Hyderabad: It was a phone call from a friend that alerted them to the impending danger. Inayat Mirza’s heart raced as he answered the phone, his friend’s urgent tone sending shivers down his spine. Nasir always dropped in and the duo would go to Pragathi Press where they worked. On Monday morning when Nasir saw flames rising from his friend’s apartment, he immediately telephoned Inayat. The news of flames devouring their apartment ignited panic in the latter. Peering through the window, his eyes widened at the sight of a menacing red ball of fire dancing wildly.
Without losing time, Inayat sprang into action – his mind racing ahead of the spreading inferno. His first instinct was to protect his parents and other family members. Everyone was busy in the morning chores on that fateful day when a blazing fire claimed nine lives in the Bazar Guard area. As the flames started leaping up, Inayat and his elder brother, Yasar Mirza, evacuated their father, Mirza Yousuf Baig and an infant through the kitchen window broken open by the local youth. A ladder arranged by someone proved to be a lifeline to safety. Yasar carried his ailing mother safely out while other family members, including women and children, ran down the stairs even as the fire engulfed their building.
“It was a miraculous escape. Allah saved us all,” says 70-year old Yousuf Baig, his voice choked with gratitude and awe. While many perished in the fire mishap, all the ten members of Yousuf Baig’s family escaped unhurt. The family, of course, lost two bikes in the blaze but it is not unduly perturbed about it.
Even as the Mirzas were in panic, they had the presence of mind to respond to the desperate calls of their Hindu neighbour, Jai Prakash, who lived on the left side of the building which bore the brunt of the fire. While Jai ran down with his son as flames and fumes started rising, his mother, wife and youngest son escaped through Mirza’s house. “While panic gripped us, our neighbours banged the door and we let them in as our house was relatively safe,” says Yaser. Jai, who deals in tea powder, is grateful to the Mirzas for helping his family. “They are nice people,” he says.
There was no time to collect anything. The Mirzas ran out leaving the house unlocked. “Jaan bachi to lakhon paye,” remarks Yousuf Baig, who runs the popular pharmacy, City Medical Hall, in Bazar Guard.
As they reached the ground, the fire’s roar behind them served as a relentless reminder of what could have been. There was utter chaos outside with screams and shrieks rending the thick cloud of smoke. The family reunited on the pavement and couldn’t help but reflect on the fragility of existence.
Though the Mirzas survived the disaster, the tragic loss of fellow inhabitants in the devastating fire has cast a long shadow over the family. The once familiar surroundings now echo with haunting memories. The collective grief of the community permeates the air, making it impossible for the Mirzas to reconcile with the painful reminders that linger in every corner.
After shutting down their pharmacy for two days, the Mirzas are now back in business. But they have now decided to move out from the area perhaps to distance themselves from the heart-wrenching images of the tragedy.