A day or so ago we heard how the Ansal family will be asked to pay 60 crores of rupees as indemnity for the deaths of 59 people in the Uphaar cinema fire in 1997. The indemnity amounts to the cost of twelve posh flats in their innumerable construction ventures. Thirty crores for fifty nine lives.
In June 1997, fifteen years ago,
people went to watch a film show
Uphaar was where the movie was showing,
the crowds to watch it happily growing.
Men, women, children there were,
enjoying themselves, but totally unaware,
that hell was waiting in the basement parking,
from a defective transformer constantly sparking.
How were they to know of this,
for the owners had been totally remiss,
in fulfilling their basic obligations,
to maintain and repair electrical installations.
The movie was fun, people were engrossed,
in the drama everything else had paused,
lost in this Bollywood’s entertaining game
no one knew that a transformer was aflame.
The fire and the smoke moved up the hall,
blocking corridors, exists and filling each stall
a fun filled day with families, you know,
had now turned into a hellish inferno.
Rushing to the exits to find them blocked
all exit doors had been callously locked
the stairs were of no use, for those were burning,
trapped, for people there was no way of returning
Screams in the darkness, sounds of being choked,
prayers to be saved, gods being invoked,
loved ones remembered, of people left behind,
hoping that the end when it came, would be kind.
Fire and smoke rose in a dense cluster,
the news spread of the ongoing disaster
crowds gathered below quickly, thick and fast,
to see how long this tragedy would last.
For those trapped on the floors above
all was jostle, push, pull and shove,
wanting to escape the gates of hell,
some jumped down, others just fell.
Fifty nine lost their lives that noon,
families now hoped for justice soon,
the guilty to be quickly and fairly tried,
for justice delayed is justice denied.
But so it came to pass in this great land,
what the survivors won’t ever understand,
why was it that for these long seventeen years,
all they could do was shed copious tears?
The wheels of justice were so slow to move,
despite the evidence it was hard to prove,
the guilt of the people behind this tragedy,
for families to get closure, succour and remedy.
Then in August 2015, after fifteen years of waiting,
for the guilty to suffer their due sentencing,
justice finally served all those guilty quite well,
for fifty nine lives, only twelve flats they need to sell,