My Secular India, My Holy Religion
They are not very sure, but they are still trying to grapple with what has happened to their lives. Balwant Singh and Balbir Singh came back to India from Nairobi in 1962. They were qualified and experienced engineers and hence had no problems in finding work. They opened ‘New Everest Engineering Company’ in Bhopal and had a flourishing business. They were the trouble shooters. Anyone having a persisting and nagging problem, the answer was Balwant and Balbir.
The work was amply supported by their wives and adoring children. Everything was in harmony. Perhaps the past karmic accounts had to be settled because overnight everything changed.
On 2nd November, 1984 a nti-Sikh riots broke out all over the country. But the Sikh brothers were held in high esteem in Bhopal and the owners of the ‘Shelly Products’ whose problems were solved by the brothers on more than one occasion made sure that no harm came to them.
In few days the work piled up and by the beginning of December the brothers thought it safe enough to start their business once again. 2nd December 1984 was a fine clear day and both the brothers had urgent business deals in other towns. By 7 O’clock both the brothers were at least 100 kms away from their homes. They were in the middle of their business deals when the news about Bhopal Gas tragedy reached them (The plant released 42 tonnes of toxic Methyl Isocyanate (MIC) Gas, exposing more than 500,000 people to toxic gases and about 10,000 people died within 72 hours, and it is estimated that 25,000 have since died from gas-related diseases. The number of children exposed to the gases was at least 200,000. The Bhopal disaster is frequently cited as the world’s worst industrial disaster). They hurried back to Bhopal to find that their wives and children had perished in the tragedy. They went into a severe shock and trauma.
Their ordeal was not yet over. Three months after the gas tragedy, while walking down from their factory, they were attacked by a mad bull. Balbir was flung 15 feet into the air and landed on his back severely injuring it. He was never to walk again unassisted. The bull was sitting on Balwant’s body and it took 20 people to pull Balwant away. Both his legs which were under the bull were grievously injured and it required several rounds of surgeries to enable him to struggle a few feet on his own. As soon as they regained enough strength to make a decision they sold their assets and moved to Bombay to start their life a-fresh. They started another factory in Thane but with their disabilities and apparent helplessness they had become easy victims. Some narrow parochial goons who never wanted outsiders to flourish in that area haunted them day and night and when they could not meet their demands the pressure increased. They found it impossible to conduct business on their own. Once again they sold their assets and joined another firm in Pune as consultants. These men followed them there to. The owner of this firm was so disturbed that he decided to move the entire factory to Jaipur. At Jaipur the health problems compounded and they had to move to Faridabad. Now left with very little money they were not even welcomed by their friends and relatives so they decided to come to the holy city of Amritsar and spend the remaining days serving in a Gurdwara. They were allowed to stay there for few days but after that seeing their disability and helplessness they were told to leave. When they explained their pathetic condition they were thrown out and in the bargain lost whatever little they owned.
Now penniless they were on the street when someone suggested them to move to Pingalwara. Now they are in Pingalwara for the last two months regaining their strength and sanity, slowly. They are still bewildered by the treatment meted out to them in the Gurdwara. Ever hopeful, still looking to Waheguru Balwant fondly supports elder brother Balbir while eating, lest he should fall down. Living for each other the brothers have been trying hard to reach out to their other brother Ajit Singh Matharoo/Azad an Engineer by profession who is still in Nairobi.