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13/7: 'A tragedy took place in our lives, but we have to move on'

Last updated on: July 13, 2012 11:18 IST

13/7: 'My son just became a story for the media'

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Savera R Someshwar in Mumbai

A year after the triple blasts in Mumbai, the Tamkas, who lost their son Avinash in the Zaveri Bazaar blast, feel there's no point blaming anybody for the biggest tragedy of their lives, writes Savera R Someshwar

The eyes did not shift from the wall-mounted television set.

"What can I tell you about my son? Yeh sab baatein karne ka koi matlab nahi hai (There's no point talking about all this)," says Kirti Kumar Tamka dismissively.

A long silence follows.

On the other side of the glass, which partitions the tiny Sangeeta Chains office into two, one catches a glimpse of a large, gold-framed picture through the venetian blinds. It is the photograph of a bright-eyed young man, smiling, full of life.

The sandalwood garland, which is used to honour the dead, is jarring.

Outside, the afternoon sun shines. The warren of narrow streets that intersect Mumbai's Zaveri Bazaar was chock-a-block with people going about their daily business. There is nothing to indicate that, barely one year ago, an explosive-loaded white Honda Activa had detonated, causing the death of 18 innocent people.

The scooter had been parked in Zaveri Bazaar's khau galli (or food street), where people would stop for a quick, inexpensive bite before rushing back into the daily battle of eking out a living.

Somewhere around 6.30 pm on July 13, 2011, 24-year-old Avinash climbed down the steep staircase of Golden Plaza for a bite. Avinash worked with his father, Kirti Kumar Tamka, in their jewellery business, Sangeeta Chains.

Within minutes, there was a "visphot (blast)." The building shook.

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Image: Life has never been the same for Avinash Tamka's family since 13/7 claimed him
Photographs: Reuben NV/Rediff.com

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'Their only aim is to make their channel a hit'

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Kirti Kumar, a tall, hefty man, ran down the stairs as fast as he could. As did his eldest son, Kushpal, Kirti Kumar's cousin Ashok and his friend, Dinesh Sanghvi, who worked in the opposite office. They saw Madan, the man who worked in their office and had accompanied Avinash downstairs, running towards them.

"6.36," says Kirti Kumar, the time seared in his mind forever. He found his son, battered and bloody. They rushed him to the Bombay Hospital.

"His leg was hurt, his stomach was hurt," says Avinash's father, the painful words tumbling out of his mouth. His eyes don't move from the silent television set.

There is another long silence.

"Our child had gone to Nashta Galli... we thought a gas cylinder had burst," he says. The crowded Zaveri Bazaar had been targeted twice before: in 1993 and, 10 years later, in 2003.

"Reporters ask us how we feel... how do we find the words to express our feelings in such a situation?" he asks; helplessness and anger underlining the question.

Softly, his voice echoing that gruesome day, Dinesh Sanghvi adds, "There were bodies strewn all around."

For two days, the doctors and Avinash fought a furious battle.

On Friday, July 15, 2011, the battle was lost; Avinash was declared dead. "6.02 pm," says Kirti Kumar, marking the last moment in his young son's life, his eyes seemingly glued to the stock market figures flickering across the screen.

The tears well up; he wipes them away quickly.

"My son became a story," he says. "He was young, handsome, had everything to live for. His photo was flashed on all the television channels."

"The media is not really interested in the actual event. What they want is a 'story'. Whose story is better? Whose story is spicier?" says Avinash's elder brother, Kushpal. "They turn and twist the story mercilessly. Their only aim is to make their channel a hit. But do they stop to think about the affected families, and how they feel when this news is flashed on their television screens constantly?"

Avinash was engaged, and was soon to be married. "One of the channels managed to get a picture of his fiancee," says Kirti Kumar.

In the midst of their grief, they had to think of her future. The Tamkas requested reporters not to talk about the fact that Avinash had been engaged. "Whatever had to happen to our son had happened; we did not want her future to be affected in any way. That is why we changed our statement."

