|A paramedic, who appears to be from the subcontinent, runs for cover outside the Westgate mall in Nairobi after heavy shooting started on Monday. (AP)
Ahmedabad, Sept. 23: For half a day, Laxmanbhai couldn’t decide how to break the news to his relative and fellow villager Vagji Vekaria.
So till Sunday morning, Vagji, 62, did not know that his granddaughter Nehal, 17, had been killed in a terrorist attack on an upscale mall in Kenya.
Laxman, whose sons are settled in Nairobi, had learnt about it on Saturday itself but didn’t have the heart to tell Vagji, a heart and diabetic patient whose wife too has been unwell.
Eventually, at the end of his morning walk yesterday in Naranpar village, near Kutch town, Laxman made is decision.
“I didn’t believe the news till my son, Parvat, called up from Kenya. He too had initially hidden it from me,” Vagji told The Telegraph over the phone. “When relatives gathered here yesterday, I fainted.”
At least four Gujaratis have died in the terror attack. An estimated 30,000 people from the state’s Kutch region alone are settled in Kenya. Since Saturday, Saurashtra and Kutch residents have been burning up the phone lines calling their relatives in Nairobi.
Naranbhai, a Kutchhi Samaj leader in Nairobi, said the Westgate shopping centre was built by a leading Kenyan developer of Kutchhi origin. Of the mall’s 300 shops, nearly 70 are Gujarati-owned.
Jamnagar resident Narandas Mashroo has lost his 16-year-old granddaughter Neha who, like Nehal, was participating in a cooking competition at the mall when the attack started. Narandas has reached Nairobi, his brother Shashank said.
Hemant Vaya, a jeweller in Rajkot, had learnt of the death of his elder brother’s two daughters-in-law — Jyoti, 35, and Malti, 38 — as soon as the attack happened.
“I couldn’t speak a word for two hours after receiving my brother’s call from Nairobi. I couldn’t sleep that night. I kept watching TV for updates, feeling helpless all the while,” said Hemant, whose elder brothers had migrated to Kenya over two decades ago.
Jyoti and Malti, a banker, had gone to the mall with seven other family members, including their children. They got separated from the rest and when the firing started, tried to escape and got killed, Hemant said.
Hemant has decided not to attend the funeral tomorrow since many other family members are already in Nairobi and because the situation, he has been told, is still not safe.
“Safety is now a big concern for Gujarati people settled in Kenya,” said Naranbhai, reflecting fears that many Gujaratis may consider leaving the country.Vagji rued that he had not seen Nehal for the past four years.
“She wanted to become a chartered accountant like her mother Jyotiben. She was to come with her parents last year but couldn’t make it because of her school term. But she had promised she would come soon to meet me,” he said.