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Rebuilding Life After 26/11: My kids don’t remember their father, says Momina Khatoon

Interview of survivors of Mumbai terror attacks in 2008

Pic for representational purpose only.
Pic for representational purpose only.

Momina Khatoon was two-months pregnant with her fourth child. It was just another day when her husband left in the evening to drive his taxi at night. Nobody could foresee that it would change their lives forever. 27-year-old Mohammed Umar Sheikh had dropped off a passenger who had left behind a package, unnoticed by the driver. He picked up another passenger, but the bomb ripped through, killing them on the spot at Vile Parle. The then 27-year-old pregnant wife came to know about her husband’s death the day after 26/11 when Mumbai witnessed its worst terror attack. Momina opens up about the ordeal she faced post her husband’s death, how it was the beginning of a long struggle and how she is overcoming the tragedy.

How did you deal with the tragedy?

I could do nothing. At that time, I was so naive I did not even know what CST stood for, or that it was a station. My husband took care of everything and I had no worry except for my household duties. When I heard about his death, I went into shock. Not only was I a mental wreck but it also affected me physically. It took me two years to recover from the trauma. My eyesight has become weak and I can no longer do much hard labour. But till today, I am lost without my husband.

What about your kids?

I have four kids, my youngest being 6-years-old, and the oldest being 12-years-old at present. Few years back, a neighbour mischievously told my oldest son that his abba was home. So he came running, searching for his father. I had to console him and tell him that it was not so. Now, recently, my child saw a photo of his father and called him ‘uncle.’

How drastically did your life change?

After my husband’s death, the government paid us Rs 5,15,000. The official, who came to meet me, told me that the money should be used for the welfare of my children. I was contemplating handing it over to my relatives, but instead I took a conscious decision to not do so. This created a rift and my in-laws distanced themselves. In so many years, they have not come forward with aid or care, not a kind word to my kids. When my youngest was born, his heart was weak. Although I had just delivered, it was me who had to run around for his treatment.Not only was I just widowed, but my own family refused any support because of monetary greed. This was a time of huge mental trauma and for a while I thought my suffering was going to be never-ending.

The road ahead?

I live in Baiganwadi in Shivaji Nagar, a notorious and unhealthy place to bring up kids single-handedly, and I am still struggling to do so. After my children leave for school, I lock myself in my room. I encourage them to study as much as they can. Life has taught me much, having faced one tragedy after another and now I am looking forward to my kids finishing their education. I can then breathe a sigh of relief.

This article was published here by DNA on Nov 26, 2015

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