Earlier this year, ten-year-old Vivek moved from a central Mumbai school to Ghargaon village, Ahmednagar district, 250 km away. The Class IV student doesn’t like it in Ghargaon, where he lives alone with his mother Kalpana, 32. “I don’t like this place, I don’t have friends here. Also there aren’t many sports activities in this school,” says Vivek, who used to skate and play football in Mumbai.
Vivek is the son of Mumbai Police constable Ambadas Pawar who died after engaging with terrorists at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus on November 26, 2008.
The mother-son duo shifted to the village of 7,000 people four months ago so that Kalpana could focus on running the petrol pump allotted to her by the Union government after her husband’s death. “My brother was running it, but we ran into losses worth Rs 3 lakh after a dacoity and there was a dip in sales. So I decided to take charge of the petrol pump myself and shifted here in August,” says Kalpana, who had to request a two-year sabbatical from her job at a cooperative bank in Mumbai in order to move to Ghargaon.
Kalpana has neither her parents nor her parents-in-law nearby — while she belongs to Nira in Pune, her late husband’s family is in Satara. She says it was a twist of fate that led to her having to move from the financial capital to this little village. When, after the 2008 attacks, the families of all 18 policemen martyred in the attacks were offered petrol pump dealerships, she knew she wanted to get one located near Mumbai. “I was in depression when the petrol pump was offered to me. I was given a list of pumps at various places and asked to choose one. When I saw Ghargaon, I mistook the word for Kharghar,” says Kalpana who has since requested various officials to help her get her dealership relocated.
“I have written to the Union Petroleum Ministry on April 26 this year requesting that I be allotted a pump near Mumbai. On May 5, the Ministry forwarded my letter to Indian Oil Corporation (IOC). Citing several reasons, through a letter on June 3, IOC rejected my request,” says Kalpana, who hasn’t lost hope and says she’ll keep petitioning officials.
Vivek, who likes English and Math in school, says he wants to join the police force like his father. “I want to fulfil my father’s dream,” he says.
Ambadas Pawar who was attached with the protection unit of the Mumbai Police at Ballard Pier in south Mumbai was revealed to have engaged with the terrorists in CST that night after images of him taking aim at the terrorists with a rifle in his hand were found. A copy of that photograph is hung on the wall in the Pawars’ flat in Ghargaon. “Whenever I miss my father, I look at these photos and try to recollect my memories with him,” Vivek says.
He was only 16 months old at the time of the attacks, but was later explained the circumstances of his father’s death.
From a flat in central Mumbai and a classroom in the prestigious Don Bosco School in Matunga, Vivek has seen too much change this year, his mother says. Kalpana, who got the job at the bank in 2009, completed her graduation from an open university in 2016. “I decided to complete my graduation after seniors at the bank advised me to do so,” she says.
Though she was in shock for months after the tragedy, Kalpana says she decided to move on in order to be there for Vivek. “In the early years, he would ask where his father is. When I would say his father is with God, he’d tell me we should go to god and meet his father. On parents’ day in school, he used to ask about his father and both of us would cry. Over the years, he has grown up. Now he tells me ‘mummy main hoon naa’. He says papa lives in our hearts,” Kalpana says emotionally.
The single mother has had to take on new challenges all by herself. “Sometimes I have to the petrol pump in the middle of the night. It gets difficult sometimes. But for me it’s only the families of other martyred policemen who are my family and support system. That’s why I’m want to go back to Mumbai, where I can ensure a good education for my son,” she says.
Officials from the Pune office of Indian Oil Corporation said they are unable to accept her request. “We want to help her out. But we are not able to do so due to the prevailing policy and criteria required for relocation. Her request and reasons cited for relocation do not fit into current criteria,” said an official.Manisha Chitte | Police constable was a doting dad to three daughters, they now want to be more like himMeera Sahani | In Varanasi, a mother of three finds support in another woman widowed by terror