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Recalling 26/11 attacks:Part IV

mumbai Updated: Nov 25, 2011 23:51 IST
Hindustan Times
26/11 attacks

Name: Rita D’Souza Age: 59 Occupation: Housewife

26th November 2008, the day started as usual but did not end the same way. My son Steve, who was doing his training for his hotel management course at the Taj, left for work at 8 pm for his night shift.

At 9.30 I received a call from one of his friends asking me if Steve had left for work and when I said yes, he asked me to turn on the TV and watch any news channel.

What we saw shocked us and we tried frantically to contact Steve but failed. Each minute our anxiety was mounting. Finally, at 3 am we got a message from him saying that he was inside the Taj Palace but he was safe. After that we lost contact as his battery had run out. That night we spent the whole time glued to the TV with tears in our eyes and praying for his safety. The anguish and fear in our hearts was unbearable.

It was only at 11 am the next day that my son walked in with blood stained clothes. We were relieved and tried to ask him what had happened but he just sat down and cried and cried. We let him sleep as he was totally exhausted. When he woke up he told us how he had heard gunshots. They were locked in the locker room till late.

But when there was silence, they moved out, only to find one of their colleague lying in the corridor, bleeding. He had three gunshot wounds. My son and a friend of his carried him out through the back entrance to an ambulance and took him to JJ Hospital. They stayed with him for three hours. But he did not survive. They went back to the Taj in the same ambulance as they did not have any money to travel otherwise. My son then walked to Churchgate and travelled to Matunga ticketless. The TC caught him but he was let go after they heard his story.

All trainees have to write a logbook of the day’s activities. For the 26th Nov. 2008, my son wrote one line, “The day I will never forget”.

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Name: Mubaraka Siraj Bengali Age: 23 years Occupation: Free Lancing Artist and a Graphic Designer

Until 2007, 26th of November was the most happiest day in my life but 26-11-2008 was a blend of memories and an awful tragedy that took place in our beloved city Mumbai.

At the set of Oye Its Friday! Yash Raj Studios, Andheri where the shooting of its first episode was in progress. Famous celebrities like Farhan Akhtar, Hrithik Roshan, Neha Dhupia, Hard Kaur and a couple of comedians were present. And of course I was along with the production team and the audience.

It was a 12- hour shoot hence right from 9 a.m. the shoot had commenced but by the time it had to wind up the director of the show had to shoot the last scene, where the audience had to applaud for the great performances of the celebrities. He requested to applaud but to his disappointment the audience did not clap that great as all of them were exhausted due to the all day rehearsals. Thus he began to wonder that what could be done to get the shot just perfect.

Few moments later, out of nowhere, he landed up asking in general if it was anyone’s birthday. No one raised their hands but somehow hesitantly I managed to raise mine! Indeed it was my birthday! Everyone was surprised for a minute as he had just asked randomly.

As soon as the spotlight hit me and the director asked my name and wished me and following the same the two of my most favorite actors Farhan Akhtar and Hrithik Roshan wished me too! And not to forget, Neha Dhupia and Hard Kaur also wished me. Later the director requested everyone not only to wish me but also sing for me also.

At that moment I felt that what more would anyone need like the birthday wishes so very special and spending the whole day with celebrities which was as good as partying with them!

Everyone sang and applauded me. Once it was all done, the director noticed that the crowd was in a good flow so he asked them to keep applauding for the last shot. So finally the shoot was successfully over and we had dispersed from the studio.

The moment I stepped out I checked my cell phone as we weren’t allowed to use them during the shoot. It displayed infinite missed calls from my landline and close friends too. Before I could even think or call anyone I got a call from my mother, giving me the most unfortunate news about the terrorist attack going on at The Taj , Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus and other places too.

At first I just couldn’t believe it but I was really taken aback when I got the definite news. My parents and a few friends whom I spoke to were all worried about me as I had to travel back home alone at this point of time. Fortunately, one of my good friends who stayed close by came to pick me up so it was then that I developed the courage to leave from the studio as we had heard that a bomb blast had taken place in a cab at Vile Parle at that time.

