"When I switched the TV on after 9 pm, I saw all the channels reporting a firing incident in Colaba," says Hemlata Salaskar, his mother, recalling the day her world came apart. When reports of firing at the Taj and the Oberoi hotels started trickling in, she realised it was not something routine.
She immediately rang her son's colleagues whom she knew. One of the constables, Chite (who later died in the firing by Ajmal Kasab and Ismail Khan near the Metro cinema junction) told her that saheb (Salaskar) had called him and he was leaving to meet him.
"Finally, I got through to Vijay. He had already reached the spot, but he told me he was with saheb (Joint Police Commissioner, Crime, Rakesh Maria) at the police headquarters."
However, it didn't take the anxious mother long to understand her son was lying to her. "I could hear the commotion from behind and told him he was lying to me."
"It was not very unusual for Vijay. He had always done the same when he was out in the field," she says. "Vijay told me not to bother too much, he was safe and hung up the phone. A few minutes later I saw the Toyota Qualis on TV (when Salaskar had already been killed and the vehicle was hijacked). A few hours later I saw an injured person was lying down, he was wearing a blue shirt. When I asked his friend if Vijay was wearing a blue shirt, he said yes, and I realised that it was my son on TV."
The shock came only when she called constable Tawde -- one of Salaskar's associates -- on his phone and he told her that he was with saheb at the GT Hospital and couldn't control his tears. "He began weeping very loudly, like a small child. It was then I realised my son was no more. It was at about 12.30 am on November 27." The official confirmation came at 1.10 that morning.
"It was indeed the darkest hour in my life," she says and wistfully starts her son's days in college.
The eldest child, Vijay and his three siblings had challenging lives when they were young. After completing his graduation in the arts stream from the Dalmia College in Malad, north Mumbai, he worked as an administrator at a shipping company for a salary of Rs 250 per month in 1983.
The clerical nature of the job soon bored him and he joined the New India Insurance company where, though the salary was good (Rs 750 per month), the nature of the job didn't excite him much.
One day when Salaskar was waiting for a bus he saw a ruffian intimidating schoolchildren. He got into a minor scuffle with the man as a crowd gathered. The police arrived, took them both to the nearest police station and kept Salaskar inside the police station for about 30 minutes.
"It was this chance visit to the police station that changed Vijay's life forever," says his mother. "He was very impressed with the respect that a policeman gets from the people. From that day he was determined to become a policeman."
In 1985, he passed out as an officer from Nashik's Police Training College, wher he trained under former Maharashtra director general of police Arvind Inamdar, then in charge of the PTC.
"He had to face a lot of financial difficulties in his childhood," says his mother who used to babysit children in her area to supplement the family income. "Nevertheless, he was a fighter and determined to succeed in life."
"None of our relatives helped us in our bad times. I had to borrow Rs 200 to pay for his admission fees and paid high interest on it," she recalled how she helped her son enter college.
Today she is overwhelmed by the love showered by people on her son and her family after his martyrdom.
"We never ever imagined that people loved him so much. He was a very gentle soul from his childhood. He would never think twice before helping people in their difficulties," she says, covering her face to hide the tears rolling down.
Image: President Pratibha Patil consoles Vijay Salaskar's mother at the police officer's home.
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