Mumbai: Eight years have passed since the Mumbai 26/11 terror attacks, but for those who saw it unfold in front of their eyes, the memories of that night will remain etched in their minds forever.
While everyone is in mourning and paying their tributes to victims of 26/11, a Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) railway station tea vendor, Mohamed Taufiq Sheikh, popularly known as Chhotu the Chaiwalla, recollected the worst memory of his life.
"I was waiting at CST that night to collect money for the tea I had just delivered. When I heard the gunshots, I thought they were fireworks, but then, there were two or three explosions. I turned around and saw a long line of people waiting at the ticket counter. So, I ran towards them shouting 'Bhago, Bomb Hai (Run, it's a bomb) - people left everything behind and ran towards the road. When I entered the ticket office, the officers there abused me for chasing them away, but then another bomb exploded right outside where we were," he said.
"By then the firing was coming from some distance. So, I got up and crawled outside to see countless bodies - some dead, some still having life in them. I called my wife at that point and told her that I might die because there could still be bombs at the station. She asked me to leave and go home. I stayed at CST the whole night with one other police officer," he added.
While everyone who sacrificed their lives that day got recognition, this Chaiwalla never asked for it. The government promised him a job in the railways, but eight years on he still sells tea. And no, he has no demands or complaints.
"I never did what I did for any award or recognition, but I have received 28 awards since then and a promise that I would get a job in the railways.a promise which is still not fulfilled eight years on. If it was the son of a minister or politician who had done the same thing, God knows how much they would have done for him, but at the end of it, I'm a poor chaiwallah and I have no regrets.I would do it all over again," he added.
Praising Prime Minister Narendra Modi's leadership, Taufiq Sheikh said he too is happy to serve the nation and would happily risk his life again.