Momina Khatun thought that the cheque of Rs. 5 lakh which came as compensation for her husband’s death in the 26/11 terror attack, would alleviate her suffering, if not end it. With the arrival of money came a rude shock -- her in laws who wanted a share of the windfall -- alienated her when she refused to comply. Not much has changed since then for this family as the city commemorates the fifth anniversary of the siege on Tuesday.
Mohammed Umar was 30 when the taxi he was driving blew up near Vile Parle-a western suburb -- because a bomb was planted in it by terrorists on November 26, 2008. This was before the terrorists moved to their main targets in South Mumbai. For Momina and her three children (she was pregnant with her fourth child at the time), the death of Umar was only the beginning of the sea of troubles that was to sweep the family.
“My in-laws started torturing me soon after his death. It worsened after compensation was announced," she says. At first she even considered distributing the money. But the government official who came to hand her the money told her it was for her and her children.”
Momina, who is 25 years old, says her children could have done with a bit of support in their dark times from grandparents they loved. “For a year after my husband’s death, my son Faizal who was only three at the time would wake up in the middle of the night screaming for his father and crying hysterically. I would just wait for him to calm down and put him back to sleep,” she recollected, her eyes welling up with tears.
After receiving compensation, she moved out of her room which was on rent and bought a 10 ft X 15 ft home in Bainganwadi slum in Govandi, an eastern suburb in Mumbai. The slum is surrounded by mounds of garbage that line the adjacent dumping ground. Illness, therefore, is not alien to the residents; least of all to the mother of four children. The money dried up soon after.
“My father-in-law has a coal shop in Mumbai. He also has property, a farm, a tractor and a house in our village. But we have received no help from him,” says Momina. “I tried to find a job of househelp but Rs. 3000 a month is not enough. I can’t be out of home all day long. My children are too young,” she adds.
Momina says that the family survives on money from well-wishers. “But we are slowly getting forgotten. One corporate gives money at the end of the year for the children’s education. I have to submit receipts of books, uniforms and schoolbags. But during the year, making ends meet is very difficult, especially when a child falls sick.”