Rahi Gaikwad

Mumbai: On Wednesday, November 26, Zarina Shamsuddin Sheikh and her daughter Reema Rabool Sheikh took the most expensive taxi ride ever. The ride cost them their lives. They were on their way to the house of Reema’s sister, Ruma Arif Sheikh, who lives in the Ekta Nagar slum, on Wadi Bunder road in Mazgaon. They were planning to spend the night there. Yasmin Bansi Sheikh, Zarina’s niece, says: “They boarded a taxi from Dana Bunder and arrived at Ruma’s doorstep. ‘Do you have change?’ the taxi driver asked. My aunt walked up to the door. Just then taxi exploded and everything was in smithereens.”

The hutments of Ekta Nagar are by the roadside. Ruma’s home is a few feet away from where the taxi had halted. A manhole-size mark on the cement road indicates the spot of the blast. A group of local women sitting near it. They speak of the horror. “A part of the taxi went flying on one side and another part went on the other side. Body parts were in different places. There was nothing left of the driver. His intestines were lying on the road. The crows kept picking at it. When the police came, they found one body part near the station and a bone in the housing colony opposite. One of the police officers went up the tree [about 150 metres away], to gather his remains,” says a resident.

The impact of the blast was so huge that it ripped Ruma’s house from end to end. Now, asbestos and plastic sheets thrown haphazardly constitute the makeshift wall at the back of the house. The loft (seen from below) is a mess of creaky wood and tattered cloth.

Sheikh Shamsuddin, Zarina’s husband, fights back tears as he fondly shows the photographs of his wife and daughter. Shamsuddin and Zarina have seven children. Reema was their eldest. Twelve-year-old Qurban is the youngest. None of the children ever went to school. Shamsuddin says he cannot afford the fees, uniform and textbooks. He runs a small scrap shop on Ice-cream Road in Null Bazar. Reema and Zarina used to attend to the shop in his absence. Not any longer. Reema has two sons, Ramzan, 10, and Firoze, 12. “The children think their mother has gone to Haj,” says Yasmin.

Rakesh Maria, Joint Commissioner (Crime), Mumbai said there were blasts in two taxis on November 26 — at Wadi Bunder and at Ville Parle, both at 10.45 p.m. In both the blasts, around 8 kg of explosives was placed under the front seats of the taxis. Mohammad Ajmal Amir Iman, the arrested terrorist, said he and his partner, Mohammad Ismail, planted the bomb that went off at Wadi Bunder.

Taxi drivers Fulchand Bhind and Mohammed Umar Abdul Khalid lost their lives in the blasts.

For Kulsum Khan, an Ekta Nagar resident, their family-owned taxi was a talisman. Parked outside their shanty, attached to Ruma’s, it shielded them from the ghastly impact of the blast. “We were saved by our taxi,” says Kulsum. However, she has a grouse. “The police have taken my taxi for investigation. They have still not returned it. Every time we go to the station, we are told to come the next time. We have bought the taxi on a loan of Rs. 1,35,000. We have to pay Rs. 4,000 as EMI. We are dependent on our taxi,” she says.

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