“Despite being a Muslim why did you help people?
These are the questions media asked this young tea sellers who saved hundreds of lives during 26/11
He has a small tea stall —a thick black sheet of tarpaulin acts as the roof under which Mohammed Taufiq and his only employee make endless cups of tea through the day.
Taufiq is one of the many unlikely heroes of the 26 November terrorist attacks. Thanks to his alertness, hundreds escaped the terrorists’ bullets at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) station.
His tea stall is across the street from the main gate of St George’s Government Hospital, which lies to the left of the station’s east wing. That night, he was at the CST’s east wing when he heard the first grenade explosion. He immediately raised the alarm, shouting and warning people.
In his own words“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, but I told her that I had to help my people”.
He helped in getting the injured ones to safety and stayed at CST with a police officer for the entire night. People like him are the reason fanatics of ISIS or any other terror organization, who kill in the name of Islam and religion will never win.
The first shot he remembers clearly: He was inside the ticket issuers’ office, which has a glass window, when Mohammed Ajmal Kasab shot at him. The bullet left a deep scar on the granite slab of the office table. But the other two shots that Kasab fired in his direction and the events of the next couple of days are a blur.
Once the terrorists left, Taufiq helped the police carry the injured and dead to hospital. Early next morning, he went back to his stall, wondering whether it was safe to be there, until the policemen on duty requested him to serve tea to the people stranded at the station.
Many of the people Taufiq helped came back to thank him. They brought him clothes and home-cooked food. “When you help someone you do it because you don’t want to see people get hurt, but in the other person’s eye you become a hero.” Photographs of a then camera-shy Taufiq were splashed in papers, citizen groups awarded him trophies, and the police and railway officials promised him jobs. Now, Taufiq is media-savvy, talking to journalists with ease—and some cynicism.
He says he has spent the past year filling up application forms for jobs in the police and railways. He had assumed that since he had been promised a job, his lack of education would not be a stumbling block. Today, he feels cheated: “I didn’t ask them for anything. They shouldn’t have made me (feel) hopeful.”
His journey as a seven-year-old from Dhomdi village in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur district to Mumbai with Rs200 in his pocket is straight out of a Bollywood script. But that night at the CST was the only time he has felt like a hero. “At least I got noticed. “There were so many people who I helped, but didn’t even get a thank you,” Taufiq says.