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Faces of horror and helplessness

A mother mourning her elder son’s death and praying for the younger one’s life, a brother blaming himself for his sibling’s grisly end, a son haunted by the image of a building burning before his eyes with his father inside: grief had many faces on Wednesday.

Isharon Bibi, 50, had caught the day’s first train to Sealdah from Lakshmikantapur after being informed of the fire at 35 APC Road by a friend of her sons.

“I came straight to the hospital hoping for a miracle but god spared only one of my sons,” she said in between sobs.

Brothers Lalchand and Kalachand Purkait were asleep in their room on the second floor of the market when the fire broke out a little before dawn. Kalachand survived, Lalchand didn’t.

Isharon Bibi would have been in that room with her sons had she not gone to Lakshmikantapur, in South 24-Parganas, for some work a few days earlier. Lalchand had called her on Tuesday to ask when she would return.

The brothers weren’t aware of the fire until the floor of their room started radiating heat. “Kalachand reached a window and kept banging on it and screaming till rescuers brought him down around 5am after cutting open the frame. His elder brother was dead by then,” a relative said.

Mohammad Habijul, 35, had received a call from his younger brother Azizul Gazi around 5.30am saying that he was trapped inside the burning market. “Azizul’s last words over the phone were to pray for him. There was little that Habijul could have done to save him from that inferno but he blames himself nevertheless,” said Mohammad Ramzan Lashkar, a friend of the brothers.

The duo, from Kultali in South 24-Parganas, used to run an eatery on a Sealdah pavement.

The family of 28-year-old Mithun Jana, an employee of an outdoor advertising firm, did not know about his death until noon. Father Murari Mohan Jana, a farm labourer at Contai in East Midnapore, had heard about the fire on TV around 11am and called his younger brother in Calcutta, who confirmed his worst fear a little later.

“My daughter-in-law Namita is in advanced stage of pregnancy. I don’t know how she will cope with such a tragedy. What will happen to my four-year-old granddaughter?” Murari cried.

Colleagues of Mithun had been outside the hospital all morning wondering how they would break the news to his family. “It’s a crushing blow to his entire family,” a friend and colleague said.

Mithun used to stay with his uncle’s family in Baguiati or spend the night in their shop at 35 APC Road. He would visit home on weekends and was looking forward to renting a small apartment someday so that his family could stay with him, the friend said.

Outside the hospital morgue, 23-year-old Pintu Ravidas, from Jharkhand, sat on a chair cupping his face. He had watched helplessly as flames licked the building where his father Jagadish was trapped. “I was in another building across the street where my uncle lives when I heard about the fire around 3am,” Pintu recounted. “I ran out but it was too late...”

Pintu had come to Calcutta in the hope of finding a job so that he could stay back with his father and uncle, who are employed as sweepers.

North Calcutta resident Subhashree Moitra didn’t lose a family member or a relative but was outside the police morgue for Radhagobinda Poddar, 65, and Ratan Poddar, 28. “The girl Ratan was engaged to works in my house. I couldn’t stop myself from coming here after hearing about the news from her,” Subhashree said.

The father-son duo from Nadia were potato traders and lived in a room on the mezzanine floor.