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Summary: The Bhopal gas tragedy in 1984 is regarded as one of the worst industrial disasters in world history. After Bhopal is a story written by Harsh Mander about Sunil, an eleven-year-old boy whose life was significantly changed as a result of this incident. Sunil was a survivor of the 1984 Union Carbide gas disaster, which killed his brothers, three sisters, and both parents.
At the beginning of After Bhopal, Sunil’s family was all curled up under one blanket on December 2, 1984, when they all awoke around midnight with a terrible feeling of suffocation. When they awakened, they couldn’t breathe, and their neighbours were banging on the door, screaming that gas had leaked from the factory. Everyone was in a panic. His married sister Pushpa was at home for Diwali, and he wanted to spend more time with her. His father was a carpenter, and they lived in a small house in a slam called JP Nagar.
Union Carbide Factory was right next door to JP Nagar. That night, a large amount of water had entered one of the factory’s storage tanks via leaking valves, resulting in the release of 40 tonnes of lethal methyl isocyanate mixture. JP Nagar, where Sunil and his family were staying, was the first neighbourhood to be hit. Sunil was 11 years old, and he desperately ran while holding the hand of his younger sister Mamta. There was shouting and screaming from all sides, some people fell down somewhere, some of their clothes were ripped, and as he looked around, he saw some people vomiting. People were collapsing unconscious or dead all around him, and in the midst of it all, he lost his sister in the crowd.
Sunil was able to get into a van and was later transported to the district hospital. When he returned to Bhopal a week later, he discovered that both of his parents, three sisters, and two brothers had died. His two younger siblings, a 10-year-old sister and a two-and-a-half-year-old brother, were the only survivors.
Sunil found himself almost completely lost in the world. He was only 11 years old. Several times, he was helped mainly by his neighbours. Sunil decided not to return to school and instead devote himself entirely to his brother and sister. Sunil received a total of seventy thousand rupees in compensation from the government, with the help of a Muslim man named Mohammed Ali, Rupees 10,000 of which went to his sister’s husband in Lucknow, and the remainder was placed in fixed bank deposits.
The help of Mohammed Ali left a deep impact on him and when later in life he got involved with a communal organisation and they tried to campaign against the Muslims, he distanced himself from them.
Sunil received Rs 580 per month in interest and was able to support his family with this income. Meanwhile, the Indian government filed a suit in the Federal Court of the Southern District of New York on behalf of the victims seeking more than $3 billion in compensation, and in the search for a star witness in New York Court, government officials settled on Sunil because he was a child who had lost his parents and five brothers and sisters in the case tragedy. Sunil was the ideal candidate for the role of the star witness. He was transported to New York. He told his story in Hindi in court, and his testimony was translated for the judge.
Sunil was later awarded additional compensation, which he used to purchase a minibus. The remainder he put into a bank to secure his brother and sister’s future. For six months, the minibus brought him four to five thousand rupees per month, but one day the driver and conductor were accused of smuggling opium in the bus, and the bus was seized by the police.
Sunil had matured into a man, and many people had befriended him because he was wealthy. He began drinking, and his addiction grew stronger and stronger. Sunil became increasingly withdrawn with the passage of time, succumbing to stress and depression. He was frequently depressed. He also heard voices calling out to him. He was unwilling to leave his house. He refused to wash his hands or speak to anyone. His condition deteriorated at times, and he would run out of his house without clothes, roaming the streets during the day and night, running for kilometres on the railway track and into the forest.
Sunil had been on medication for his mental illness for four years prior to the writing of this story, after which he was returned to his home with his brother and sister. He and his family were supported by the interest earned on the compensation money in the bank. He continued to refuse to touch the main money because it was for his brother and sister. His sister got married in 1994.
Sunil struggled and suffered greatly as a result of his illness, but he never lost his sense of humour. He was fully aware that the voices he heard were not real, but he was unable to control them in the end. He was not mentally stable. This world was too much for him, and he later committed suicide.
A. Answer the following questions briefly.
1. Describe the day that Sunil had just before the gas leaked.
Answer: It was Sunday, and he had spent the day playing with his seven brothers and sisters. It was a happy moment for them because their eldest sister, who was married, had also come home to celebrate Diwali.
2. How did Sunil lose his sister in the crowd?
Answer: Sunil lost his sister in the crowd while he stopped to urinate. That’s when his sister’s hand was ripped from his grasp.
3. Describe the scene that Sunil witnessed after he was discharged from the hospital?
Answer: Sunil was taken home to JP Nagar after being discharged from the hospital. Milk and food were being distributed by relief volunteers. People were crying all around him, and he felt like he was returning to a cemetery.
