On November 26, Kunal Thakral, a 22-year-old student of the Delhi School of Economics and his classmate Shantanu Khanna had just entered Leopold Café, when two terrorists lobbed a grenade from behind them.
“About 21 pieces of shrapnel entered my leg and I was bleeding profusely. Shantanu pulled me down and dragged a table in front of us for protection,” narrates Thakral. They heard a series of gunshots and deathly screams in the minutes that followed.
The bodies falling all around them convinced them that they were going to be next, but suddenly, a lull followed and they knew the shootout had ended. “I heard later that the two terrorists were in a hurry to reach the Taj, so they left,” he says.
Soon, the ATS arrived and a policeman put Thakral in a taxi headed for St George's hospital. “I was told I was on a low-priority list because I was still conscious. By that time I was unable to walk, but I decided to take a chance, and with the help of another policeman, got a taxi to take me to Bombay Hospital,” he recounts. “The hospital didn't charge me a rupee,” he adds.
And, in an incident that has stayed with him, he remembers, he asked a complete stranger for water and was handed a Bisleri bottle.
“When I got home, the hospital in Delhi didn't charge me either. And a government official came home to drop off a compensation cheque for Rs 50,000 without any bureaucratic hassles,” he continues.
The images of the shootout still haunt him. But, he says, “I've seen so much goodness that it's easier for me to cope. I have a lot to be grateful for. I'm just thankful to be alive.”