Mumbai 26/11 - in remembrance of an omelet man
The relatives of many of those who died in the Mumbai shootings have doubtless said of their loved ones: 'they were in the wrong place at the wrong time".
That wasn't true for Sunil Thackeray.
He had no choice where to be that day or any other day. For he worked around the platforms of Victoria Station, making omelets for his customers. He was an omelet-pavwallah. Each day, he carried his stove and utensils (his dhanda) on his head as did every other self respecting trader. The dhanda was compact enough for him to pick it up and run, whenever the police arrived.
He was shot twice: once in his head and once in his neck.
"Before death sinks in, what hits you is the absence. The person you needed the most that moment, the only man you trust, is no more. Sunil was my man and I his woman", Salma said as she talked about their five year relationship together, to Shubhangi Swarup, of OPEN magazine (April 2).
"Sunil was a simple man. If he had dal and roti, he wouldn't complain. He loved the fried fish I made for him at home, Kolkata style. In the morning, kala paani was all he had. Two or three cups of black tea were all he needed to keep him going".
Making and selling omelet-pav for ten rupees and bhurjee-pav for twenty was how he made a living. Not a good one, but enough to survive. Like Salma, Sunil ran away from home as a child and spent his early life begging and doing odd jobs at tea stalls. But gradually, he set up his own dhanda outside the Station. First he sold toys, but then he began making omelets. Salma said that, before he died, Sunil was saving up to buy a rickshaw so he could work near where he and Salma shared a one room kholi with Salma's two children.
"I realised Sunil's worth the first time I saw him. I was sitting on the same spot I sit on now. He was walking from the place of his dhanda to the crowded crossroads in front of the Station. I was sitting on a tattered mat, holding my boy Aman, then the size of my forearm, with three year old Soni playing nearby. From that moment on, he silently stood by me".
The government did not consider their relationship - two people without ration cards, no birth certificates, and a marriage not registered - to be legitimate for compensation. To the government, Sunil was a nobody. To Salma, he was the love of her life. All she has left now are those memories of her man.
Post script: The full account of Shubhangi Swarup's interview with Salma appears in the first edition of OPEN magazine.
Most Recommended Comment