Mumbai: She may be destiny's child, or just plain invincible: this 43-year-old woman survived two road accidents in 1980 and 1984, escaping death by the breadth of a hair each time. And just when she thought she had suffered her share of perilous experiences, she was caught in the raging inferno of the 1993 Mumbai bomb blast. This time too, she miraculously escaped.
19 years have passed since her last brush with death, and the only reminder of the 1993 ordeal today is the lost vision in her right eye, and the shard of metal lodged in her forehead, grazing her brows. Recollecting her experiences, 43-year-old Bandra (West) resident Sabiha Usmani recollected her trials on that terrifying evening waking up with her eyeball in her hand, and worrying about the safety of the unborn child she was bearing.
Sabiha was seven-months pregnant when the blast ripped through her, and she was the first blast patient to reach Hinduja Hospital. Speaking to MiD DAY from her Bandra residence, the freelance fashion designer claimed that she owed her resilience to her husband Helal Usmani (48), a businessman who had stood by her through her ordeals.
Sabiha recalled, "On March 12, 1993, at around 2.15 pm, my sister Mehjabeen and I were on our way to Breach Candy for some Eid shopping. The cab had just passed Sena Bhavan, and we saw smoke and a fire raging nearby. Seconds after, as the cab reached Century Bazar in Worli, there was an explosion and then everything went blank. I could see that our cab was on fire, and the entire place was dark."
"My sister whispered that we had been caught in a bomb blast. I could sense that something had landed in my hand. But my sole worry was for my unborn child. I was expecting our first child in four years of marriage," she said.
She added, "I left all that I was carrying Rs 12,000 and a bag full of unstitched clothes The two of us walked towards the other side of the road, pleading with cabbies to take us to Hinduja hospital. But most of the cabs had been damaged in the blast. All the cabs started asking for exorbitant amounts of money, but we had left our purse in the burning cab."
"Finally, a good samaritan agreed to drop us to the hospital. I was bleeding and held my eyeball in my hand. Till date, I have no idea about the identity of the selfless cab driver who emerged as a saviour for me and my unborn child that night. My several attempts to trace him have ended in failure," Sabiha recounts.
She continued, "At Hinduja Hospital, I was the first blast patient to be admitted. I requested the doctors to save my eyeball, so that even if I lost my vision, my eye could be cosmetically restored."
Sabiha's first close encounter with mortality was in 1980, in a road accident in Pen, in which she lost her uncle. xactly four years later, Sabiha met with yet another road accident on their way from Lonavla. While she survived miraculously again, she lost her close friend.
So when she was caught in the blast, Sabiha had been hardened by the vicissitudes of her life. "My parents and relatives who had reached Hinduja hospital were informed by the doctors that I might slip into a coma. The surgery could only be performed the next morning. I was awake and in control of my senses, and kept reassuring my family members and doctors, giving them courage and hope."
She continued, "Though I lost the vision to my right eye, the doctors could preserve the eye ball and fix it to the eye socket again. My unborn son was also safe in my womb," she said.
A mother of three, Sabiha today is a hero for her children and her husband, who admire her for her vast reserves of will power. "I am overwhelmed when my children come to me and say that I am the most beautiful mother. It touches me," she says.