Text: Vaihayasi Pande Daniel
Vijay R Surve has spent 40 years working with the Shiv Sena's Colaba, south Mumbai, shakha (unit). He started as a young Sainik at 16, when he was still in high school and after he retired from running his restaurant business, he became the pramukh/head of this shakha.
A Maharashtrian, whose family hails from Chiplun on the southern coast, Surve, who says he is "57,58", grew up at the two-storey 100-plus-year old Malode House on Pestonji Street, a narrow, congested lane that opens onto the arterial Colaba Causeway, almost directly opposite the shakha office. The Sena office is located in a small shed to the rear of Pindeshwar Mandir and RK Studio, a popular camera shop.
As head of the shakha, Surve grapples with the logistics of his area on a day to day basis. A neighbourhood building has water shortages. Another area has a road issue. The rest of his day is spent interacting with the public, who come flowing into the shakha office (which is the site of a school, in the mornings before Surve arrives) to meet him with requests, petitions and more.
Six Wednesdays ago, Surve, in a matter of minutes, had to pull out a set of job skills he never he knew he possessed, to handle a terrifying and grimly incomprehensible situation unfurling before him.
On his desk at the shakha office -- testimony of a job courageously carried out -- now lie four or five lettersof thanks from nearby building societies, a dargah, as well as a very special letter commending him for his work from the National Security Guards in Manesar, near Delhi. His boys now affectionately dub him: NSG commander of Colaba.
At 9.45 pm on November 26, Surve was in his office with about 25 Sainik boys. The sound of gunshots nearby caused just half a second silence in the tiny office. Momentary unease.
The INS Kunjali, the Indian Navy's airbase in Colaba, where a fleet of the navy's Chetak, Ka-28, Ka-31 and Sea King Mk 42 helicopters are stationed on any day, is just about a kilometre away from the shakha office. Surve and his boys remembered that the Navy Week celebrations were a week away and thought some special practice was on at the INS Kunjali.
Image: Vijay R Surve, the Shiv Sena's Colaba shakha pramukh with NSG and police commandos during the operation against terrorists at Nariman House. Photograph, courtesy Vijay Surve.
Also see: He held off terrorists for four hours