At 9.30 p.m. We reached home safe and sound. Not just me but any person instead of me, would have forgotten about all the excitement that had happened some hours back. I was so disheartened while we were watching the bulletin.

So many innocent people lost their lives, So many people were in trouble, And so many are yet in trouble; Grieving in immense pain who lost their loved ones.

To conclude with, I would just like to wish and pray for all the victims. May the good Lord bestow His mercy and bless them all.

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Name: Akhil Singh Age: 17

I am studying in a boarding school in lonavala, which is Cathedral Vidya School. When I put DNA on my laptop there I saw about the 26/11. I was shattered and broken down cause I felt really bad of my country INDIA and I never thought we would be affected in our country so badly.

However the first thing I did was called up my parents and family members regarding the situation and they told me its really bad and it has affected a lot of people however many people have been rescued and many policeman and NGOs have come to helps so everything is going to be fine.

When I heard about the Taj Mahal Palace I was extremely hurt cause whenever I used to come back home from boarding the first thing I used to do was go to the Taj Hotel and eat at Golden Dragon restaurant cause the hotel was like my dream to actually worked there.

I never thought that the hotel would be bombed and would be blood shred. After hearing and seeing all of this I couldn't sleep for the past 3 or 4 days cause I was so shocked and actually crying my heart out for this terror attack.

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Name: Garima Srivastava Age: 22 years Occupation: Final year student VES Institute of Technology

I was in my 1st year of engineering. Back then we did not have a TV at home. My uncle who was visiting us was at our place till 11pm. Though the news of the attack broke in the evening we were unaware till that late. When uncle reached the guesthouse where the TV was at the center for all the other visitors, he immediately called us giving us the news of the tragic attack.

Pretty used to terrorist attacks, we did not understand the gravity of the situation then and I continued to prepare for my Mechanics Practical Exam that was scheduled for the following day. Only in the morning did we know that the city was under siege due to the attack and there would be no daily business that day.

Very apprehensive if college would function we all students kept on getting news of a suspended day for the following few days. It was really a nightmare to see the city so scared, so hapless. At every turn there was a sense of doubt.

After that every time we visited the CST station, the picture of 26/11 only got more horrific. We were lucky to not loose anyone I knew that tragic day. It turns out Mumbai is too strong. All is the same again.

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Name: Dilip D Jaya Age: 53 years Service

It was a very close call for us.

We (IIM-A Alumni) had assembled at The Oberoi Trident around 5pm on 26/11. We had organized an event and the group was to be addressed by an overseas guest speaker. We were about 60 plus people. The Guest lecture lasted for about an hour, which was followed by high tea, and we dispersed.

Normally, cocktails and dinner would follow any Alumni event. But this time for no apparent reason, it was not.

I reached my residence at Versova and put on the TV and the scenes of carnage unfolding on the TV screen seemed to be from some movie. Then I recognized the locations and thought these were footages from the past. The moment I realized this was live telecast I was stunned and a chill ran down my spine. It dawned on me that I was at the Trident less than 2 hours before. Lucky Again?

Then past memories came flooding back. I had a similar close encounter during the 1993 blasts when I was caught between 2 blasts, one at the Searock Hotel (I had attended a customer meeting at Searock and was on my way to Centaur Airport for a seminar) and other at the Airport Centaur. Lucky? Or is it Destiny???????

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Niranjan Kaushik Founder & Creative Director Acid Brand Communications, Mumbai

Working as a Creative Director in a multinational ad agency can make you a bit of a creature of habit. One particular habit, in fact: meeting buddies over a couple of drinks, after a day’s work. And this has been the only constant in my career in advertising (designations, salaries and responsibilities in this industry change as fast as TV channels on a restless night).

So that brings me to an office in Parel, a multinational ad agency, where I was serving as Creative Director, on a day that has managed to find a place in the history of terrorism and Mumbai.

26.11.2008, 6:00pm: Typical Ad Agency atmosphere. Chaos. It’s six in the evening, we have a client meeting the next morning, scripts aren’t ready, the art director is missing since afternoon, the writer hasn’t mailed the scripts yet, we need to review the scripts with the CEO, and all the other things that look unimportant as evening approaches.

But I was a Creative Director and one with a certain evening habit, remember?

