Something positive emerges from a gory past

The stains on the floor of this medical shop, just a stone’s throw away from the prestigious National School of Design (NID), is still reminiscent of the gory past.

Abid Desai and Alpa Choksi at their medical store in Paldi, Ahmedabad. Hanif Sindhi

For the owner Abid Desai, like the agony of the burn wounds, the memories of the 2002 communal riots are hard to forget.

But he prefers to draw a positive out of those traumatic moments. His Hindu employee has stuck on with him for the last ten years, working side by side with her employer.

Abid is elated that he has been able to retain his Hindu employee Alpa Choksi, who stood by him even during the worst communal riots in the country’s history. Abid's shop was among the ten odd shops that were burnt down by the mob in the Hindu-dominated Paldi area February 28, 2002.

Choksi, a mother of two, pleaded with the rioters that she was a Hindu and that the shop belonged to her and the mob should not target it.

“But the mob had done their homework before targeting these shops,’’ said Choksi. She said that for taking a stand and protecting the shop of Abidbhai, her family members too distanced themselves from her.

“Except my children, nobody was there to be by my side. My family members alleged that I was taking the side of a Muslim,’’ said Choksi.

The scars are still fresh on their minds and the marks of the burnt walls in front of their medical store is a constant reminder of the gruesome incident and their losses.
“I had to keep my shop closed for eight months and could only claim half of the losses as damages from insurance. While I incurred a loss of more than Rs six lakh, all I could claim was a meagre Rs three lakh,’’ says Desai.

And ten years down the line, both Desai and Choksi are glad that their customers are intact and in fact some who were part of the mob that burnt down their shop also visit their shop, and some onlookers who knew the truth but did not raise a voice of dissent at that time are also customers of Abid.

“There is probably a feeling of guilt and repentence among some but most of them want to forget the past and look at a better united future,’’ says Abid.

While Abid continues to be the owner and one of the only medicine shops in the area where clients are also from NID, Choksi still lives away from her family only with both her children, but is happy that she has been able to stand by Abidbhai and retain her job in the shop.

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