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Burning Bombay

Updated on April 30, 2012
Mumbai Sassoon Docks
Mumbai Sassoon Docks | Source

On 14th April 1944 a ship in the Victoria Dock of Bombay, now Mumbai called the SS Fort Stikine exploded. It was carrying a mixed cargo of cotton bales, gold bars and 1,400 tons of explosive ammunition. Two blasts from the ship scattered debris and sank surrounding ships as well. About 800 people were killed in the sea and on land.

Flaming pieces of the wreckage flew in all direction and rained fire on Mumbai. All buses and trains stopped. People were stuck without public transport and a whole lot of children from the JB Petit School for girls were among them. With the city in flames around them the girls all cowered together wondering how they were going to get home. Amongst them was a 16 year old girl by the name of Naju Jijicawna.

The girls knew that no one would be coming to fetch them. They used to take the bus to and from school on their own. A group of them lived in the same colony at Mazgaon Docks. Now with no buses running and no adults to help they wondered how they were to get home. The streets were full of people running from the flaming debris that was flying all over. No vehicles were moving at all. Naju’s younger sister Sillo began to cry.

That’s when Naju decided that she needed to get her home. She realized that trying to follow the roads back to the colony was not going to be easy. She then said to the rest of the girls that the easiest way to find their way back home would be to follow the rail tracks from Fort station to the Mazgaon station. She took her little sister’s hand and began the long march back home.

The worried mothers were all wondering how they should bring their children back home from school when they saw the line of children appear before them. The line of girls went through the burning city till they hit the railway tracks. Then they walked back all the way home following the tracks till Mazgaon before they detoured to hit the colony.

That 16 year old girl who led the entire gang to safety and home was my grandmother. Years later I heard the story of the walk she took through a burning Bombay when I visited her home town for the first time at age 7. She was smiling when she told her story at the memory and her mother, my great grandmother was shaking her head at the memory saying, “Ajab tari himat” (what courage she had).


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    • cashmere profile image

      cashmere 5 years ago from India

      Thank you Vegas. That day was indeed memorable...

    • Vegas Elias profile image

      Vegas Elias 5 years ago from Mumbai

      Cashmere, a very good hub. My dad was in Byculla when the explosion took place. He was thrown off the bicycle that he was riding. Our parents and grandparents can really provide us with lot of info to write over here. This is encouragement for me. I voted you up for this hub. Do share more things of those days if you know.

    • cashmere profile image

      cashmere 5 years ago from India

      Thank You

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 5 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Cashmere, a very moving story. Your grandmother was a brave girl. I can't imagine the plight of the children if she had not taken the initiative to lead everyone back home.

      Thanks for sharing your story.

      Voted up & awesome.

    • cashmere profile image

      cashmere 5 years ago from India

      Thank you everyone. She really was an amazing lady. I was blessed to have her company for the first 3 decades of my life.

    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 5 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      What courage, indeed! How blessed you are to have a grandmother who was able to remain calm and come up with such a logical solution in the midst of total mayhem!

      Voted up and awesome! ;D

    • Eric Calderwood profile image

      Eric Calderwood 5 years ago from USA

      Beautiful story! Your grandmother was a very courageous young girl. Very well written hub!

    • rahul0324 profile image

      Jessee R 5 years ago from Gurgaon, India


      " The power a woman has is that of a god, Her wrath like the devil, Her courage like Thor, Her will like Zeus"

      Thanks for the share