The faint scar that traces the path of the bullet that grazed his face at Café Leopold on November 26, 2008, no longer bothers Arne Stromme.
But the 55-year-old Norwegian landscape architect is back in Mumbai, two years after being injured in the terrorist attack, to heal his mental scars.
“We had to come back to India to overcome the emotional trauma. The call to return to India came from our heart,” said Stromme on Monday while thanking doctors at the Bombay Hospital, where he was operated upon post 26/11 attacks.
Stromme and his girlfriend Line Kristin Woldbeck were caught in the bullet shower at Café Leopold, where they were meeting their Indian Facebook friend.
As the firing started, the trio ducked under the tables. Stromme instinctively covered his face with his right hand but a bullet grazed his face, leaving his fingers shattered. The Indian friend died on the spot.
“When we were hiding under the table for almost 45 minutes, no help came from the Colaba police station located nearby,” said Woldbeck , a marketing and communications consultant. She took Stromme to St George Hospital near CST with the help of four army men.
But the sight of bodies strewn across the hospital floor left her chilled. “There was no stretcher or place to admit Stromme. I dragged him down the stairs but couldn’t find a taxi to take us to another hospital. Finally, two youngsters helped us get a cab,” said Woldbeck.
At Bombay Hospital, doctors reconstructed Stromme’s shattered fingers and repaired his damaged facial nerves. “When the Norwegian consulate approached Stromme and Woldbeck to take them back, they insisted on completing the treatment here,” said Dr Keki Turel, neurosurgeon, Bombay Hospital.
The couple reached Norway a month later on Christmas eve. They underwent psychological counselling. Stromme stayed away from work for a year, while Woldbeck still has trouble reading after the shock affected her eyesight.
“While we saw extreme evil on one hand, we also had the privilege to experience the compassion and love from the doctors, patients and even the smiling newspaper boy sitting in front of the hospital,” said Woldbeck. The couple is in touch with other 26/11 victims. They will attend a 26/11 function at the Trident on the second anniversary.