"The awards that I had won for the film .... my school uniform, books — everything is gone"
Rubina Ali, the child artist who played the role of young Latika in the Oscar-winning film ‘Slumdog Millionaire', spent a sleepless night on Friday at the Bandra railway station after a massive fire gutted down her house and many other shanties in front of her eyes in Gharibnagar.
“I saw the entire area up in flames. We ran away with only a few things that my parents could manage picking up,” she told The Hindu here on Saturday.
“I lost everything in that fire. The awards that I had won for the film, the newspaper clippings, some expensive dresses that I had worn during the Oscar ceremony, my school uniform, books — everything is gone,” she said.
Elaborating on the turn of events, she said, “I was watching TV with my family yesterday [Friday] night when we came to know about the fire. My mother picked up a few things and we ran away to Bandra station,” she said.
“We could manage pulling out the TV and some clothes,” Rubina's father Rafiq Asgar Ali Qureshi said.
“I initially thought people were joking when they told me about the fire. I was sitting on the stairs of the skywalk. When I myself saw the flames, I came home running to inform my family,” he said.
Rubina's mother Munni Qureshi could barely manage to speak. She kept lying down as she was feeling dizzy due to the frenzy.
Rubina, a class III student, said her friends and teachers had come to meet her in the morning. “They wanted to help me,” she said.
She said that the family had been offered a flat in Santacruz but they did not shift there. “It was too far for us. So my father said we will wait. We have now got a flat in Bandra west. It will take us two to three months to shift there as it is not yet ready,” she said.
She said that the officials of the ‘Jai Ho' trust (started by the ‘Slumdog Millionaire' film-makers) had called her father and talked to her about her well-being. “There are so many people pouring in to help everyone here,” she said. When asked if she expected any help from 'Bollywood' and what was her message for the industry, she said, “Please help everyone in the basti.”
Meanwhile, the government of Maharashtra has announced that Rs. 1000 will be given to each victim, with a cap of Rs. 5000 per family.
“The government has also instructed the authorities to conduct a survey of the area on a war-footing. We have provided mobile toilets and water-tankers here to facilitate the people. Not only the government, but the non-governmental agencies have also set up relief camps here. The government provided breakfast and lunch to around 3000 people today,” Arif Naseem Khan, Guardian Minister of Suburban Mumbai, told the media during his visit to Gharibnagar.
Samajwadi Party leader Abu Azmi has demanded timely shelter to the victims of the fire.
The fire which broke out at around 8.20 p.m. on Friday was extinguished completely on Saturday morning at around 6 a.m., fire brigade officials said. “26 fire engines and 16 water-tankers were pressed into service,” they said. They said that 21 residents and four fire brigade personnel sustained injuries.
“The cooling work is still going on. We have stationed two fire engines and an ambulance there,” an official said.
In another fire, over 70-80 shanties were gutted in a fire in suburban Malad on Saturday afternoon, the second such incident in the metropolis in as many days.
“About 70 to 80 shanties were gutted after a fire broke out in Kharigaon slum area in Malad (west) at 4 p.m.,” according to disaster management officials.
Four water tankers and three fire engines were pressed into service to douse the inferno which was brought under control around 6.30 p.m., they said.
The cause of the fire was not immediately known, the officials added.