It’s hard to keep your head when all around you are losing theirs. Dr Shashi Pawar, chief of disaster cell and control room at JJ hospital, managed to do just that on November 26, through the endless rush of the dead and injured and the news trickling in of more shooting and more attacks.
He could manage to keep his calm till ATS chief Hemant Karkare’s body rolled in, his face covered with a white sheet. “It was a sinking feeling,” said Dr Pawar. “A real shock.”
In the midst of the chaos, Pawar stopped a moment to pray. He knew it was going to be a long night.
With a lump in his throat, the 32-year-old prayed for his city, and his hospital.
“Karkare’s bodyguard kept repeating ‘The three of them are dead. The three of them are dead’,” said Dr Pawar. “We decided to keep the news of Karkare’s death to ourselves. We knew a lot of his men were out there and we didn’t want to shatter their morale.”
Dr Pawar was on a bike with a friend near CST when 26/11 began. He heard one round of rapid firing, then another. The two men then passed a police barricade at Charni Road, where terrorist Ajmal Amir Kasab would be caught just moments later.
Dr Pawar rushed to the hospital and started taking stock.
“We sent a team of four doctors to St George Hospital, the one closest to CST,” he said. “Next, I checked the capacity at the blood bank and asked someone to coordinate.”
There were just 20 doctors and 15 paramedical staff on duty. “We started making calls and over 50 doctors and staffers arrived,” said Dr Pawar.
Most of them, including Pawar, would remain on duty for the next 50 hours, till the last terrorist was finally defeated.
“Dr Pawar worked 48 hours straight and was a pillar of support to the hospital. He set up a help desk and called typists and social workers to draw up lists of the injured and dead with complete addresses, which helped relatives and the police too. His work was exemplary,” said Dr Pravin Shengare, joint director, Directorate of Medical Education and Research.