A polythene bag full of chilli powder, a wooden stick, a torch and three alert stray dogs— this is all that sisters Sushma Shirsat, 40 and Mahananda Jagtap, 35, have for protection while they man an auto stand on road number 33 of Thane each night.
While rest of the world sleeps, the two stand their ground and endure the madness that comes in form of random drunks and stunt bikers, who pass cheap comments towards them.
These two unarmed women are manning this secluded auto rickshaw parking to earn money to fight the court case and bring to the justice those who have taken the life of their younger brother Raju.
In July last year, Raju was found burnt alive and since then, the fight for justice has become the mission statement for Mahananda, Sushma and their mother.
Mahananda, who is a Class IX drop-out, was working as a medical supply worker, while her widowed sister Shirsat was working as a mall security guard. But to cover their legal expenses, the duo decided to quit their jobs and run Raju’s parking stand that, at Rs 10 per auto a day, brings in roughly Rs 30,000 a month now.
Despite the fact that nearly half of this money goes to the bi-monthly court visits, the duo stand firm on fighting their case. They say: “this is our way of telling the enemies that we aren’t broken.”
Doing a job that begins at 9pm and goes on till 6am has never been easy for the two sisters. Not only it has toppled their lives upside down, it has also overturned their body clocks.
Dosing off during this period is not an option for them as they have to collect payments and keep an eye on thieves and even vandals.
Talking about how difficult it is to manage the auto stand, Mahananda points out that “some scratch the covers with a blade,” or in case of rented rickshaws, the driver who parks the auto and the driver that fetches the rickshaw in the morning may be different.
In winters, the job turns worse as there are literal shivers to deal with. Last year the two ended up spending Rs 2,000 so that they had a bonfire. In monsoons, the only option they had was to “sit inside the rickshaw and use an umbrella,” to man the street.
The two have also contemplated installing a CCTV in the area, but have to drop the idea it since it costs a lot and would also require a TV which would cost more.
They at present only have a defunct grey TV set, one that they would never throw out as it was bought by their brother.
The two are now contemplating of hiring a private advocate in place of the court-appointed lawyer and if possible planning to open a trust for kids in their brother’s name.