This story would be told not by me but by the people who lived through it. I am presenting an excerpt from my interview with them as they narrated to me how precarious lights or certain forms of lights could be. The only analysis that has gone into this is that of pulling out important (according to me) excerpts from the interview as the whole interview would have taken much more space and time. I have attempted to translate this trying to keep true to the original meaning. However, some loss of meaning was impossible to avoid.
A: Your home caught fire?
WDM: Yes! Everything that we owned burned down.
A: How did it catch fire?
WDM: Because of the dibiya (kerosene lamp)
WDM: During the day we had a delivery, a baby was delivered. It was about 1 am when the fire started. After the delivery we were feeding milk to the baby.
A: The delivery happened at night?
WDM: Yes! We were feeding the baby milk with a spoon. Then as you see here (pointing towards the kerosene lamp), we had a lamp made of bottle. We were sitting on a cot and since the lamp was also on the cot, it shook. The lamp shook. Suddenly it (the lamp) shook and everything became smoky. It made a sudden sound and the bottle blasted. The whole roof caught fire. Look at this thatched roof, as soon as it caught fire, it started bellowing. Our whole houses caught fire. Look at this tree (in front of the house), it has dried up. It was also burnt in the fire.
WDM: 4-5 members of our family were hospitalised.
A: From your family?!
SDM: Yes from our family! The Circle Officer came and checked everything. He saw that everything was burnt. We were told that we would get a new house. We got nothing!
A: You received no compensation?
WDM: We got nothing!
SDM: Nothing at all!
A: that new born baby, did it survive?
SDM: Yes, it survived.
WDM: The children were unharmed. Only they had to be admitted in the hospital.
WDM: There was a wall on that side (pointing to the back of the house). Because of it the fire didn’t spread (to other houses).
SDM: We had to break the wall to take people out. This side (the front of the house) was closed (due to the fire).
A: People were in the house?
WDM All the children were inside the house. They all became unconscious.
SDM: Due to the smoke.
WDM: When they vomited, only smoke came out. We took them to the government hospital. They asked us to bring injections worth Rs 100 (£1) each.
SDM: Where will a poor person get this from?
Wife (WDM) and Son (SDM) of Devendra Manjhi
Later the family took a petition to the District Magistrate who asked the hospital to provide treatment for free. The whole family had to stay in the hospital for 8 days. After 8 days they returned to their home and started rebuilding their lives. They still live in the same situation as they did then. They still fill old bottles with kerosene and use them as lamps. During my visit to the household a child by mistake toppled a lamp. However, thankfully this did not result in a similar incident. These lights and the danger that they bring with them are a part of the everyday life of these people. They have made their peace, with their lights, with their lives.