By Aaron Pereira and Neha Kulkarni
A loud bang from the platform where outstation trains arrive at Mumbai’s heritage CST station caught Vishnu Zende, the station announcer, by surprise. In a matter of minutes, gunfire and grenade explosions took over the daily commotion at the station, leaving several injured. If it weren’t for Zende’s continuous announcements in Hindi and Marathi, urging passengers to exit from platform number 1, the death toll would have been much higher. For Zende, however, it was his duty and he didn’t think twice about the risk it posed to his life. “With the sound of bullets only getting louder with every shot fired, I knew my time had come. We were all very scared, but we tried to keep calm and not make things worse. I told my family I was safe for now, but I honestly did not know what was going to happen,” Zende recalls.
Zende has now been promoted to the job profile he dreamt of when he joined the railways – a goods guard. A reward of Rs 10 lakh, a medal and a meeting with US President Barack Obama were among the recognitions he received. But for him, the respect railway announcers now receive is what matters the most.
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