“Every time I hear crackers, I wince”

Meena Menon

MUMBAI: The laminated driving licence, the identity card and some currency notes — all had holes caused by a single bullet. “There was even a one-rupee coin but the police took that away. The holes were made by the same bullet that killed my brother-in-law, Mishrilal Maurya. All these things were in his shirt pocket,” says a despondent Ramkomal Khushwaha.

Maurya was shot in the chest while at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) on November 26, 2008, when he went to see off his sister Vijaya Devi on the Mahanagri Express. He died on the spot. Mr. Khushwaha bundles these unlikely mementos of that night in a brown-and-yellow handkerchief, which he opens for visitors to see.

His troubles are far from over. His wife, Vijaya Devi, 36, was shot in the left thigh and is a long way from recovery. In fact, Ms. Devi was at a hospital seeking an appointment with a doctor to figure out what was causing the intense swelling in her body and the excruciating pain. Over two months after she was shot at and injured, she still cannot walk properly. “My entire leg is swollen. I can’t do any work,” she says sitting in great discomfort in a crowded waiting room of a private hospital in suburban Dahisar.

She and the others had reached CST around 10 p.m. that fateful day. “I had gone to the bathroom and when I came out, everyone was shouting and I started running. I was shot at and I fell down. Someone pulled me away to the side. All I remember was my screaming and then I passed out,” she recalls. She was in hospital till December 11.

Ms. Devi was going to her village to check on her eldest daughter who was unwell. “The medical bills are mounting. I don’t know where the money will come from.”

Her husband Mr. Khushwaha hails from Mishrauli in Uttar Pradesh. A 42-year-old rickshaw driver who lives in Borivali, he was the one who got Maurya a job. “Mishrilal [Maurya] used to work in a powerloom in Bhiwandi. He would have been 26 years old in January. I brought him here and taught him to drive an autorickshaw. He only started last year. I was worried that working in the looms would cause TB or some other disease,” he says. Maurya lived with his sister in a small one-room tenement in Borivali. His wife mostly stayed in Uttar Pradesh and only visited him at times.

Mr. Khushwaha had also accompanied Maurya to the CST that night. . “We were waiting in the hall when we heard the firing. We shut our ears as the noise was loud like crackers exploding. I turned around and I saw the man, who was later identified as Ismail, firing in all directions. I saw him reload the gun and fire. He was a young man, very fair with a slight beard,” Mr. Khushwaha says.

He immediately dived to the ground, but he had no time to warn Maurya who was standing behind him. Maurya leaves behind his wife Guddu Devi and two daughters and a son. The youngest daughter is only nine months old. They live at Potrihima village in Devaria district of Uttar Pradesh. Maurya used to send them money every month from his earnings. Now it’s the government compensation that has been dutifully deposited in the bank account, which will see them through.

“Every time I hear crackers, I keep thinking it’s the sound of gunfire,” says Mr. Khushwaha.

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