It took only three hours for 26-year-old Abdul Waheb Hassan Patel and his familys lives to be turned upside down. The autorickshaw driver had saved Rs 3.5 lakh and gold for his sisters wedding,then lost it all as his 10×10-sq-foot hut at Hirabai slum in Kasarwadi was ravaged in last weeks fire,the cause of which remains unknown.
After the fire,the family hailing from Karnataka rummaged through the trunk where they say they had stored the cash and 20 tolas of gold. Wads of currency notes have been reduced to ashes. The middle section of a clutch of notes is visible,with the four-sides burnt. The gold has been charred black.
He had borrowed the money for his younger sister Malanbis wedding next month,from a group of people in the suburb running small savings schemes. I sold my autorickshaw for Rs 1 lakh. Nearly Rs 2 lakh was taken on interest. I have to pay Rs 4,000 as installment for 60 months, says a shocked Patel. Malanbis marriage has been postponed.
Utensils and bags of wheat,rice and pulses bought for the wedding have been destroyed. New clothes for my sister,mother and other relatives have been burnt. We have nothing but the clothes we are wearing, he says.
Patels mother Dariyamma hasnt been able to sleep and keeps crying. She finds it difficult to face the people in the neighbourhood who trusted her and kept their savings with her. I kept the money in a steel dabba. How will I return it? Nobody will trust me anymore, she says.
The gold,says Patel,belonged to his mother,his wife and his sister-in-law. His sister Malanbi is in a state of shock and refuses to speak. He has no clue as to where to get the next meal for the family of eight. Locals chipped in with blankets and food,but there was little financial help.
District collectorate officials distributed Rs 1,000 to each member of the affected families. Former PCMC corporator Dattatrya Landge and his family were among the first to distribute blankets.