British businessman Deepak Kuntawala (35) was one of the 150-odd guests hiding on the first floor of the Taj Mahal hotel on Wednesday. His presence of mind helped saved his life and that of others.
For nearly four hours, Deepak, his father Vinay (68) and other guests were crouching on the floor. The room above them was on fire, the sound of gunshots was nearing, grenades were going off and smoke was billowing in.
“We were vulnerable from all sides,” recounted the India-born Surrey resident. Deepak realised they couldn’t wait for death. “I told all the strong people to pull down curtains and knotted them.” They then smashed the glass windows. Once the curtain-rope was tied to the ledge, guests started clamouring to go down first. But Deepak ensured that the elderly went first, then women before the others.
As his father Vinay scaling down, the curtain tore and he fell 30 feet breaking his left leg and was taken to hospital. Deepak went down after most guests were rescued.
Deepak now wants to set up a fund to help those who need it. “I will ask my friends in the UK to contribute, too.”
We were planning dinner at Wasabi
On Wednesday, I was at the Taj, dining with a friend. We were planning to eat at Wasabi, but decided to eat at Souk.
There were about 40 people at Souk, including a cricket team from South Africa. Around 11 pm, as we were leaving, the waiters said we couldn’t, as there was some problem.
By then, colleagues were calling up, and when I told them I was at the Taj, they said I should escape. But it was too late, we were on the 23rd floor. The cricket team’s security men moved us to an adjacent room. We could hear gunshots. At 3am the team told us we had a chance to escape through the fire exit stairs and that we had to move silently.
Mobiles were switched off, shoes removed, and we climbed down 23 floors. This hasn’t changed my view of Mumbai.
— As told to Naomi Canton
We were just having a drink
On Wednesday, a friend and I were having a drink at Café Leopold when we heard screams and gunshots. We ducked and pulled a table for cover.
I was shot thrice — two bullets passed right through my legs and groin, one skimmed my chest. After a while the police took me to St George Hospital. I was in a lot of pain. While at the hospital, my mother called up though she did not know what had happened. I was taken to JJ and then to Jaslok. Someone from the British High Commission arranged for it.
I don’t know what happened to my friend with whom I was having a drink. All this hasn’t put me off from coming back to India. The doctors say I will recover fully. I feel very lucky.
— as told to Naomi Canton
He wanted a toy, got a bullet shot instead
Tejas Arjungi (3) was pestering his father, Anand (30), for a toy at At CST on Wednesday night. The child’s demands stopped in a minute as a bullet hit him right above his left eye while his father was hit in the arm.
The boy has been at JJ Hospital’s ward number 25 since four days.
His dad too is admitted to the same hospital.
“All he asks is if his dad is fine, and if he can play with him again,” said his teary-eyed mother, Shivleela, who is worried about her son’s eyesight. “The incident has disturbed immensely.”
The Arjungis had come to Mumbai from Daman and were to taken a train for Karnataka that day to visit her brother who has had an accident.
Shivleela had gone to fetch water from a nearby tap when terror struck at the station. She was lucky to escape. “There were two of them; one was slightly bald. One threw grenades and the other fired bullets,” said Shivleela. The injured father-son duo, who were both conscious, were initially taken to St George Hospital
— as told to Naomi Canton