MUMBAI: A twist of fate and the pandemic-induced lockdown sent a woman with a promising future spiralling down the world of crime.
Kajal Mhaske, mother to a two-year-old, was caught snatching a commuter’s gold chain at Kurla station on Saturday. After constable Vrushali Mayekar took Mhaske into custody, a search revealed a broken piece of the stolen chain. It was the second time in two days Mhaske had targeted a commuter. When she narrated her story though, even the officials in khaki, who are all too familiar with the underbelly of the city, were left moved.
Mhaske, 27, is the daughter of a civic conservancy staffer. After doing well in class X, she enrolled at a Wadala college in the science stream. But due to her family’s financial condition, she dropped out after the second year of B.Sc.
She then joined a five-star hotel in Worli, assisting junior chefs in the kitchen. She was keen on studying hotel management once she saved up enough. Around the same time, she became friends with a swimming coach. The couple eventually tied the knot in 2018 and she gave birth to a boy shortly afterwards. But in 2020, her life turned upside down when her husband was accused of molesting her sister and arrested.
Mhaske had to run the household, look after her baby and arrange funds to secure her husband’s release on bail, all alone. She joined an NGO working for the welfare of tribals, but the job didn’t pay much and she had to take loans to fight her husband’s case. In September 2020, her husband returned home from prison. But within days, he passed away. He had been HIV positive.
She had to pay back the loans, but due to the lockdown, she couldn’t get a well-paying job. She committed her first crime on January 7, snatching the chain of a commuter, Sanju Kanaujia, at Kurla station. Two days later, she targeted another commuter, Prachi Gupta.
“We had studied CCTV footage of the station from January 7 and posted plainclothes personnel to look out for her. Mhaske admitted to both the thefts and gave up the stolen chain. Once she is convicted and serves her sentence, we will help her reform,” said senior inspector Shailendra Dhiwar, GRP crime branch.