4. `Sunil suddenly found himself almost completely alone in the world’. Why?
Answer: Sunil’s parents, as well as his five brothers and sisters, were killed in the tragedy. He is now responsible for his brother and sister despite the fact that he is only eleven years old. That is why he found himself almost completely alone in the world.
5. How did Muhammed Ali help out Sunil initially?
Answer: Mohammad Ali, a young man from J.P. Colony, initially assisted Sunil after the Bhopal gas tragedy in obtaining the government’s compensation for each deceased person. Sunil received a total of Rs. 70,000 with Mohammad’s assistance after the next of kin were each given Rs. 10,000.
9. ‘He heard voices call out to him.’ What kind of voices do you think Sunil heard calling out to him?
Answer: Sunil may have heard voices of hallucinatory objects that depressed him and took control of his mind, urging him to commit suicide. It was his broken mind’s voices that lost a sense of stability as a result of the unbearable pressure after the Bhopal gas tragedy.
B. Answer the following questions in detail.
1. At the start of the chapter, Sunil is very eager to go to school but somewhere towards the middle he decides not to go to school. Why did he have to make this choice?
Answer: Sunil is depicted at the start of the story as an eager boy who enjoyed going to school and receiving an education, but later in life, circumstances forced him to discontinue his studies. His life changed drastically after the Bhopal Gas Tragedy in 1984. Sunil was only eleven years old when the tragedy struck, and he lost his parents and five siblings that fateful night. After the incident, he found himself almost completely alone in the world, with no one to look after them. He was responsible for raising his infant brother Sanjay and his sister Mamata, which was a difficult task for him. When his relatives mistreated his sister, he resolved to raise them on his own, without the assistance of his relatives. As a result, he decided not to return to school and instead devote his entire time to raising his family.
2. The initial compensation given to the next of kin was Rs.10,000. Does this prove that the government took the calamitous tragedy a little lightly?
Answer: The initial compensation of Rs10,000 paid to the next of kin of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy victims demonstrates that the government took the calamitous tragedy lightly. It is a fact that no amount of money can compensate for the loss of thousands of lives because money cannot restore what they have lost and suffered. However, in order to live a dignified and healthy life, they could have compensated them more. Furthermore, despite the government’s efforts to rebuild survivors’ livelihoods, it was deemed a failure because only a small number of people benefited from it. Nonetheless, their efforts to provide relief and a means of subsistence are greatly laudable.
3. The way Sunil carried himself as the tragedy unfolded, despite just being eleven years of age speaks a lot about his character and resolve. Do you agree?
Answer: Yes, despite being only eleven years old, Sunil’s demeanour and handling of the tragedy reveal a lot about his character and personality. Despite his young age, he had a strong sense of responsibility and always put his family first, ensuring that their needs were met. On the night of December 2, 1984, when people began running helter-skelter for safety, Sunil clutched his younger sister Mamata’s hand tightly as he ran desperately. After his father and mother were killed in the disaster, he resolved to raise his brother and sister without the assistance of other relatives. He dropped out of school to devote himself entirely to their needs. He deposited the monetary compensation in a bank to secure their future. Even in the most stressful situations, he kept the deposit untouched because it represented a trust in his brother and sister’s future. He lives and supports his family solely on the interest earned on his bank deposits, refusing to touch the principal. He also refused to consider marriage for himself in order to provide for his brother and sister’s future. All of this demonstrates Sunil’s concern for his siblings as a brother and how well he handled the tragedy despite the circumstances.
6. What do you think would have helped Sunil overcome his loneliness?
Answer: Sunil’s loneliness came from the fact that he had to send his brother and sister away. Except for a few friends like Mohammad Ali, he had no close relatives to care for him. He would have felt complete if he could have lived with his brother and sister. His brother and sister’s company would have thus assisted him in overcoming his loneliness.
7. Do you think that the depression Sunil went through when j he reached adulthood was a result of a delayed reaction to the pain that he went through as an eleven-year-old?
Answer: Sunil developed depression as an adult as a result of his traumatic childhood. He had no idea what a child’s innocent life was like after the Bhopal gas tragedy. He had to deal with adult issues since he was eleven years old. People mocked him, looked down on him, defrauded him, and drove him away. He had to bear the burden of solving enormous problems in life while also parenting his younger siblings. There were some kind souls who helped him along the way, but many others were a source of contention for him. Facing all of these situations as a child harmed his mental health as he grew older.
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