I was awarded only five months after sending them [Indian Railways] an application," says Bablu Kumar Deepak, the courageous railway announcer at the main line section of Mumbai's Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus.
Bablu was on night shift when two terrorists attacked the station and killed passengers at will on November 26 last year, but what he did to save lives that night had gone unnoticed.
Risking his life, he saved thousands of commuters and also intimated the other announcer -- Vishnu Zende -- at the local trains section. He also informed the Government Railway Police and the Railway Police force to send a backup force.
"I was on night shift and I saw two boys throw a grenade near the 13th and 14th platform. There was a huge explosion and the next thing I noticed was dead people. I immediately informed Zende [the announcer at the local line].
"There were about 300-odd people on this side of the station and Indrani Express (running between Mumbai and Pune) had just departed. I thought there might be more than two terrorists as too many things were happening at the same time. Anything could happen and I was petrified. The boys started firing randomly at everyone and moved towards the local line."
Since Bablu was the first person to see the entire episode unravel in front him, he was in a state of shock.
"I was trapped in my cabin until a senior officer came to my rescue. I had locked the door but was still shivering as the door was not strong enough to protect me. It was so fragile that it could give in after one strong kick. Only after the senior officer came, I identified his voice, opened the door and then reached home safe."
While Zende got his due of Rs 10 lakhs immediately from the railway minister, Bablu waited to be acknowledged. And when he finally did, it was too little, too late.
Five months later, on May 7, 2009, Indian Railways acknowledged his act of bravery and dedication and awarded him with a certificate along with cash of Rs 500.
"I sent an application to the divisional railway manager on December 17, 2008," said Bablu, "informing them that I was on a night shift on 26/11 and I should be awarded for my work."
When they didn't revert to his letter he sent a reminder in April 2009. On receiving his award he said, "Only after sending them a reminder, I got a letter from the DRM on May 5 and got my award on May 7."
It's been six months since the Mumbai terror attack and the government seems to care little for the city's unsung heroes.
Text: Nithya Ramani
Image: Bablu Kumar Deepak [right] receives the award from the divisional railways manager.