On Wednesday, for most part of the day, Kiran Shah followed the same routine that he had for the past 25 years.
Working in a diamond-trading firm in the Jain towers across the road from Panchratna towers, 42-year-old Shah entered the ill-fated Mumbai Diamond Merchant association Chowk at around 6pm for a quick cup of chai, followed by a smoke.
The lane, casually called the khau galli of Opera house, was brimming with people eager to return home, or to get back to work.
Shah, along with his friends, had chai and went to the local paan shop for a quick smoke. “My friends wanted to wait back to grab a bit too. I thought I`ll get a smoke. I went to the paanwallah situated right in the centre of the lane.”
As fate would have it, the paanwallah did not have a Wills Flake, the brand Shah insisted on. “For a second, I considered whether I should settle for some other brand, but something inside me ensured that I insisted on my brand and hence, I decided that I’ll go elsewhere to get my cigarette.”
At that very moment, little did Shah know that the seemingly inconsequential moment and an even more seemingly inconsequential decision would turn out to be the biggest choice of his life. The time was 6.45 pm.
“I had reached the end of the road when a loud noise shook me out of my wits. I initially thought that it was thunder. I turned around and saw that people were running out of the lane. I asked a few and they told me that a cylinder had exploded”, says Shah. Curious to know the fate of his friends, Shah ran into the lane, running against the tide of people scurrying out of the lane in a desperate bid to save their lives.
Shah reached the spot and felt numb for a few seconds. “The bomb had exploded right opposite the panwallah. I felt dizzy just by the thought of wondering what my fate would have been, had I decided to just settle for another brand of cigarette.”
Luckily for his friends, they were eating at a snack stall which was a little away from the spot.
Gathering his wits, Shah helped the rescue efforts, “At the place where I stood moments ago, I saw dismembered bodies lying on the ground. While being lifted, an injured man’s leg separated and fell to the ground. I placed the leg, thanking my stars that it wasn’t me.”