Momina Khatun was four months pregnant when her husband died. A taxi driver, Mohammed Umar Shaikh died when the taxi he was driving exploded in Vile Parle on the night of November 26, 2008. She had three older boys too, and with not even a school education to back her, she knew she wouldn’t be getting any jobs. Nine years later, her eldest son Arbaz, 14, has begun to slowly comprehend just what his mother, now 40, as endured over these years.
“I remember asking dad to bring us food when he returned from night shift, and the next morning we realised what had happened. Now I want to shoulder some of mum’s responsibility and look after my younger brothers,” says Arbaz, who’s in Class VIII and hopes to become a computer engineer some day. “I’ve become a bit more serious about studies now, I also try to help out my younger brothers with their studies,” he adds.
Momina, who sold gajras for a living briefly, has learnt to run the household expenses with the interest of the compensation money. The children’s education and tuition fees are looked after entirely by charitable organisations. “I make do, and I will make do as long as the kids are studying. I will never try to pull Arbaz out of school or college to take a job, I don’t want to live off his earnings until he has completed his education and found a good job,” she says. Unwell for nearly two years after the attack, Momina has steeled herself for more tough years, finding happiness in the little successes she has as a single parent.
“We live in the Bainganwadi slum in Govandi. Kids here are led astray so easily, often becoming drug addicts or wasting their lives in other ways. I will make sure my kids are not like that,” she says proudly. The younger boys do not call Arbaz by name, instead addressing him as ‘Bhai’, as she has taught. Unlike many kids in her locality, her boys do not while away their time hopping on and off local trains, she keeps a hawk’s eye on their activities, even on their time in the local park. “I have told them we should make do with what we have, no point desiring what we cannot afford. We will live in dignity, I will ask for help for their upbringing, but will not allow them to become like other kids in the area. Absolutely no thieving, no taking what does not belong to them, we are honest people,” she says.
Momina would like to move to a slightly better locality, for the boys’ future. “Lets see if anyone supports me, that’s my next step forward in my journey.”