That night, Abdul Salim Shaikh was sitting outside his house in south Mumbai’s Mazgaon along with his wife, Awah, and son, Sohail, when he saw a taxi pull up.
His neighbour, Zarina, and her daughter walked out of the car, requesting Shaikh for some change to pay the driver.
Shaikh did not have the money, but he asked the driver to park the vehicle outside the neighbour’s house and not his.
“After the driver got his money, he started his vehicle and began reversing it. The minute the car moved, a loud explosion threw us off our feet,” said Shaikh, adding that the roof of his house collapsed.
“The blast in the taxi was so powerful that the vehicle was flung in the air and its parts flew in different directions.”
The driver and the neighbours died in the blast while 19 others, including Shaikh and his family members, were severely injured.
“Three pieces of metal pierced my husband’s head, leg and back. My son was hit by shrapnel on his head and a metal rod entered my arm,” said Awah.
Two of the terrorists, Abu Shoaib and Abu Umer, had hired the cab after entering Mumbai to reach Cafe Leopold and Taj Mahal hotel.
Before they got off, they had strapped a bomb below the car’s front seat.
Shaikh, who’s a cook, and his family were treated for a month at a government hospital. “It has been seven years but the pain never seems to die down,” Shaikh said.
“The memories of our dead neighbours still haunt us. Whenever we go out as a family, my heart starts racing and I hold onto my son every time we see an abandoned bag.”
- Badri Chatterjee
Two waiters were shot dead in front of my eyes: Bharat Gujjar
“Every year when the city celebrates Diwali, I lock myself in a room trying to forget the screams from that night. Every time a firecracker goes off, I’m reminded of the grenade blast and loud screams. Fear is my companion now,” said Bharat Gujjar, a kitchen supervisor at Colaba’s Leopold Café, one of the targets of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks.
As he was busy writing a bill, Gujjar, now 34, heard a loud shriek outside.
He saw a man throw something towards the eatery’s first floor. Within seconds there was an explosion and pieces of glass went flying, hitting diners and employees.
“I could hear screams of agony as dust enveloped the café. Before I could call for help, two waiters were shot dead in front of my eyes,” he said.
As he stepped out to pull the bodies to a corner, another grenade came rolling towards him. “The last thing I remember before passing out was that I was holding on to a small Ganesha locket as blood oozed out of my stomach,” said Gujjar who celebrated his 40th birthday on Tuesday.
Two gunmen had attacked the popular restaurant and bar on Colaba Causeway, killing about a dozen Indians and foreigners.
Even after seven years, Gujjar has nine stone fragments lodged in his body.
“I was taken to St. George Hospital at Fort where after initial treatment the staff informed my wife that I would survive,” he said.
Bharat Gujjar added that he could never gather the courage to visit a hospital again to remove the remaining particles lodged in his body because he could not forget the trauma of that night.
- HT Correspondent
Everything happened so fast, it’s still a blur: Sajid Khalid
Sajid Abdul Khalid, 43, shuddered while watching the TV coverage of this month’s terrorist attacks in Paris.
The businessman from Mumbai’s Dongri area was among those injured during the 26/11 terror siege of 2008, shot in the right leg just outside CST station while on his way home.
“Watching the TV coverage was like reliving it all,” he said.
“How can they do this again and again; kill the innocent, children and elderly. It’s enough to make you lose faith in humanity. No religion sanctions this.”
On 26/11, Khalid was riding towards Fort in south Mumbai on his motorcycle when he heard shots fired.
“No one knew what was happening. Everyone was scared. People started telling us to turn around,” he said.
Rather than proceeding towards the Taj hotel and Leopold Café, where attacks were underway, he turned around and ended up at the CST subway, not knowing that it would see the worst carnage of the night.
“Suddenly, the subway lights went out and two men ran out of the tunnel, carrying huge guns. Everything happened so fast, it’s still a blur. I heard a sound like fireworks and felt something sting my leg. I looked down and saw I was bleeding. A policeman standing next to me had blood all over,” he recalled.
“A stranger took me to GT Hospital on his bike.”
Khalid’s was a flesh wound and he made a full recovery.
“The bullet had passed right through my thigh, and my wallet, making holes in the currency notes and denting a coin on its way out,” he said.
“I have saved those damaged notes and coins as reminders that you never know what will hit you.”
- Antara Sengupta