Three years after… disappointment still reigns

Vinaya Deshpande
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Government ought to have done much better to tackle terrorism, say survivors of Mumbai attack

Three years after the 26/11 carnage, as the government continues spending crores of rupees on the lone surviving gunman Ajmal Kasab and the victims grapple with the scars and pain, a survivor has said she does not blame Kasab. “I don't want to say I have forgiven him. But I don't blame Kasab. It is the people who made him do that, the people who use religion to brainwash youth to play a foul game. I feel angry at the people who caused it,” Reshma Mehtani, a 38-year-old homemaker told The Hindu .

She, like many other survivors of the attack, did not wish to remember the day. Many have turned to spirituality and social service to find peace. Some grapple with the situation, all the more to find a decent job and make a living. Their responses to the attack are varied. What is common are the disappointment and the hopelessness they feel towards the government.

Ms. Mehtani took five bullets in the attack at the Oberoi hotel, where she had gone to celebrate the wedding of her cousin. One of the bullets is still lodged in the pelvic area. Another has injured her arm so badly that she still finds it difficult to move it. That fateful night, she lost her two close friends, her cousin and his wife, before her eyes.

“Because of the physical restrictions now, I need help even for little things that we generally take for granted,” she said. The attack forced the entire family to shift back soon to Mumbai from the U.S. Her husband is a businessman who now shuttles between the U.S. and India. Her 10-year-old son still finds it difficult to adjust to the Indian schooling system after he studied in the U.S.

“For me, neither my life, nor the outlook towards it has changed. Life is as it was – steady, stable, normal. There is no added sensitivity about anything. There is neither extra belief in religion nor utter disbelief,” she said.

“I try not to think about it. It was thoughtless and pointless. I look at it more as an accident,” she said.

She thinks that the attention given to Kasab was unnecessary and undeserving. “We don't want to make a big deal about it. I feel we should let him be. Let people forget that he exists. By talking about him, he gets much more importance. It is not deserved,” she said.

Ms. Mehtani said that the government ought to have done much better to tackle terrorism. “It should not be happening so easily,” she said, referring to the recent series of blasts that hit the city. “The government can do better to stop this,” she said.

Sevantibhai Parekh, who lost his son and daughter-in-law, too expressed his anguish over the lack of government response.

“There is a lot of disappointment against the government because it is doing nothing. We are trying to wake them up. But we don't seem to learn any lessons. We regret and forget,” he said.

Both Sevantibhai and his wife Sarla Parekh now take care of their two grandchildren.

“You have to carry on with your life. We have two grandchildren to take care of. We have made a conscious effort to bring laughter back in our lives. These kids have prompted us to change our focus from negative to positive. I have developed a very positive attitude towards life. There is no way you can just sit grieving,” he said.

“No tomorrow”

Asked about the future, he said he was not living beyond today. “There is no tomorrow. I am not seeing beyond today,” he said. Sarla Parekh, who now runs a charity trust, said the demise of her son and daughter-in-law made her engage herself in social service. “God called them so that we can do some good work for the community,” she said.

Slain police officer Hemant Karkare's wife Kavita Karkare said she had turned to meditation, prayer and yoga, which helped her get better. But she said she had not yet been able to come out of the trauma completely.

There were many other victims who did not wish to talk about the day be reminded of it. “I do not even wish to say or hear anything about 26/11,” an irritated survivor Apoorva Parekh said. Many expressed their desire to be left alone.

For Sanjay Kathar, 24, who was injured by a hand-grenade at the Nariman House, there are only two main concerns: finding a job and getting a water tap fitted in his house. “You see I had got injured in the stomach. I have still not recovered. Every day, I have to wake up at around 4.30 a.m. to fill water. Because there is no tap in the house, I have to climb an entire floor to get water from tap,” he said.

He is so engrossed in his daily problems that there is no thinking about the terror attack, except that it changed his life unalterably. “I used to earn Rs. 30,000 – 35,000 per month. Now I hardly earn Rs. 10,000. No one gives you any job if you do not have any references. I have been struggling to find a job, but can't get it. Right now, my immediate priority is to get a tap connection in my house. I can't bear this pain,” he said.

When he was struck in the attack, he was the sole earning member of his five-member family. Today, one of his brother works but the other is still studying. While talking wryly about Kasab, he said, “The chapter should have been over long ago.”



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