Almost all residents of Gaondevi Dongri, a Muslim-dominated chawl in Andheri West, came out to the narrow lanes in the area on Friday to get a glimpse of the three teenagers who died at Juhu Beach on Thursday. A group of seven had gone to the beach but only three returned home safe. Search for another person continued on Friday as the three janazas (funeral processions) were taken out in the slum.
Nazir Metar (17), the eldest son of Rafique Metar, a delivery man for ceramic tiles, was the first one to be found dead on Thursday night. “He had pav-maska and chai after I returned from the hospital. I was not well. He left the house at 3.30 pm and took Rs 10 from me. He used to go to Juhu very frequently. Only this time, I did not know that he will never return,” cried Hanifa Metar, Nazir’s grandmother, who had gone to the hospital for a check-up on Thursday. The Class IX drop-out used to work in an Amboli furniture workshop.
On Thursday night, the teenager’s father recognised the black-and-white t-shirt and chappal Nazir had been wearing and identified his body. The body was found near the Sun-n-Sand hotel, half-a-kilometer away from where Nazir had allegedly drowned.
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On Thursday, the seven boys first played football on the beach, soon after leaving the chawl around 3.30 pm. “The local police officer told us that he had asked the boys not to step deep into the water. They told him that they just wanted to wash their clothes that got dirty,” Rafique said. “The police said the boys went too far into the water and two of them started drowning. To rescue them, three more went in.”
According to Rafique, a corn seller on the beach threw a rope in the water that helped save one of the boys. “A person told me that he had tried to rescue my son by pulling his hair. But my son started grabbing him so he had to let go,” Rafique added.
Further up the lane from Nazir’s home is the one-room house of Sohail Khan (17). While he drowned on Thursday, his elder cousin Wasim Khan (22) was rescued. “Sohail had just passed Class X. He studied in the nearby civic school,” said neighbour Shaheen Khan. Wasim had tried saving the others till he himself started drowning and was rescued.
Sohail’s body was found on Friday morning, along with the body of Fardeen Saudagar (17). Fardeen had failed in Class IX twice and he was going to re-appear for tests for the third year.
“We kept begging with the officials asking them to bring a chopper for search operations. It was only in the morning that they deployed more people and services. Fardeen was found the next day,” a relative, Shabana Shaikh said, adding that proper security measures and lifeguards must be in place at Juhu beach.
Fardeen had left home at 3 pm after telling his mother that he will return in 10 minutes. “Earlier, his younger brother died due to fever,” Shabana added. His father Firoz owns a mobile repair shop in Andheri. Fardeen’s friend Sameer Shaikh had a lucky escape on Thursday, as he had refused to join them. “I was not there in the house so, he decided to stay back,” said Sameer’s mother Shaheen Shaikh.
On Friday, the family of Faizal Shaikh (17) continued to wait for him as the search operations continued. By afternoon, a rumour spread in the chawl that a boy had been found near Versova Jetty, sparking hopes that he was alive and found by local fishermen. Faizal had passed Class X and was about to join college.
“I don’t know why he went to the beach. He did not even tell me,” said his younger sister Nazneen. Faizal’s father Sikander spent the entire day in Juhu waiting for him as search operations, jointly conducted by coastguard, local people and Navy, continued.
“We are still hopeful that he survived,” Nazneen said. Fardeen has two younger sisters. Both waited for him at home, calling up their parents every few minutes to ask about the teenager.