A biryani seller is mourned in New Zealand
A Calcuttan’s brother who works not too far from the sites of the Christchurch shooting has said he knows at least one person who was killed and another who was injured.
The man, who works at a retail store in Christchurch, told The Telegraph how his daughter, son, wife and he himself had remained under lockdown for hours in four different places.
His sister, based in Calcutta, had phoned him on Friday morning after hearing about the shooting. The brother’s account, shared with this newspaper on Saturday morning in Christchurch, follows:
The man from whom I used to buy biryani almost every weekend was killed by the shooter. The victim used to run a takeaway counter for Mughlai food that was very popular among Indians in Christchurch. We always used to talk after placing the order. Another friend of mine, I have heard, suffered a bullet wound in the arm and is now in hospital. But, thankfully, he is alive. (No names of victims or suspects are made public in New Zealand, which has strong privacy laws, until the authorities confirm the identities and formally announce them.)
I have been living in Christchurch, which has a small population and an even smaller Indian community, for 14 years. Never before had we heard of a mass shooting.
Driving to my daughter’s school (later in the day), I could see stress on the faces of people on the streets. We are so disturbed after reading some of the comments posted by people on the 89-page post (allegedly made by the shooter).
In the evening, after returning home, my 19-year-old son, who studies in an engineering university, went through the posts. Many of them have supported the shooter and expressed their hatred for immigrants. I don’t know whether they are from Christchurch or other countries. But it’s extremely disturbing.
My office is in a one-storey building on Colombo Street in central Christchurch. The two mosques where the shootings took place, on Deans Avenue and Linwood Avenue, are 3-5km from my office. Around 1.40pm, we heard the announcement on television about the shooting and were told to lock our homes and offices from inside. Around 25 of us were inside the office and we locked it from inside.
My wife was in her school at a place called Ilam. My daughter’s school and son’s university are also in the same locality. I had requested a friend of mine to pick up my daughter as I would be late and my mother has come from India.
My friend told me the school was not allowing anyone inside and all parents were waiting outside, worried.
Finally, at 5.40pm, the government announced on television and a government website that people could step outside. I rushed to my daughter’s school in my car and asked my wife to reach there.
It’s usually a smooth drive that takes 15 minutes. But today most of the roads were closed and there were diversions. It took me 45 minutes to reach the school. I could see armed police and security personnel everywhere. There were sounds of sirens of police vehicles and ambulances.
My nine-year-old daughter knew nothing about the shooting. They were just asked to stay inside. It’s common in Christchurch because of earthquakes, during which children in schools are not allowed to leave. But later she came to know about the killings.
I received phone calls from Calcutta and other parts of India and I told everyone we are safe.
But I could not sleep and probably I will be awake through the night today as well.