Posted by: supriyaparulekar | May 18, 2015

The Silence of the Dead

Aruna Shanbaug: then and now!

Aruna Shanbaug: then and now!

She was an ordinary person but she had a dream too! Once, she was young and beautiful, confident and so sure about herself! Suddenly a cruel twist of fate snatched everything from her, even her dreams. What the monster did not take away was the twinkle in her eyes!

To my good fortune, I got to spend time with Aruna Shanbaug when I was in last year of my college, an hour every week, in her tiny, well-lit room in KEM hospital. I was supposed to read poems and stories to her. This was thanks to NSS and the marks we scored based on the hours we filled up.

Before I stepped in to the room, I knew what to expect as I was aware of the tragedy that had befallen her. How she was raped and chained and left to die in the hospital basement! Only a monster, a person filled with evil could do something horrendous as this.

The nurse introduced me as a ‘young friend’ every time that we met. She turned her eyes on me, they stayed and then moved towards the window. Was I supposed to open the curtains? I did and was bestowed with a smile. I do not know if sister Shanbaug understood the poems and stories, I read out to her. Maybe she was relating to the rhythm of my voice that fell on her ears. I could see, the movement of the leaves outside, excited her as she pointed her gnarled fingers in that direction. The distant chattering of people, vehicles passing by soothed her mind. It is just my guess. There were no words only dead silence and an occassional smile.

In the year 1973, this dynamic, young woman was on the threshold of starting a new life but she was left with shattered dreams. From what my mom had told me about her, she also being a nurse with BMC hospitals, sister Shanbaug did not tolerate indiscipline or lackadaisical attitude. A day prior to the unfortunate incident, Sister Shanbaug had reprimanded a ward-boy. How could she let him get away with highhandedness and carelessness? He took revenge in the most gruesome way.

Sister Shanbaug’s friends and colleagues, the nurses took great care of her. They made her feel special in every way possible. In spite of being bedridden, there was not a single bed sore that bothered her. Her nails were cut and cleaned, hair brushed in proper way. She was bathed and fed by her friends. In the last 42 years that sister Shanbaug spent in the hospital, many new generation of nurses must have passed through the hospital, came of her acquaintance and were fortunate enough to know her. For every newcomer, she was their own. They relentlessly took care of her.

The short span of time I met her, I wondered what went in the depths of her mind. Maybe somewhere deep down she wanted to be set free, walk the earth bare feet, feel the breeze on her face, smile at the clouds, love and feel loved, have kids, live a normal, happy life and make sense of what was happening with her.

Today, let us all set Sister Shanbaug free on her journey with prayers for her soul. Pray, she finds the much deserved peace and rest. RIP.



  1. Nice Article . Pray for her soul to rest in peace.


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