Initially, I brushed off the information as trivial as it was a regular affair in Kolkata. In fact, it’s a miracle that such things don’t happen everyday. After all , the old buildings of the city are actually potential tinderboxes with low maintenance, web of illegal electrical wiring hanging about like a giant spider web, steep wooden staircases, ancient lifts and illegally tenanted over ten times the normal acceptable limit.
Then fire got its revenge. The small (?) flicker turned into an inferno. As I watched aghast and in awe, television screens showed people jumping off the fourth and fifth floors. The fire-fighters at that time were grossly outnumbered and ill-equipped.
Then came the realisation and the tears. People were dying. The fire brigade finally arrived with its might after an hour or so. The hydraulic lifts went into service, some people rescued and the fire, presumably, brought under control.
More than 5 hours had passed. Politicians came and mouthed allegations against each other. The iconic Flurys and Peter Cat possibly escaped with minor damages. But, so many lives were lost. So many people are still in hospital.
This is the third big fire in the last two years. Each time there are blame games and claims of starting a Disaster Management Group. Nothing happens. In the last two occasions, thankfully no lives were lost. But this time people died.
What more do the authorities need to act? Why don’t the politicians drop their posing and work, for a change? Why can’t we all be goaded out of our somnolent nonchalance? How much price we need to pay to be pushed into doing constructive work?
When shall we all wake up?