MV Kuber hardly needs any introduction, the moment you hear the trawler’s name it will remind you of the 26/11 attack carried out by Lashkar -E-Toiba terrorists in Mumbai, for which they had hijacked MV Kuber on the high seas. The country will be mourning and paying tributes on Saturday to the 160 martyrs on the 14th anniversary of the attack, but this boat never sailed out of Porbandar harbour, once it was brought back from Mumbai in 2009.
Hiralal Masani and his brother Vinod Masani were in the fishing business and they had bought the trawler in 2000, naming it after the God of Wealth ‘Kuber’. Hiralal told IANS, “We had never dreamt that the trawler that had sailed out of Porbandar harbour in November 2008, was on its last trip for the family, and that when we will get the trawler back we will have lost five crew members.”
The Mumbai ATS or the Gujarat police never harassed us as they had found no evidence against us, not a single phone call to Pakistan or any other evidence, said Hiralal. He added that whenever his brother Vinodbhai was summoned by the Mumbai ATS he treated them to homemade food.
Even when the family was fighting a legal battle and being questioned by the security agencies, the Masani family cared about their crew members who were killed on the boat. Hiralal said his family paid Rs 1.50 lakh compensation to the families of each deceased crew member.
The Kuber was grounded by a court order and could not be taken out of Porbandar harbour till the trial was over. Even after the trial was over, it could not be sailed out as no sailor was ready to risk his life on the ‘jinxed’ boat, Hiralal remembers.
Their future too is not rosy. Vinodbhai suffered a massive heart attack in 2014, since then he is paralysed and his mobility is restricted. Hiralal has moved from fishing to the ice factory business. Vinodbhai now owns only six trawlers, while two other brothers, Pravin and Narsinhbhai, are still in the fishing business. But it is not the same business for the family as it was 14 years ago.
Along with bad luck Kuber has given a new identity to the family. Hiralal remembers that earlier he was called Hiralal Langdo, as one leg had been amputated after he met with an accident at the age of 10. But now he or his brothers are introduced in social circles or by his relatives and some times even in business circles as ‘Owner of the Kuber boat, the boat terrorists hijacked”. This is the only difference Hiralal has noticed in the last 14 years.