Chhotu Chaiwala making tea near CSMT station in south Mumbai. Pic/Chhotu Chaiwala
Toufiq Shaikh famous as Chhotu Chaiwala around Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT), a tea vendor who had a narrow escape in the Mumbai 26/11 attacks says he still recalls that dark night when Pakistani terrorists - Ajmal Kasab and Ismail Khan were targeting people at the CSMT railway station.
He told mid-day.com, "It has been 14 years now, I still recall the brutal attack whenever I visit the spot where I had seen the bloodshed."
Chhotu was identified as a 26/11 hero CST tea seller for his bravery while the city was its deadliest ever terror attacks. Chhotu, who had migrated from Bihar to Mumbai while he was just a teenager decided to alert commuters at the CSMT after learning about the terror attack. He had even ferried many injured people in a cart to nearby hospitals for urgent medical aide.
He said, "I had never seen a terrorist in my life except for a movie. After the incident, for about three days, I isolated myself until the railway officials contacted me. The officials appreciated my efforts and praised me for my bravery."
Chhotu claimed that he was told that they would help him with a permanent tea stall at the railway station but nothing has been done so far.
Chhotu added, "It is still a struggle for me each day to make ends meet. I am a father to five children and I still run a small tea stall. My financial conditions have worsened after the Covid-19 pandemic and there are debts that need to be taken care of for which I have to work hard each day."
Chhotu*s 26/11 heroics had earned him 27 awards and some financial help. He recalled, "I had gone for day*s collection when I heard gunshots. I thought they were fireworks. Next moment I heard explosions and gunshots. When I went to check on the noise, I saw two men armed with huge guns mercilessly killing people. For a moment I thought even I would die, I called up my wife and told her that I may not come back home."
He said, "After seeing the helpless and injured, I decided to step forwards and began helping people and do whatever it would take to save lives."