Two women sit in their Goregaon shanty on Friday afternoon, listlessly staring into space. This is what they have been doing for the last 20 days.
They find no reason to wake up in the morning, no reason to get dressed, cook or step out. They have lost the person they lived for — the older woman her son, the younger one her husband.
For Vijaya Futane (50) and Shweta (19) the loss of Yogesh on July 11 hasn't sunk in. “Why him?” they ask themselves — and God. The 26-year-old nev er hurt anyone; his life was his work and studies; Yogesh was pursuing a MBA degree from Pune University.
On 11/7, Yogesh, an office boy, was returning from Churchgate when a bomb at Khar took his life — and his family’s with it. “When they want to kill someone,” says Vijaya, who lost her husband to cancer six years ago, “They should bomb the house at night, so that everyone in the family is killed; no one is left alive to mourn.” Their faces off TV screens and front pages, families of the 184 victims of 11/7 — and its survivors in numerous hospital wards — are just starting their struggle for a life without earning members or their physical faculties.
Many victims in the seven firstclass compartments bombed were middle class, but they were also overwhelmingly male (only three victims were female), often sole providers.
State compensation (Rs 6 lakh overall per victim) is being speedily distributed, but for most it is a temporary crutch. So, with lakhs of rupees already contributed by readers and the newspaper itself, Hindustan Times will now act as a bridge with victims and a city eager to help.
Our reporters have visited hun dreds in hospital rooms, in homes, across Mumbai. In the days to come, we will assess needs — jobs, education and money — and try to ensure these are met. We will then report back to readers on how their money or other assistance is being used.
Back in Goregaon, Shweta plays with her red bangles and sports a constant smile. It’s fake. She admits it. To be a widow at 19 — and two months ago to lose her two-month-old son Mayank to fever — and to deal with the stream of social workers and reporters calls for some divorce from reality.
She admits: she’s trying to fool everyone around her — and herself. “What should I do?” she asks. “When Yogesh was there I used to wake up, make his tiffin, see him off and then wait for him to return.” says Shweta.
For the last 12 years since his father took ill, Yogesh had been juggling work and studies to support his family; after his MBA they thought things could only get better.
Now, that won't happen. Vijaya’s younger son moved out after a ‘love marriage,’ breaking all ties with the family a few years ago. He is not willing to support them either.
The visitors now want a piece of the women’s grief, all promise help. One social organisation came on Friday morning and offered free medicines for Vijaya when she falls ill.
“Should I laugh or cry? Should I feel happy and grateful for the generosity? It’s wonderful, when I fall ill I will go to them.” says Vijaya laughing.
They can help but they can’t bring back her “Chhotu.” They’ve been promised jobs, financial and medical support with compensation cheques from the government and railways still not cleared, and the duo struggle to make ends meet.
If they don’t pay their elec tricity bills worth Rs 1,980 by August 4, they will be shrouded in darkness. Women in their family — they are originally from Bangalore — never go out to work but now they don’t a choice.
Vijaya and Shweta have been packaging greeting cards for a local shop at home. The stacks lined against the wall are a result of hours of tedious labour and will earn them no more than Rs 50. They did this earlier too, to make some extra cash. But Yogesh would always shout at them. “I’m there, na,” he would say. “Why do you both have to do all this?” Now, the stacks only keep growing.
Can you help?
Shwet Futane has passed her HSC with 43 per cent. She now wants to complete her graduation by correspondence and learn basic computer skills. Shweta also needs a job to support herself and her mother-in-law. She can sew blouses and do basic tailoring work but doesn’t want to pursue that. She would prefer a job in an office or as a helper in a school.
Vijaya does not keep very well. She would like some light work that she can do from home.
You can help by contacting HT on 9322158426 or write to HTrelief@hindustantimes.com