Two American tourists reach out to Jaipur blast victims

May 16th, 2008 - 11:17 am ICT by admin  

By Kavita Bajeli-Datt
Jaipur, May 16 (IANS) They came to see the sights and colours of India, but found themselves in the middle of a tragedy. However, instead of hiding in their hotel, two American tourists went to donate blood to those injured in Tuesday’s serial bomb blasts here. Unhappy when they were told the hospital did not need any more blood donors and they could leave their number for future reference, Eric Reichbaum and David Price Reichbaum thought of meeting the victims and sharing their pain and anguish.

The cousins have been teaching English in South Korea for the past few years. Having finished their assignment, they were set to return to the US this year. But before that they wanted to see how people live in the second most populous country in the world.

This quest brought them to India on May 10.

On Tuesday evening, eight bombs went off within 15 minutes in a one-kilometre stretch in Jaipur. Sixty-one people died and 216 were injured.

“On the day of the blast, we had gone to see a wedding, which was 20 km away from Jaipur. We came to know about the blast after the person who took us got telephone calls from his family,” Eric told IANS.

They returned to the pink city the next day. But curious to know about the incident, they read Internet and newspaper reports and turned on the television. That is how they came to know that hundreds of people were queuing up to donate blood.

Feeling restless, they ventured out Thursday despite most parts of the city being out of bounds due to curfew from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Eric and David went to the Sawai Man Singh Hospital, where the majority of victims were undergoing treatment.

“They told us that if they needed blood they would call us. We came to know there was no shortage so we left our hotel numbers behind if they needed it in future,” said Eric, who was tested and found to be O positive.

At the queue, a stranger asked them whether they had met the victims. If not, did they want to meet the victims? He got an emphatic “yes” from the duo.

As language was a problem, this reporter, present at the day care centre where some of the victims were being treated, acted as their interpreter.

They spoke to Sanjay Bhatia, who had been seriously injured, and asked him if he needed something.

“I hope god gives you strength to fight this tough time. We will also pray for your family so that they could cope,” David told Bhatia, who was grateful for the concern.

Like Eric and David, 22-year-old British national Esther Shaylor also pitched in to help the victims. She had come to India in September last year to be part of a voluntary organisation engaged in disaster response. When she heard that some of the injured were battling for life, she rushed to the Sawai Man Singh Hospital to help nurse them.

Applying a bandage to a seriously injured person, Shaylor said “sorry” to him at least a dozen times whenever he winced with pain. Taking a round of the wards where the injured were being treated, she could not stop muttering: “So much tragedy”.

Shaylor, who is a resident of Birmingham and has a degree in disaster management, said that despite Rajasthan being hot during this season, she loves the exotic and historic place.

“I love India and I love Rajasthan even more. I don’t find any other place so worthwhile,” she added.

Both Eric and David feel terrorists just want to make a statement and select a place which is less safe and visited more by tourists.

“This is our first visit to India and hopefully we will come again. We wanted to see the lifestyle of people living in populous countries. We have recently visited China. This is how one can get a global perspective,” said David.

What was it about India that had impressed them? “Friendly,” both said. “We enjoyed the food and the people here are very nice.”

The cousins said that when they return to the US, they would tell their family and friends to visit India. They are leaving in the first week of June after visiting Delhi, Agra and Dharamsala.

“If the bomb blast escalates into a major conflict only then would tourists decide not to come to India. But I hope that would not happen. Even then I will try to change their opinion and tell them to go to India, despite the bomb blasts,” David said.

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