ON 26/11, while policemen, commandos, firemen and other paramilitary agencies were doing their duty and saving lives, 30-year-old martial arts instructor Mehul Vora too was doing the same.
The managing director of National Security Assessment and Training Bureau was entrusted the task of escorting four US citizens safely back home even as Mumbai was held to ransom by 10 armed terrorists.
And the hard work paid off. Early this week, Vora received a letter of appreciation from Al Gore, former US vice-president.
“Thanks so much for your exceptional service during the tragic terrorist attacks in Mumbai. You did a phenomenal job in protecting all the Live Earth India staff and I want to commend you for the effort,” the letter read. “You certainly went beyond the call of duty and all of us are grateful.”
“It’s a chilling memory,” said Vora recalling the drama that started on the night of November 26, 2008.
After getting instructions to ensure the safety of four Live Earth members, Vora and Captain Jay Modi, a VIP protection specialist, set off for JW Marriott in Juhu at 10.30 pm, where the four had checked in.
“There was a sea of armed policemen in attacking position from Amitabh Bachchan’s bungalow to the hotel. And there I was armed and wearing a bulletproof vest. They could have shot me over suspicion,” he said.
The concern wasn’t needless. The police detained Vora for wearing combat gear and carrying arms, but he was later set free.
But the drama didn’t end there. He then found out that one of the US citizens was near the Taj, while another was at Lokhandwala. The other two were in the hotel. By the time he managed to get them all under one roof, there was rumour of a bomb being planted at Marriott.
“We put them in a room and locked the door. Those four hours were the most testing, as television news channels were showing how Americans were identified and killed,” he added.
Vora heaved a sigh of relief only after seeing them off at the airport on November 27 morning.