AT 10 PM, Nitin Maheshwari was just finishing dinner at Henry Tham’s restaurant in Colaba when he got a call from a friend asking if he was safe.
A few calls and a word with the management later, he realised the police had asked the restaurant to put out the outside lights and down shutters, keeping all patrons safely inside while they pursued the terrorists holed up in the Taj hotel nearby.
Henry Tham’s is one of a string of popular nightspots on the street leading up to the Taj. The back entrances of the restaurants open into a common courtyard, which is where most of the customers made their way as news of the attacks around the city poured in, sharing bits of information and trying to make sense of the little they knew.
A young girl, frantic to get back to her home in Navy Nagar, where her worried family was waiting, was reassured by other guests that she was safer where she was. Another guest, enlisted to help by a guard who couldn’t speak English, explained the situation to a worried foreigner.
As shots broke out nearby, the staff ushered patrons back in, bending the no-smoking rule to keep smokers inside.
At Gordon House, Amit Varma and his friends were waiting outside to get a table at the hotel’s restaurant. They were quickly guided inside as the first shots rang out. With a pregnant woman in their midst, they quickly decided to rent rooms at the hotel and stay put for the night.
“In the morning, they refused to accept payment for the room, insisting that it was their duty,” Varma told HT.
Down the same lane, at Indigo, Gayatri Rangachari of Hello magazine was at a team dinner. “The restaurant seemed like a bomb shelter, we all huddled and listened to the explosions at the Taj. A girl who was shot on the street was brought in. The staff tended to her and made sure she got to a hospital.”
At Inox, Nariman Point, the management directed patrons into an auditorium.
Akshaye Rathi, who was at the theatre, describes the experience on his blog: “Coffee and snacks were passed around... they even brought and cooked some rice and dal for people who may not have had their dinner.”