Vaishali Sakharkar always associated the rains with happy memories. She married in the monsoon of 2003. Her daughter was born in 2004, during the monsoon.
But after July 26, 2005, the 35-year-old shudders each time it rains. It was the day her life changed forever.
Sakharkar lost her husband Devendra (38) in the floods that killed 798 people. Devendra worked as a driver for a businessman in the midtown Bandra-Kurla Complex. He left his workplace early that evening, wanting to return to his wife and year-old daughter, Deepti. He never did.
“He called me around 7.30 pm and said he would be home in a hour. But he didn’t turn up,” Vaishali said. “Two days later, we found his body at the Sion hospital.”
Vaishali stayed with her in-laws at the fishermen’s colony in Mahim. Two months after her husband’s death, she was forced to leave the house following differences with her in-laws. She moved in with her maternal uncle. A poorly lit, one-room flat in Kaamna Society, Prabhadevi, has been Vaishali’s home since the last two years. She shares it with 11 other family members. “It is ironical,” she said. “My father died when I was five and my mother moved into my uncle’s house. Thirty years later, I moved in with my baby under similar circumstances.”
Vaishali never wanted her daughter to go through what she did as a child but her worst fears came true. Today, three-year-old Deepti is too young to understand what happened to her father. To her, any young male member of her house is her ‘papa’.
The sudden change in her life has flooded her with problems. “I never thought I would have to worry about a roof over my head or my daughter’s education,” she said.
Though her uncle’s family treats her well, Vaishali wants a house of her own. She is looking for a house near Panvel or Neral and has saved the compensation money for Deepti’s education. A year ago, she started working as a computer operator. “I always wanted to send my daughter to an English-medium school,” she said. “But I cannot afford it now.”