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For survivor of train bombing, life goes on

Losing an arm in the 2006 Mumbai blasts did not end Mahendra Pitale's career as a sculptor and painter.

August 10, 2008|Gautam Singh | Associated Press Writer

MUMBAI, INDIA — That one time, hanging out the open door of the crowded train was lucky for Mahendra Pitale. Had he been sitting inside the train car, the 34-year-old sculptor almost certainly would have been killed when the bomb exploded.

On July 11, 2006, Pitale was on his way to work when a series of eight blasts went off on commuter trains across Mumbai, formerly Bombay. The bombings, which India blamed on Muslim militants, killed 187 people and injured more than 800.

Pitale remembers looking down just after the blast and seeing that his left arm was mangled. He remembers a doctor explaining that his arm would have to be amputated below the elbow.

"Do whatever you have to," he recalls telling the doctor, adding he managed to remain calm.

Pitale feels his determination and composure have helped him cope with losing a limb.

The artist, who is right-handed, made sculptures for interior decorators before the explosion, using his hands to help finish the fiberglass. Now, he designs glass sculptures with a computer. And he can still paint.

Sitting in the one-bedroom apartment he shares with his parents in a Mumbai suburb, Pitale shows no hint of self-pity as he talks about what happened to him and about the prosthetic arm he got with the help of donations.

"From the moment I knew that my arm was to be amputated, I accepted the fact. I have always relied on myself. It's what has helped me continue to lead a normal life," he said.

He looks forward to having an exhibition of his paintings and, someday, to getting married. "It will happen in the normal course of life. It doesn't worry me," he said.

Every day, Pitale travels on the same train line to arrive at the same office where he worked before. The train is still packed with commuters, and people still hang from the open doorways.

But the journey is less trying for Pitale now. There isn't much of a crowd in the compartment reserved for disabled travelers.

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