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Mumbai families touched by Kenya horror

Children of two upper middle class Gujarati families are feeling the heat of presidential polls gone wrong in Kenya, reports Sweta Ramanujan-Dixit.

india Updated: Jan 03, 2008 03:39 IST
Sweta Ramanujan-Dixit
Sweta Ramanujan-Dixit
Hindustan Times

The Shahs in Mulund and the Bhatts in Andheri — two upper middle class Gujarati families separated by the Eastern Express Highway but united by circumstances in far away Kenya. Their children are there and the two families are feeling the heat of presidential polls gone wrong in the African country.

“They are safe,” said Anusuya Bhatt, 47, whose married sons Rahul and Gaurav are in Nairobi. She has just finished speaking to Gaurav who called to say he is fine. “The area where they are staying in Nairobi is peaceful but they are all indoors.”

Seated in their flat in an old building in Andheri (East), the Bhatts are supervising repair work in their house but their minds keep drifting to the country they say is so beautiful they want to keep going back.

While Rahul, 28, has been there since 2003, Gaurav, 25, joined him three years later. “He was here for his wedding. He and his wife returned to Kenya yesterday,” said Anusuya. “We were worried about the drive from the airport but they reached safely.”

Anusuya’s thoughts move to her 18-month-old granddaughter, Isha. “She had to do without milk for two days because of the riots.”
“It is a nice place and people are really sweet,” said Bhatt.

Kenya has a large Asian population of which Gujaratis form a large affluent chunk. Primarily businessmen, most Gujaratis have been there for generations. Like the Shahs from Mulund.

CG Shah, 70, was born in Kenya as was his wife. The couple who spent most of their life there returned to India in the ’80s. Their daughter Mitu Shah is married and lives in Kenya.

“She has been sending us text messages constantly,” said Shah. “She says there is no need to worry.”

Both families travel to Kenya often and say mugging and house break-ins are common. “They come in groups and ask for your house keys. You just have to do what they say and hand over what they ask for,” said Shah. “If you give in to their demands, they won’t hurt you.”

Mitu told HT from Nairobi: “Things are not so bad where I am staying. But, in the main city, most of the offices and business establishments are closed. In areas where there are slums, there is a problem. People have started stocking supplies for the fear of situation worsening in the next few days.”