Farida Ma’am was a Parsi and one of the nicest and kindest women I have ever come across till date, she was Ma’s colleague school. Her husband was a chef with Taj Hyderabad and that did have its perks for the rest of us too. The amazing delectable cookies that he would bake and the scrumptious spread of food at parties always made her home, the place to go.
For Farida Ma’am, all the kids were either sweetie pies or cutiepies or dumpling pies. She was an amazing teacher with a much envied sense of humor; never did she once scold the kids who didn’t perform well in studies. She believed that each child was unique in their own way and good scores in exams were not the only thing to live and die for.
Rohan was Farida Ma’am’s only son and was pampered to no extent. Since his dad worked long hours at the hotel, she was not just Rohan’s mother but also his friend. Whenever he had a crush on any girl, the first thing he would do was to tell his Ma about it so that she would pack a few of those delicious chocolate chip cookies for her. Rohan never excelled at studies but had a keen sense of music, and Farida Ma’am had big plans of sending him to a college to do a professional course in music.
A few years down the line, Farida Ma’am’s husband was transferred to the Mumbai branch of the Taj hotels as an executive chef. She along with Rohan shifted to Mumbai. I can still remember her slightly coarse yet cheerful voice, how she called almost every Sunday to enquire about our wellbeing and her plans of visiting Hyderabad.
But as fickle as fate is, within a few months of their arrival in Mumbai, the terror attack widely known as 26/11 had taken place with the Taj Hotel being the epicenter of it. Amongst the many casualties, Farida Ma’am’s husband was one of them.
I remember how we prayed, how all the teachers at Ma’s school prayed that he would be fine but he didn’t survive. I remember her photos being splashed across the last page of leading National Daily; she was dressed in white and was crying and hugging her son.
There was hardly any conversation post that day, Ma would call her and most of her replies would be just a ‘hmm’, she seemed blank and lost her cheerful self and as for Rohan, he became quiet and a recluse.
Barely a year shy of the anniversary of the attack, one fateful morning, Ma got a call from Farida Ma’am’s relative, she had breathed her last. Farida Ma’am was suffering from depression and somehow that culminated into a heart problem, adding to that the stress of raising a child all alone.
Somehow her heart couldn’t take it and she died in her sleep, peacefully.
As of what happened to Rohan, none of us have an idea. It has been 5 years since I ever heard anything about him. Some say that he is being looked after Farida Ma’am’s sisters who live abroad.
All along whenever I think of them, my heart cries in pain. Of how a happy family was torn apart and savaged by fate, of how one incident changed their lives forever.
It has been 6 years since this ghastly and devastating terror attack in Mumbai. Initially in the year 2008 and the next few years, atleast until the execution of Ajmal Kasab, (one of the terrorists caught during the operation black tornado by the National Security Guards) in the year 2012, there was sympathy, people used to talk about this incident. Not that they don’t talk about terror attacks now but as they say, public memory is short lived. The memory of a day as tragic as this is now superseded by new political or movie gossip.
It is heart wrenching to imagine how an entire person’s life gets reduced to a number, of how a living breathing person is addressed to as a body after death.
I just wish that Rohan, wherever he is, is safe and happy.