MUMBAI: Hemant Karkare, the head of the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) was midway through his dinner when he was informed around 9.45 p.m. of the attack on the Chhatrapti Shivaji Terminus (CST), one of the first targets of the 26/11 attackers. He switched on the TV as the first images came on about what would turn out to be one of the worst terrorist assaults on Indian soil. With his driver and his bodyguards, he immediately left for CST, where he donned a flak jacket and a helmet and helmet and entered Platform No 1 but found it deserted.
Karkare was then informed that the terrorists had moved to the Cama and Albless Hospital next to the Azad Maidan police station. Accompanied by Additional Commissioner Ashok Kamte and Senior Inspector Vijay Salaskar, Karkare headed for the spot but came under a hail of fire in a narrow lane between St. Xavier's College and Rang Bhavan, a stones throw away from the Crime Branch office. All three died.
Eleven years after that horrific night, Karkare's daughter has penned a moving tribute to her father in "Hemant Karkare: A Daughter's Memoir" that she says was "very difficult" to write but is "satisfied" she has been able to complete it.
"It was certainly very difficult because at first I did not know what I should be writing about; what was happening on 26/11. And then I thought I should only write about what I know about my father's life. So, the focus of my book is about my dad's journey, how he moulded himself to become what he was, focusing on the positives and providing an inspirational story for all," Navare told IANS in an interview.
"Hemant Karkare: A Daughter's Memoir", published by The Write Place, was released at the Crossword Book Store in Mumbai on Monday.
Navare, 38, had got married in 2007 and moved to Boston with her husband, an investment banker. The couple has two daughters aged eight and five. On a visit to India soon after her father's death, she found the diaries he had written when he was in his early 20s and the seed for the book was laid.
"I found his diaries he wrote when he was 21 and 22 and I was fascinated by how he minutely planned his day even when he was so young. For example, he would participate in a debate and immediately write about the things he did well, what were the things he did not do well and so on. I mean very basic things like you should be using simple sentences and the like.
"He wrote these diaries in 1977 and then in 1983 he reviewed those diaries. So he always constantly looking at things...how he could improve. That was the most important lesson that I learnt - that you have to keep on introspecting and seeing how best can you improve upon things. That was what fascinated me," Navare said.
The book brings to life a stalwart of the Indian Police Service (IPS) who was well-respected not only for his immaculate and noteworthy professionalism but also for his creativity in art, culled from the Maoist-infested jungle of Chandrapur, where he was posted in 1991.
The heart-warming memoir pays tribute to Karkare's myriad roles - as an exemplary police officer, a family man, an artist, a dog lover, a social worker, a book lover and above all, a good human being.
Navare's lasting memory of her father was when he visited her in Boston in July 2008 four months before 26/11.
"The most recent memory I have of him was when he visited me in Boston in July 2008. He was in Boston for 15 days and that was the last time I saw him and I still remember those days because he was on a vacation and he had the entire day available for me. We used to go for long walks together; me, my mom and my father - the three of us. We went to visit Niagara falls. That was the first and last time he visited me so I often think of those days," she said.
Speaking of her early days, Navare recalled how her father constantly egged her on as she constantly had to change schools whenever he was posted to a new place.
"I studied in 10 different schools all over Maharashtra so every time we moved to a new place I had to start all over again...make new friends. When I spoke about this to my dad he said try to look at it this way that every time you move to a new place, you're learning so much more, you're able to adapt to a new environment. He said that is very important in today's life and you're someone who can easily adapt to any new environment and you will learn so much," Navare said.
What of the future?
"Right now I am happy that I have completed this book about my father. This was my first book and it was a very difficult book to write because of the subject but at the same time, I am satisfied that I was able to complete it. Hopefully, I'll plan to continue writing. Fiction or non-fiction? I don't see myself writing fiction as of now. Subjects? I like reading inspirational stories about people like my dad and I think that would be a subject that I would be interested in writing about," Navare concluded.