I swore to solve the problem in one hour flat, so that I could head out for a drink. And by 7 PM I had solved the problem.

All scripts were in place, the CEO had been taken through them, the art director returned from his date miraculously (a strongly-worded SMS works) and all was well. The night was ahead. Drinks with buddies.

I was set to make my first call. To anyone of my regular drinking buddies. The Ghetto (at Breach Candy, near Mahalaxmi Temple) was our regular hang-out, where we’d normally meet on a weekday evening. For years. But before I could figure out which of my Ghetto buddy I should call first, my phone rang.

It was a friend who lived in Marine Lines. One who wasn’t a regular at The Ghetto. And one I hadn’t met in some time.

“Dude, you wanna catch up?” he asked. “Sure,” I said. “Colaba good?” he asked. I thought for a second. I had to eventually return to The Ghetto (Breach Candy) before 1.15am to listen to the famous last song, as it has always been for years. But it was still a workable plan. Head to Colaba first, down a few, then head to the The Ghetto later for a nightcap. Perfect.

“Works for me,” I said to my friend. “Colaba it is. Where?” “Leo Pold?” he asked. “See you there by 9,” I replied. I checked my watch, it was just 7.10pm.

I wrapped up what little work was left, shut down my computer, got a coffee from the vending machine, and sat at my desk, reading a magazine. I was waiting, for the clock to tell me that it was 8pm.

And soon it was. I walked out of the office in Parel, stood on the main road to hail a cab. (It’s not easy finding a cab in these parts, which eventually turned out to be a blessing.)

So as I stood, waiting for a taxi, a few minutes passed. And my phone rang again.

It was the same guy who I was supposed to meet at Leo Pold.

“Dude, have you left for Colaba,” he asked. “Waiting for a cab bro,” I replied. “Well, I have a little problem,” he said. “My mum has suddenly started vomiting uncontrollably.” His mum lived alone, four or five buildings away in Marine Lines, walking distance from his place. “You know what,” he continued, “am just gonna go over, and sort her out and spend the night with her. We’ll catch up another time, yeah?” “No issues bro,” I replied instinctively. “Look after her, and if you need any help, call. Am at The Ghetto (Breach Candy).”

A taxi eventually came along, I got into it, and told the driver to take me to Breach Candy. A 20-minute uneventful ride later, I was at The Ghetto, seated at the bar, with a whisky. This is the place where regulars meet, and I noticed a few familiar faces scattered around the bar. But I chose to focus more on my whisky and the TV at the bar, to be honest.

An hour or more effortlessly passed like it always does at The Ghetto.

And then, The TV started showing something weird. At Café LeoPold, Colaba. Guns, firing, stuff we didn’t know much about. And then it all unfolded over the next hour or more.

Bombay was under siege.

Speculation, rumours and news managed to sneak in through overburdened mobile networks. It ranged from absurd (Taliban warriors have come on horseback and are shooting people) to factual (There are terrorists on our streets, stay safe’).

We at the bar looked around at each other, partly confused, partly fascinated, maybe reluctantly terrified, even. And we saw all of us who knew each other. Most of us were there. Except one.

Yes. Bhisham Mansukhani, a guy we regularly saw at the bar was missing. Bhisham was a hospitality writer, and someone said, he had gone to The Taj for dinner. The TV in front of us showed The Taj under siege. We didn’t even know what to think, say or feel. And for once, alcohol had no role to play in this mass numbing of the senses. Before we knew, it was 1.15am. Closing time. The last song played at The Ghetto, the bar shut, and we left from Breach Candy in a taxi (not knowing what to expect on the roads) and headed home to switch on the TV.

The TV never went off for the next few days, and on the last of those days, I learnt that Bhisham was rescued. Later during the week, I had a drink with him at The Ghetto. I heard his story, I salute his spirit.

However, I had no idea how to feel about 26.11. I still don’t.

Because if I had found a cab on time that day, I’d have been at Leo Pold at 9pm. On 26.11.2008 at 9pm.

And as for my friend’s mum, the one who was vomiting uncontrollably on 26.11, she’s alright now, it was just acidity. I owe my life to her acidity.

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