Police constables from all over the city collected at the Azad Maidan police club on Wednesday. Amongst the khaki-clad crowds were a few young women: the widows and daughters of the 13 police officers that sacrificed their lives during the 26/11 terror attacks.

What started as a signature campaign for Mumbaikars to express their gratitude to their heroes went on to them collecting Rs20lakh to support families of the martyrs. Mumbaikars, NRIs and citizens from all over the country sent cheques to NGO I Love Mumbai. Coolies, a chaiwalla, station guards and office clerks who helped save several lives at CST were thanked too. The story of how 28-year-old Taufiq Shaikh who has been serving hot tea to railway employees for 14 years was narrated. The chaiwalla who escaped three bullet shots recollects the day the station floor was stained with blood. “I alerted the ambulance and RPF and told people standing at the CST ticket booking counter to hide upstairs,” say Shaikh who was verbally abused in Punjabi by one of the terrorists for alerting people.

Vandana Patne, daughter of assistant police inspector Tukaram Omble who helped catch terrorist Ajmal Kasab remembered what her father used to tell her, “Dad used to say, ‘At home I am yours, when I step out, I belong to my country’.”

Shaina NC from I Love Mumbai who received letters and cash from as far as New Jersey, Dublin and Seattle for the families of martyrs said, “We even got a piggy bank with Rs 422 in it,” she says. Sunita Yadav, whose husband was shot dead at CST, was robbed off her compensation money of Rs5lakh by her in-laws was there with her four-month old baby girl. The Rs4.65 lakh which was collected in her name will be used to set up an educational trust for her daughter. “Her father wanted her to become a doctor and I will make sure his wish comes true,” said Sunita who is looking forward to work with the railways after she heard Lalu Yadav, Minister of Railways had spoken of giving her employment.

Widows and daughters of police constables have been given housing in Sion’s Pratiksha Nagar and employment in Saraswat Bank. Kalpana Ramchandra Pawar whose husband was shot had come with liaison officer Inspector Bhagwat. She was a housewife and will start working in April for the first time. A resident of Satara, Pawar has shifted with her small baby to the city where she lost her husband.

At location: It wasn’t just another assignment for me. There was one of Omble daughter’s who I wanted to meet since long. I didn’t know what to tell her. After hugging her three times in between the interview, I felt silly. She told me about how her father loved children and was a calm man at home. He had spoken to her on the night of November 26th. He promised he would come meet her in her in-laws’ house in Kandoli and bring her back to Worli to spend some time with her mother.

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