was living with my husbands family at that time. My
daughter Ruby was 3 years old and my son Mohsin was about
8 months old. That night my husband was away from Bhopal on
work. Our family consisted of my parents-in-law, two sisters-in-law
and their husbands and their four children. Our house had
four rooms - two brick and mortar rooms and two side rooms
made of wooden slats. I, my husband and our children had one
of the side rooms. It was a Sunday. Television had just come
to Bhopal and our whole family watched a Hindi movie Damaad
till 9 p.m. then ate together and went to bed at about 10
p.m. My children had gone to sleep long before the movie ended.
At about 12.30 am I woke to the sound of Ruby coughing badly.
The room was not dark, there was a street light nearby. In
the half light I saw that the room was filled with a white
cloud. I heard a great noise of people shouting. They were
yelling bhaago, bhaago (run, run). Mohsin started
coughing too and then I started coughing with each breath
seeming as if we were breathing in fire.
Our eyes were burning. My mother-in-law who was also coughing
badly came in to the room. She was in a panic and bade us
come out. I came out with my children, carrying Mohsin on
my lap and holding Rubys hand and went in to the kitchen.
The family were coughing and groaning. We tried closing all
the doors and windows to stop more gas from coming in, but
the room was already full of white clouds. A hindu family
in our neighbourhood (Mr and Mrs Verma and their three children)
knocked on our door, my father-in-law opened the door and
they came inside in a rush and collapsed on the sofa, which
broke under the weight. All of us were feeling worse and worse.
My son Mohsin stopped groaning, he fell unconscious. My mother-in-law
suggested that all of us should go to the Hamidia hospital.
We left the house. Me carrying Mohsin and Ruby holding my
hand. My sister-in-law was also holding two children and my
father-in-law was carrying his favourite grandson who was
five years old.
It was very cold outside but we were not feeling cold at all.
We went out in our night clothes with nothing else to cover
ourselves. Not even our dupattas or burkhas were with us.
It was around 1.30 a.m. by then. We left without shutting
or locking the house, nothing mattered but to run.
Outside in the lane, it appeared that a large number of people
had passed that way. Lots of shoes and shawls and other clothes
were strewn about. White clouds enveloped everything. Streetlights
looked like points of light. Our family got split up. One
of my sisters-in-law ran one way and the rest of us towards
the main street. I saw lots and lots of people running, screaming
for help, vomiting, falling down, unconscious.
We had gone about five hundred metres when my father in law
thought it would be easier to escape using his two-wheeler
moped. He asked us to stay where we were and went back for
the vehicle. He brought the moped but it would not start,
there was no petrol. He left the two-wheeler by the side of
the road. Then he spotted a moving truck and told us to climb
on to it. We could not climb on to it but he was tall and
strong so he got in, but in all the confusion instead of lifting
up five-year-old Mansoor, his grandson, onto the truck he
grabbed another little boy who was running around on his own.
Mohsin and my sister-in-laws daughter were still unconscious.
Ruby was holding on to my kurta, she did not leave it once.
We walked for another 500 metres and came to the Bhopal Talkies
crossing. Mohsin was vomiting on my body. Ruby was also vomiting.
I was not able to control my bowels. Faeces were running down
my legs. My mother-in-law was vomiting. She was a heart patient
and Hamidia hospital was still two kilometres away, much of
it uphill. We had just one thought and that was to reach Hamidia.
At Bhopal Talkies crossing we all fell on the ground and just
lay there. I was two months pregnant at the time. I had a
miscarriage right there in the middle of the street, my body
was covered with blood. There was blood all over. I was unable
to control my bowels and the faeces ran down my legs, mixing
with the blood.
We couldnt talk to each other or even see because our
eyes were inflamed. We were wondering what had gone wrong,
who had done this. We had no idea that there was a gas leak
from Union Carbide. We thought that if we stayed on at Bhopal
Talkies crossing we would surely all die because we could
see so many people lying on the ground who appeared to be
Trucks overflowing with people were passing on the main road.
We took the Saifia College road and walked about half a kilometre.
There we managed to jump onto a moving vehicle, a large three-wheeler,
going slowly because it was uphill. It was already crowded,
full of people. By then I was covered with my own blood and
faeces and vomit from my children. I fell on to some mans
lap inside the vehicle. The vehicle gave away at the top of
the hill. The engine collapsed because there were too many
We started walking again towards Hamidia hospital. We reached
the hospital at round 2 or 2.30 am but there appeared to be
nobody around so we went on towards Kamla Park in the new
city, because everyone seemed to be running that way. Mohsin
was still unconscious Ruby still holding onto my kurta.
reached the lake and found the park separating the upper and
lower lakes covered with people lying on the ground. People
from nearby areas were bringing out their quilts and bedcovers
and covering people up so that they could be protected from
the gas cloud. All of us from our family, my sister-in-law,
mother-in-law and four chidren, fell onto a pile of dried
leaves near a garbage dump and all of us fell unconscious.
I remember faintly that two men came and lifted me and my
children. They carried us to the side of the road and covered
me up with a quilt. We lay there for a while and then we heard
an announcement from a public address system on a jeep. They
were saying We are in control of the gas leak from Union
Carbide. Go back to your houses. By then it was almost
dawn. One man about 35 years old from that locality took us
to his home. Our eyes were closed and were very swollen. We
were still feeling as if someone was trying to strangle us,
breathing was very difficult. This man gave me clothes to
wear and some hot water to wash myself. He made us some tea
but we could not drink because our throats were on fire.
it was morning, but we were helpless because of our eyes.
We could not see. The man and his 18 year old son led us home.
They also gave us a bottle of drinking water.
When we reached our house we saw that the trees had shed all
their leaves, which looked as if they had been burnt. Milk
had turned light green and we threw it away. All food left
in the house was also thrown away. At about 8 a.m. we heard
that people were running away from Bhopal. My husband arrived
home fearing that we had all died. He was away in Jaipur and
had got the news of the disaster on the radio on the 3rd evening.
He had gone to Jaipur as a chauffeur for a businessman and
his family. He drove all the way back from Jaipur in a rush.
Sultan is a community health worker at the Sambhavna
Clinic in Bhopal