Just a month after the 26/11 attacks, Chief Ticket Inspector S K Sharma’s family launched an organisation in their hometown of Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh, to support charitable causes. Called the Shaheed Sushil Kumar Sharma Foundation, it now offers free education to girl from weak socio-economic backgrounds, alongside a handful of courses in painting and self defence, among others.
Sharma, who was posted at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) on the night that terrorists struck at the busy train station, was hit by a bullet and died as he tried to rush home to celebrate son Aditya’s birthday. He turned 13 that day.
“I am just like my father,” says Aditya, now 21, explaining that the family decided to start a social organisation because his father was committed to so many causes. By offering a helping hand to the underprivileged whenever possible, Aditya believes he is supporting his father’s mission.
“My mother has adopted five girls from the region, and we aim to sponsor their education. As many as 150 girls have benefited through the forum. In Mumbai, we visit localities in Kalwa and Kalyan on my father’s birthday, which falls on November 8, to help the needy with schoolbags, sweets, crayons and stationery. It feels good to be the cause for someone’s happiness and to spread love,” says Aditya, seated in his home in Kalyan, a far Mumbai suburb.
Now a final year student of electronic and telecommunication engineering, Aditya remembers being numb for a week after the attacks, and recalls being puzzled by his father’s long absence. When he did come to terms with reality, anger set in.
“There was a lot of rage inside me, especially against those who took my father from me. I equally hated to receive sympathy from my friends or relatives about the loss of my father. Motivating myself was the biggest challenge, and when I learned to do that, I realised the world was full of love and our job is to spread it,” he says.
Aditya hopes to pursue post graduate studies abroad while his brother Siddhant, five years his senior, is employed with a multinational in Pune. Their mother Ragini Sharma is now an assistant ticket collector at CSMT, a job she was offered after the attacks.
“After my father passed away, we faced a few financial hardships but they did not last long. Emotionally, my brother was broken. He still cries whenever the topic comes up. For me, I found difficulties expressing myself. The reality struck me after my schooling was done. I had to study well to get a job with a decent pay to support my family. I did grow old soon,” he adds.
The city, the trains, the railway station where his father died are all part of their daily life. “The people in this city have supported me and helped me grow. We do lack a strong security system but there is no use keeping hate against anything inside,” Aditya says.
Making sure his mother is comfortable is one of his life’s central goals, he says. “I want to take her to happening places in the city, good restaurants where she can enjoy herself. I am a pampered child and she forms my strength. There are days when we are both upset but we just hold on to each other then, believing there is a new morning every day,” he says.