26/11 Mumbai attack: As shattered families pick up the pieces, trusts lend a helping hand

The aim was to rehabilitate families of Taj employees. Slowly the assistance was extended to other 26/11 victims. Now it goes much beyond — Kashmiri civilians, Assam flood victims and July 2007 blast victims.

Updated: November 29, 2016 6:19 pm

For a year after she lost her husband Faustine Martis in the 26/11 attack at Taj Mahal Palace hotel, Agnes Martis, a homemaker, stayed at home in Thane looking after her two children. “I did not even know what the next station was after Thane. I was so dependent on my husband,” she says.

Since 2009, however, she has steered her life around to help those who, like her, lost their loved ones. She joined Taj Public Service Welfare Trust, set up in January that year to reach out to families of 26/11 victims. She would visit them, listen to their stories and lend a helping hand.

The aim was to rehabilitate families of Taj employees. Slowly the assistance was extended to other 26/11 victims. Now it goes much beyond — Kashmiri civilians, Assam flood victims and July 2007 blast victims.

“The objective is to train family members in skills so that they can support themselves. Aid is also given to victims for surgeries,” a spokesperson of Tata Trusts said. The trust has aided over 6,000 such victims.

Martis’s daughter Priya Martis (29) was a data entry operator at the Taj when her father, a steward, attempted to rescue her during the attack. He was shot in the butchery. With the trust’s aid, Priya studied MBA and is now working with the Taj hotel in Dubai.

agnes-759 Agnes lost her husband, a Taj employee, during the attack. (Express Photo by Nirmal Harindran)

Following 26/11, several NGOs and individuals came forward to help the affected families. The Ratna Nidhi Trust funded the education of the children of 22 injured policemen. “These children have been given scholarships,” said trustee Rajeev Mehta.

Manoj Thakur, a hawker, was standing opposite Leopold Café when terrorists fired. He was shot in the left arm and hospitalised for a month. He was unemployed for a year until a social worker approached him with the idea of training in hospitality. He attended a course at Taj Lands End, Bandra, and got a waiter’s job at Hotel President. “I was about to leave Mumbai with my family. We could not afford the Rs 6,000 rent. Now I have a steady income,” he says.

Like him, Commando Pravin Kumar suffered four gunshots and lost his left ear while on duty to rescue hostages in the Taj. Over Rs 5 lakh was spent on his ear reconstruction in Bombay Hospital, which the trust funded. Kumar is now an avid swimmer and marathon runner apart from being a trainer in the Navy. “At such times, a bit of aid can help restart your life,” he says.

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