The dust-fog lifted swiftly into the air. For a few minutes that followed, the eclipsed scorching sun cast a gloomy shadow on a six-storey garment factory plaza, now pancaked into a two-storey rubble.
Selva rushed to the tiny window the size of an exhaust vent, to investigate the loud explosion. A thought raced across his mind: Indu is dead
The local elections were in full swing, and political rivalries could turn up anything – even a cycle-bomb. As he peered outside, he had an eerie sense that he might be peering through a different window. The familiar view of a brick-clad facade of the drab and decrepit six-storey garment factory refused to greet him today. What greeted him today instead, was a rubble-heap of deathly proportions: fallen concrete beams with ripped-off and twisted metal rods, crumpled factory floors, and caved-in ceilings.
But the reason he was shell-shocked and the blood drained from his face, was the wordless realization that thousands just like him worked in the garment factory that this building housed.
And there was Indu on the fourth floor of this collapsed building. Buttons Section, third row to the right, next to window the size of an exhaust vent. Always waving her red dupatta through the vent-window at the sight of Selva getting off his clackety-clack Hero bicycle at 8:00 AM every weekday morning. Just like she did today. He had waved back to her. Where is she?
The floor manager was screaming his head off.
“The workers are trapped!” he yelled. “Let’s get them out”
Selva heard loud wails coming from another worker who was calling out to her sister somewhere in that collapsed building. There was instant chaos and panic on the floor. Selva was caught up with the rushing crowd, he rushed down the stairs and moved quickly to the high gates that fenced in the garment workers. The security guards did not budge to their request of opening them as it was not the appointed time for the gates to be opened. Some of the workers scaled the high fence. The guards were quickly overpowered. The gates swung open and a burst of men rushed out towards the collapsed building. A dust cloud emerged behind them with unmatched flip-flops and slippers strewn about in it’s wake.
There was an undefined and invisible periphery around the collapsed building where the army of men suddenly stopped.