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Tsunami orphan becomes petrol pump princess

Javed, believed to be India's youngest gas station owner, inherited the business from her mother.

india Updated: Dec 26, 2005 10:40 IST
Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse

Exactly a year ago,Almas Javed clung to a tree and watched as the tsunamis swept away her parents, sister and grandfather, never to be seen again.

In a bizarre twist, the tragedy left Javed, now aged 11, as sole owner of one of Nancowry island's thriving businesses -- a gas station that sells about 8,000 litres (2,113 gallons) of diesel a day.

"Such are the quirks of fate," said paternal grandfather Amjad Hussein, who now looks after her in this capital of the Andamans islands.

Javed, believed to be India's youngest gas station owner, inherited the business from her mother who was given it as part of a national scheme to aid the archipelago's aboriginals.

Six months after the tsunamis, Indian Oil Corp. testified in court that Javed was entitled to inherit the business as her mother's sole heir.

"That ... made her India's youngest businesswoman," an IOC spokesman said.

But the little girl faces a potentially bitter battle for the business which is also claimed by her mother's brothers.

"We will do everything possible to protect her and her gas station... she has suffered enough," said Aiysha Majid, elected chairwoman of Nancowry tribal council.

Javed regularly visits her Oriental Filling Station, one of four in the Andamans capital Port Blair selling about $5,800 worth of fuel daily.

She hands out the monthly wages and is popular with staff.

"She's a darling ... She's the best boss one can have," said pump attendant Nurul.

The schoolgirl is adamant that she will keep the petrol station in memory of her mother.

"When I grow up I (want to) be a doctor... But off course, I will run my gas station too because it was my mother's," she said.

But it's scant consolation for the loss of her family.

"She saw with her own eyes, her father Javed Amzad, mother Rahila and her sister being swept away along with her grandpa," said her grandmother Farida.

"Today Almas has only us and the petrol station."

Her grandfather added: "Whatever money the pump earns goes into a bank account we have opened in her name ... We have willed her everything we have ... she is a wealthy girl.

"After all, she's the only blood (relation) we now have. We can give her everything but I tell her 'I cannot return your parents or your three-and-a-half-year-old sister,'" he said, weeping openly.

First Published: Dec 26, 2005 09:57 IST