At a time when many still desired sons, Police Constable Arun Chitte was the happiest man with three daughters, recalls his wife Manisha. “Providing the best possible education to the girls and securing their future was always on his mind,” she says.
Even on November 26, 2008, before leaving home, Chitte had handed over Rs 1000 to his wife, asking her to buy a cake and plan elder daughter Komal’s birthday party on November 28. “He never returned home to celebrate, but we have not stopped celebrating Komal’s birthday. Remembering 26/11 does bring tears to my eyes, but it also reminds us of how bravely my husband laid down his life while on duty,” says Manisha.
Chitte was slain encounter specialist Vijay Salaskar’s driver. On November 26, 2008, Chitte was waiting for Salaskar at the Metro Cinema junction when he was hit by a bullet fired by Ajmal Kasab and Abu Ismail as they fled in a police jeep after killing senior police officers Hemant Karkare, Ashok Kamte and Salaskar in the Rang Bhavan lane encounter.
Nine years after the attack Manisha and her daughters are doing the best they can to move on. “I keep myself busy with household work and raising my three daughters Komal (18 ), Snehal (17 ) and Khushi (13 ). This keeps me from revisiting the terrible night of the attacks,” says Manisha.
“When I’d tell him that our daughters would one day get married and leave us, he’d say his daughters would never leave us, that they would make us very proud. He wanted them educated in English-medium schools.”
Komal, a second-year student of BA, says the important thing she learns from her mother each day is that their father will be remembered through them. “It all depends on how good we turn out to be in life. I want to be very successful. It is important to me that everyone remembers my father in a good way,” she says.
Sisters Snehal and Khushi remember less than Komal does about the fateful night. “I remember how my father made up stories to explain to us things that were otherwise difficult to understand. He always made us laugh by singing funny songs, I try to copy him now and make fun of my sisters by singing weird songs. Whenever I am scared or tense I start singing and diverting my mind, it makes it easier for me to find a solution, I learnt this from my father,” says Snehal.
After Chitte’s death, the family moved to Satana in Nashik, to Manisha’s parents’ home, but decided to return to Mumbai for the girls’ schooling. They have been living in the police colony in Dharavi.
Manisha was entitled to a job with the Mumbai Police after her husband’s death, but she refused the offer to look after her three daughters.
Khushi, Chitte’ s youngest daughter, is a big soccer fan and aspires to be a doctor in the future. Away from the memories of 26/11 terror attacks, Khushi only remembers how her father returned home with goodies for all three of them everyday. “I love soccer, because of which my sisters think I am like boys. I keep telling them even girls can watch soccer,” says Khushi.
She adds, “I miss Papa, especially on days when I am feeling low or sad. I wish to become a doctor, take care of my mother and build a hospital as a tribute to my father.”