“It was incredibly quiet. All of Mumbai was held hostage. Otherwise, it’s a very noisy city,” said Alex Chamberlen (39) as he recalled the evening of November 26, 2008, when he was dining at the Oberoi’s famed Kandhahar restaurant.
Chamberlen, who worked with the Indian Premier League and is now back in London as a consultant, said he was about to leave when he saw a waitress run in with bullet wounds. “Two gunmen followed.”
He and 25 five other guests, mostly foreign nationals, were soon taken hostage by the terrorists. “They took us to a staircase and asked if anybody was from the US or UK. The only English words they spoke were ‘British’, ‘American’ and ‘passport’,” Chamberlen said. “I thought they would kill us. Luckily, smoke filled the hall and the gunmen got distracted. That’s when I managed to escape.”
On the 19th floor, architect Drew Dickson (55) thought somebody was setting off Chinese firecrackers. “I went out and saw the terrorists. For a few minutes, I could not move. Later, I went to a room where a colleague was staying.”
For 20 hours, he and Debra Bayne remained locked in the smoke-filled room. They survived because they broke a window to let in fresh air. “We could hear one of the terrorists just a few rooms away,” he recalled.
They were finally rescued on the afternoon of November 27 by commandos. “The policemen didn’t know what to do,” said Dickson. Added Chamberlen: “If such an incident had occurred in London, the place would have been swarming with policemen and firemen within minutes.”
Chamberlen and Dickson both say they will return to Mumbai. “I am strongly connected to the city,” said Chamberlen.