H.H. Trivedi, who's now in his 80s and still runs a clinic in Bhopal's Arera Colony, takes a long breath while recalling the fateful night of December 2-3, 1984, when the capital city of Madhya Pradesh turned into a chamber of toxic methyl isocyanate (MIC) fumes.
Trivedi, then an additional professor at Gandhi Medical College, was one of the three senior doctors who saw people lying unconscious on roads, gasping for breath. He is also one of those persons, whose testimony on the disaster was recorded in a court in the U.S. in 1989.
On the 38th anniversary of the Bhopal gas tragedy, Trivedi, in an interview with IANS, shared his memories of that fateful night and the entire havoc that engulfed around 3,000 people within the next 24 hours, and the toll continued to grow in the coming days.
Trivedi recalled that it was midnight and he was getting ready to go to bed when he received a call from the Hamidia Hospital, asking to come immediately for an emergency. "I had no idea what kind of emergency had come, but as a doctor I had to go. I was driving my car at full speed, heading towards Hamidia Hospital. When I reached the New Market area, I was surprised to see a large crowd running here and there and crying. It was a chilly night. In the next five minutes, I was at the Roshanpura area, where I again saw a large crowd running helter-skelter, including children and women."
Trivedi was driving his car in quite the opposite direction the people were running but he kept driving as he had to reach the hospital.
"As I reached Raj Bhavan, from where the old Bhopal area starts, I was shocked to see people lying on the road and gasping for breath, crying, shouting. At one point, a large crowd stopped my car and asked me not to go in that direction because gas had leaked from the Union Carbide factory. I told them that I am a doctor and I have to go to the hospital," he said.
Trivedi recalled: "I saw a pregnant woman lying on the road. A man jumped in front of my car and began thumping the bonnet. I took the couple in my car and dropped them at J.P. Hospital. The couple was from Kerala, which I came to know later. The woman gave birth to a child and they came to meet me after six months, and that was the only good feeling I had of that fateful night.When I reached Hamidia Hospital, I came to know about the whole incident. But, here is where the problem began. We were clueless about what to do, which medicine to use etc. People had burnuing sensation in their eyes. Theit mouths were filled with foam and they were dying.
"It was havoc. We were not aware of the toxic chemical, because at that time we did not know which kind of chemical had leaked from the factory. So we followed the basic treatment procedures. There was no space to even hang a saline bottle for the serious patients,'' Trivedi said.
He said that being the head of the doctors, he had to give instructions to his team, but he himself was clueless. "All the doctors were following my instructions, but at that moment I was completely clueless because dead bodies were piling up there. At around 7 a.m., I came out of the ICU only to find more bodies lying in the hospital premises," Trivedi recalled.
Trivedi also inhaled the toxic gas while treating the patients, but fortunately he survived. In 1989, he was among those who went to the US to record his testimony in a court.
"I was asked to narrate the incident and I told what I saw. I won't make any controversial comment, but yes, I would say that the people of Bhopal are still awaiting justice," he concluded.