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13/7 blasts: A family moves on

July 09, 2012 14:02 IST

Bhupatbhai Navadiya died in the Opera House blast in Mumbai on July 13 last year. His family is trying to pick up the pieces of their lives and move on, reports Abhishek Mande.

As for many of us, July 13, 2011 began quite uneventfully for the Navadiyas. Father, Bhupatbhai woke up as he used to, had his tea and breakfast and left for work.

Work was Panchratna, a prominent South Mumbai landmark building that houses the city's thriving diamond market. He didn't have an office space there; like many other diamond brokers, Bhupatbhai's weapon of choice was his mobile phone.

It was also pretty much his office. He used it to make calls to his prospective clients set up deals and made a small amount for himself as brokerage.

Money may not have been great; but it was alright. He'd been making sufficient to fend for himself and his family for the last 22 years.

Family to Bhupatbhai was his two sons Nicket, 16, and Kamil, 20, and his wife Varsha, 41, who he married and brought to this city from a small village in Bhavnagar, Gujarat.

A year after Bhupatbhai left for work, life has seemingly returned to normal in the Navadiya household. When I visit them one Wednesday evening, Varsha is watching a soap opera on a Hindi television channel. Kamil hasn't told her about our meeting and she is obviously uncomfortable with my presence there. 

Nonetheless, I am welcomed and made to sit as the characters on the television screen, dressed in loud clothes mouth louder dialogues to dramatic music.

There isn't any drama in the Navadiya family; there never was... until of course July 13 last year.

The Navadiyas are a media shy family. They don't like to talk much about their tragedies and they most certainly hate journalists asking them about Bhupatbhai.

"What is there to tell?" Kamil asks me, "You've read (all about it in the papers). We're just another family."

In some ways it is true. They seem to have moved on. The mother is back to her routine, cooking, cleaning, watching her television serials, the younger son has been going to college and the older one has stepped into his father's shoes.

Yet it doesn't take much to realise that this moving on is superficial. The Navadiyas have built a wall around themselves that few are allowed to break into. Varsha refuses to talk about her husband. For the time I am there, she barely talks at all. Her eyes light up however when I ask her about the embroidery she's been doing.

There is a 10 metre narrow strip of cloth that she has been patiently embroidering. When she is done, the beautiful cloth will be stitched on to a sari. It's a hobby, she says and she only takes orders off and on when it suits her convenience. How long it takes to complete a 10-metre-strip depends wholly on the amount of embroidery that is on it. This one would probably take about 8-10 days.

Whatever little talking is done, is done by Kamil. He is 20 but looks older. The two brothers share a warm relationship but like most boys, rarely ever bare their hearts to each other. They haven't talked about their father, for instance, after he died. "We just didn't," Kamil tells me when I ask him why, "We don't."

Yet there is an unspoken respect that the two have for each other. Nicket sees himself following in on his brother's footsteps. He wants to join the family business after completing his business management (he is in the second year of college studying commerce in Mumbai). Completing his education and doing a post-graduation is a luxury he can afford. For Kamil, who completed his Class 12 exams and did a one-year diploma, this wasn't the case. He pretty much jumped head long into his dad's business.

After Bhupatbhai died, the state government announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh, which they've received. The Centre's compensation however in spite of all the follow-ups is yet to arrive. The Navadiyas have been following it up but see little hope. Instead, they have, as many others before and equally many others after chosen to move on, in part because they must.

Kamil is still an apprentice with his uncle Kaushikbhai who is also a diamond broker in Panchratna. It was he who knew that his brother was killed in the blast long before anyone else. To protect them from the news and to get things in order for Bhupatbhai's last journey he telephoned Kamil and told him not to worry. 

"The body was never brought home. We took it to Mota, a small village in Gujarat," Kamil says. "To our grandparents' home."

There is a long uncomfortable pause.

I ask Kamil what is the strongest memory of his father. He lets out a small laugh, "He used to scold me a lot because I never studied!"

Another pause.

What else do you remember from the morning of July 13?

Pause.

"Nothing," he says, "I try not to; we try not to."

Abhishek Mande in Mumbai