hande took a statement from the doctor at Siddharth Hospital, Dr. Nishad. Over a month after the incident, he was candid enough to mention that the face impression made according to Nishad’s description might not be quite accurate due to the passage of time. And quite contrary to claims made by Nishad, he does not know that Shivkumar was supposedly driving a red Alto, with registration number ending in 735. “He did not tell me about it,” he says. But then why did he not do so earlier? He would not reveal anything more as investigations are on.

It has been over a month, since Rajlaxmi breathed her last. The police are completely clueless and the case is in a limbo. The Pillai family is in mourning, Vijay Kumar is jobless and Rajlaxmi’s mother is recovering from Malaria that she was stricken by in the past fortnight. Even though, Rajlaxmi was unmarried, she had hopes and aspirations for a better life. She had registered herself at one of the matrimony camps organized by the Kerala Kala Samithi in Goregaon. Alas, she is now dead and forgotten. No one from the community (the Malayalee Community), neither did the neighbors and resident of her building come to Rajlaxmi’s aid.

There are so many questions, but no answers. Why did Nishad at Siddharth Hospital let go the murderer? Was there really a red Alto with a driver named Shivkumar? Why is the police investigation proceeding in such a ludicrous manner? What is the link between Sai Clinic and Siddharth Hospital? Is there some sort of collusion between the investigative agencies and medical team at Siddharth? Why so much apathy in general?

The crest-fallen Pillai family is still trying to find answers but don’t know where to go. All the mother, weeping interminably, wants is justice. “My Rajlaxmi suffered a lot in life but bore on with fortitude. Her sad end merits some amount of dignity. She shouldn’t be just another file in a police station that will be closed in due course of time. Let the person who has done this pay for it. How else can I find peace,” she says. But more than that, it is also a matter of subsistence as well. With Rajlaxmi, the household income has vanished as well. The mother and the son are in dire situation currently. Some sort of monetary help would indeed alleviate the pain and suffering. The Pillai’s are too dignified to beg. But are we so heartless, so as not to listen?

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