Today marks the one year passing of Dr. Daya Ram Varma. His son Rahul Varma has shared the following words about his father, the Bhopal Gas Disaster, and his play Bhopal. Thank you Rahul for sharing this with us.
“When the Union Carbide plant exploded, killing over 2500 people overnight, and while company bosses, corporate lobbyists and media were busy establishing whose fault it was, my father flew to India and started collecting data from the survivors and victims — data which would later become the subject of his research and, eventually, potential evidence against the corporation. He told me that the impact of this poison gas (MIC or methyl isocyanate) would haunt not only the present but the generation to come. He told me that those not yet born at the time of the explosion would carry devastating effects of the MIC, a fact which was kept hidden as a trade secret.
When I sit down to pen a play, one of my primary subjects for contemplation is how this play might be distinct from other plays written on the same theme. My father’s one-liner, “MIC will haunt the generation yet to be born” – became that distinct idea of the play that premiered in 2001, and which was subsequently published, translated and produced in French, Hindi and Punjabi.
Dr. Sonya Labonte, a character in the play, was inspired and informed by my father’s work. I based this character on him to honour his prophetic thinking. He pursued his research and produced scientific facts and published papers exposing the corporate culpability. He could not be silenced. Once, at a scientific conference in Pittsburgh, USA, he walked up to and scolded Union Carbide hired doctor Hans Weill, who infamously said that MIC would be hydrolyzed and roll out of the Bhopal victims’ eyes. My father warned him never to go to India.”
You can also read Rahul’s tribute to his father on the anniversary of his passing.