"The girl is recovering from the tragedy; she is now moving ahead." The fact that she has recently got engaged gives him great joy. "I am praying her wedding goes off well. I am very happy. Till her engagement happened, it was a matter of tension."

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Image: Avinash was young, handsome, had everything to live for, says Kirti Kumar
Photographs: Reuben NV/Rediff.com

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'A tragedy took place in our lives, but we have to move on'

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Though Kushpal, who had started assisting his father just a little over a year ago, returned to work almost immediately, it was three months before Kirti Kumar could gather the willpower to step back into the Golden Plaza building.

"A tragedy took place in our lives, but we have to move on," he says.

As if he were consoling himself, he adds, "If a poor man living in a hut loses his young son, life becomes very difficult for him. He will find it difficult to run his house; he may even find it difficult to manage his daily meals."

"It's not like that for us. We come from relatively well-off families. I lost my son -- yeh jeevan ka bahut bada nuksaan mera ho gaya... it is the biggest loss of my life. But if you look at it comparatively, I don't have any other problem. Peechay toh koi problem nahi hai na?

"If he was married, if he had kids, then his death would have really impacted his family. My son was only engaged."

It has been 26 years since he came to Mumbai, 20 years since he began his business at Zaveri Bazaar's Golden Plaza. This, the loss of a child, was not what he expected to live through in the golden city.

At home, says his cousin Ashok, Avinash's mother is still mourning. Following their customs -- the Tamkas belong to the Jain community -- she does not attend any social functions as yet. "Aur dil ka dard bhi hota hai... (the heart aches)," says Kirti Kumar... "At least, the gents go back to work..." his voice trails off.

"I can't blame anybody... maybe this was written in my son's destiny," says Kirti Kumar. He weeps, but quickly wipes his eyes dry.

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Image: Kushpal and Ashok
Photographs: Reuben NV/Rediff.com

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'I know I am not going to get anything by blaming anybody'

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Kushpal, and his cousin, Manish, are not so sanguine.

"We did get angry sometimes... we feel angry even now. But what is the use? Nothing will change. The police don't do anything to the people who are responsible for such reprehensible acts. Even at nakabandis, it's the ordinary, innocent man who is harassed. The person who is aiming to do something like this, he reaches where he has to and does what he has to do," says Kushpal, who uses a bike to travel in Mumbai.

Manish adds, "They have clicked our photo and taken down our address so many times. How does that help? If they are doing the right thing, how does the guy who has to commit a crime like this succeed?"

His voice drops, "All of us (cousins) used to hang out together. He was my brother and my friend. My friends were his friends and his friends were mine. We used to discuss things with each other all the time."

The daily demands for life wait for no one. Work beckons, as do responsibilities. "We have to eat, that cannot be avoided," says Kirti Kumar. "So we have to work."

His eyes are glued to the television set again.

The Tamkas have started looking for a groom for their 23-year-old daughter, Dimple. In fact, he says, there was a proposal just a few days ago. If things go well, there may be a wedding soon.

"Our problem is that we have lost our son -- lekin soch, sochke kya karenge hum log? (But what will we will do thinking about it?) he asks.

"We think about it every day. This should not have happened, it was a tragedy. But who can we blame? We cannot blame the government; we cannot blame other human beings."

"If I can gain something by blaming anybody, I'll do that. But I know I am not going to get anything. Then why should I speak against anybody or use bad language? The tragedy happened in my house, how can I blame anyone else for it?"

In the background, the silent television set continues to flicker. As he has through most of our conversation, Kirti Kumar gazes with fierce concentration at the share prices on the screen.

The only giveaway are his eyes, now red-rimmed, and the chequered handkerchief on his desk, wet with tears.

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Image: We feel angry even now. But what is the use, asks Kushpal and his cousin Manish
Photographs: Reuben NV/Rediff.com

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