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At CST on 26/11, they've been there ever since

At CST on 26/11, they've been there ever since

Author: Aiswarya A
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: March 13, 2009
URL: http://www.indianexpress.com/news/at-cst-on-26-11-theyve-been-there-ever-since/433939/

Introduction: His daughter was shot in the leg, Natwarlal Rotawan says he's had no time to look for a house

Natwarlal Rotawan was at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) with his two children on November 26 when Ajmal Kasab and his partner arrived. Fifteen weeks later, they are still at the station.

They keep their belongings in the lockers and roam the city during the day. At night, Rotawan buys platform tickets for all of them, and they sleep in the waiting room.

11-year-old Devika can't forget that night. As the terrorists sprayed the platforms with bullets, she was shot in the leg. She spent over a month in JJ Hospital.

"I don't like staying here," she says. "The memories of that night don't leave me. I jump when I hear loud noises. I can't stop thinking someone like that can come again and shoot all of us dead."

But her father, a dry fruits merchant who works out of Mumbai but does not have a permanent business establishment here, explains why he has no choice but to stay at the station.

On 26/11, Rotawan, a widower, had come to CST with Devika and her brother Aakash to catch a train to Pune, where they have family. They had vacated their rented home in Bandra, and had intended to find a new place when they returned to Mumbai. They never left, and after Devika was hit, spent the rest of last year in her hospital ward.

"Devika was discharged on January 2," Rotawan told The Indian Express. "On January 4, we caught a train to my native place in Rajasthan, and returned on January 30. I had business for about a week here, but no place to stay. So until February 6, we slept on the platform, after which we left for our village again. We returned to Mumbai on February 19, and spent a few more days at the station. We then left for the third time, and returned on March 5. Since then, we have been staying here."

With such frequent travelling, and with Devika yet to recover fully, he has found no time to look for a place to rent, Rotawan says.

He denies he hasn't tried hard enough, or that he has just grabbed what amounts to free Government accommodation.

"I have enough money for our daily expenses. Several traders who owed me money have repaid the loans," he says defensively. "Also, Devika has got two cheques totalling Rs 95,000 from the Collector and the Central Railway, but I have not touched them. I have put them in an account in her name in a bank in Rajasthan."

He misses his dead wife, Rotawan says. "There was no one to take care of Devika. I could not focus on my business, and I could not leave them alone to go house-hunting. They haven't gone to school for two years since their mother died, and my business began facing problems."

He says he can't leave the children with relatives. "They would expect money in return. All my relatives know that Devika's compensation money has reached us, and have begun to ask us for loans. I did check out a couple of small rooms but the safety aspect was always so pitiable that I couldn't imagine ever leaving my children alone in those houses."

But he's now had enough of this life, Rotawan says. He has made up his mind to move into a home after the family returns from their final trip to Rajasthan, due later this month.

"We will stay in the waiting room until March 25, when we leave for Rajasthan. This will be our last trip to Rajasthan and then father will begin searching for a house," says Devika.

She sounds really happy.

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