For most part of the day, Kiran Shah, 42, followed the routine he has stuck to for the past 25 years, but on Wednesday, the search for his brand of cigarette saved his life.
Shah works in a diamond trading firm in Jain Towers, across the road from Panchratna Towers, and he walked into the ill-fated Mumbai Diamond Merchant Association Chowk around 6 pm for a quick cup of tea and a smoke. The lane, casually called the Khau Gully of Opera House, was teeming with people eager to return home, or get back to work at the time. Shah, along with his friends, had tea and went to the paan shop for a smoke. “My friends wanted to grab a bite, but I wanted to get a smoke and went to the paanwalla who has his shop right in the centre of the lane,” he said.
The paanwalla, however, did not have, Wills Flake, the brand Shah was looking. “For a second I considered if I should settle for some other brand, but somehow I didn’t feel like it. I decided I wanted Wills Flake and went in search of another shop.”
This inconsequential decision, at 6.45 pm, is the best decision Shah has taken in his life - it saved his life. “I reached the end of the road when I heard a very loud noise. I initially thought it was thunder. I turned around and saw people were running out of the lane. I stopped some people and asked what happened. They told me a cylinder had exploded,” said Shah said.
He ran back into the lane to check on his friends, running against the tide of people scurrying out. “I reached the spot and was numb for a few seconds. The bomb had exploded right opposite the panwalla. Just the thought of what my fate would have been if I had decided to settle for another brand of cigarette made me dizzy,” he said.
Luckily for his friends, they were eating at a snack stall a little away from the spot and escaped unhurt. Shah helped the injured. “At the place where I had stood moments ago, dismembered bodies were strewn. As we were lifting an injured man, his leg just separated and fell to the ground. I thank my stars it wasn’t me.”