Officials sleep as victims weepThe curtains are open. A Bollywood music video plays on the laptop as Arjun Bhandara snuggles under the sheet with his earphones on. It is a completely new setting for him in Cabin 315 of the Neuro/Medical ward at the Teaching Hospital, but the 20-year-old who recently came out of coma is unaware of everything around him. He does not remember anything or make sense of why he does not have his right leg anymore.
The curtains are open. A Bollywood music video plays on the laptop as Arjun Bhandara snuggles under the sheet with his earphones on. It is a completely new setting for him in Cabin 315 of the Neuro/Medical ward at the Teaching Hospital, but the 20-year-old who recently came out of coma is unaware of everything around him. He does not remember anything or make sense of why he does not have his right leg anymore.
“My son smiles sometimes. Here, I will show you,” said Shiva Kala as she goes near her son and tells him to smile. When Bhandara smiled, no one in the cabin was happier than Kala, who believes her son would one day speak to her again.
“It is difficult to feed him. Earlier, he was fed through a pipe inserted though his nose. He cannot speak and we do not know if the food was enough for him.”
Kanchanpur had turned into a civil unrest zone on August 24. Protesters and police clashed as demonstrations seeking justice for raped and murdered Nirmala Pant went out of control. When police opened gunfire to quell the riot, Bhandara who had wandered off that day with his friend to watch the protests got shot below his right knee.
Just below Bhandara’s cabin on the hospital’s first floor, in Cabin 201 of the Male Surgical ward, the curtains are closed. Yagya Raj Pant ends his phone conversation, stands up slowly and takes a step. His left leg which has a plaster cast takes a drag as he reaches for the socket to charge his phone.
“I like the curtains closed. I fear someone is watching me,” said Pant, the bereaved father who was brought to Kathmandu after videos and reports claiming he had lost his mind got viral.
A floor apart, the two families from Kanchanpur have their lives disrupted - a father who has lost his daughter and a son who can no longer recognise his mother or speak.
“Bhandara is in a minimally conscious state. He can feel, but he cannot express himself in words. There is no cure for a case like this, but he has recovered a lot and we hope for the best,” said the doctors attending to him.
Bhandara, a student in the science faculty had recently passed his intermediate exams.
Ekendra, his older brother had dropped out to start a cellphone repair shop to support Bhandara’s education, but times have tragically changed for the family.
“I wonder if anyone knows about Bhandara or his situation. He does not recognise me. If there is nothing the doctors can do, it is better to take him home,” Kala, who runs a small eatery in Kanchanpur, told the Post.
Pant’s brother-in-law Gajadhar Bhatta and sister Premwati Rana accompany him in the cabin. Bhatta, who manages a major lorry business in India, has left his job to be with the Pant family in their ordeal. “Medical reports do not indicate mental illness. He has gone through a hard time and mourns every day,” Bhatta told the Post.
Following months of emotional upheavals and protests in Kanchanpur and in the Capital, Pant had started a sit-in protest in front of the Kanchanpur District Administration Office, where his ‘abnormal behaviour’ made national headlines.
“When nurses come for routine checkups, I feel that she is Nirmala and call out her name, but then I realise where she really is. I try to control my tears,” Pant told the Post as he mimicked how he used to play pony-saddle with his daughter.
“I could have been discharged earlier, but a doctor has suggested that I stay a few more days as I have thyroid issue. Our daughters are alone back home so I sent Durga (wife) two days ago.”
Yagya Raj spends time reading about current affairs on Facebook. Besides his bed is a notebook, comprising his songs and stories he writes. A song he sings is about the government’s negligence towards the call for justice for his daughter Nirmala, raped and murdered four month ago.
“I do not want to put pressure on the government anymore. If they cannot arrest the murderers of my daughter, KP Oli can come to me and say it. I will get back to my life, but I wonder why the government is tearing posters that seek justice for my daughter?”