Sunday, November 29, 2009

26/11: Looking Back, Looking Ahead 5

Sayantani Dutta, a lawyer by profession, has been part of the core team members since our inception. She has been hands on in documentation and making home visits to the bereaved. This is what she has to say:

This day last year started on a very ordinary mother was in town, so left work early to spend time with her. Hardly had I reached home that I started getting calls from friends asking me where I was, and whether I was safe. Confused about the reason for this string of calls, I switched on the television to see the madness that had engulfed the part of town I had been in only an hour ago, and where a lot of my friends and loved ones were still stuck. One was stuck in office in Express Towers right next to the Trident, another was stuck in Kalaghoda, a third was in Leopold and a fourth had managed to get away from Leopold just as firing began. Once I was done checking with all my friends, I sat glued in front of the television watching the landmarks in my adopted city burning under seige. Somewhere in the middle of all this, got to know that the managing partner of our firm, a well loved and brilliant lawyer, was inside the Trident and had possibly been killed. This was confirmed the next day.

I was enraged, upset and directionless...didn't know what to do. Then I got to know about about India Helps and how you were collecting money for Sunita Yadav..pitched in. Then I heard about the first meeting, couldn't make it there, but set out with Nihas to meet the people on his list. Don't know what to make of it, but both people I met in this connection were looking to make a quick buck out of the tragedy...I suppose that's not something to be taken to heart, but it did affect me then.

Today, I am proud to be associated with India Helps, and people like Karuna (Waghela) and Balaji (Kharatmal) humble me. It is amazing how they have faced the situation head on and have largely succeded in bringing back a semblance of normalcy into their lives. It is also amazing how a group of people from different positions in life have come together for a common cause, and have actually managed to make a difference in the lives of the people they interacted with.

But amongst all this, it is a little disheartening to see that the more things change, the more they remain the same. Today, one year after the attacks, none of the policy changes have materialised. We, as a people, have not really done much. I for one have not. I did not vote, because I wasn't registered in Maharashtra and the transfer of my voter id card did not happen in time for me to vote. I allowed two people looking to make a quick buck to affect me to an extent that I became cynical about our ability to help and let pass an opportunity to help others who really needed it. For all this I feel guilty...and angered. So the anger has not really ebbed in the past one year.
Sayantani Dutta

(Pic courtesy The Hindu)

Salma Thakray

The name of the deceased is Sunil Ashok Thakray, aged about 30 years and prior to his death on November 26, 2008, he was a vendor, whose stall was located opposite one of the gates of CST station. He was killed in the CST shootout as the militants were leaving the CST premises.

He is survived by his partner Salma Thakray and her two children from a previous marriage, aged 9 and 7 years respectively.

Immediately after Sunil's death, the family situation was fairly grim, with Salma having neither any money nor any source of livelihood. She also had no relatives to fall back upon. Further, as Sunil and Salma had not been legally married, chances of Salma being able to claim compensation of any sort from any of the government agencies or a jo0b on compassionate grounds also seemed fairly bleak. The children were however provided for and were studying in a charitable boarding school in Panvel. Prior to Sunil's death, the couple stayed in a one room hutment in Dombivili, which Salma had to leave as she had no money for the rent after Sunil's death. She was not professionally qualified or educated and was not doing anything when Sunil was alive. She was not employed anywhere and had no regular source of livelihood.

Her immediate requirements were a house, a stable means of livelihood and a mobile phone in order to ensure accessibility. Her long term requirements included a ration card and a bank account to enable her to save for her children.

Prior to India Helps intervention, she'd received Rs. 15,000 from the Railways as funeral expenses.

This case was handled by Sayantani Dutta from India Helps. India Helps was involved primarily in providing her with monetary aid – a team member bought her a mobile phone and a connection in order to ensure that she could be easily contacted. We also provided her with monetary aid in order in order to help her pay the deposit for a house.

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