Actor-chef Amrita Raichand reveals she was at Taj Hotel during 26/11 attacks, recalls gunshots sounding like fireworks
Actor-chef Amrita Raichand revealed she and her husband Rahul Raichand were trapped inside The Taj Mahal Palace during the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai. In 2008, 12 coordinated attacks lasting as many as four days across major locations in Mumbai jolted the country. One of which was the sea-facing The Taj Mahal Palace.
A number of guests were trapped for hours together during the attack. One of them was Amrita Raichand. In a conversation with Humans of Bombay, Amrita revealed she was celebrating her birthday at the luxury hotel when the attacks took place.
“My birthday is on 26th November. That night, to celebrate, we decided to go to the Taj. My son had just turned 1–I was sceptical about leaving him behind, but when my family insisted, I agreed. Moreover, a friend was staying at Taj, so we made dinner plans. In retrospect, I wish I had listened to my gut," she recalled.
The actor and her husband reached the hotel by 9 pm. As they settled in, they heard the first set of firings. “As we were settling in, we heard what sounded like fireworks. Oblivious to what was happening, I said, ‘The whole city is celebrating my birthday!’ After 15 mins, we heard the sound again, but this time it sounded like gunshots. What I saw from the window shocked me… bodies were being rolled out. When we called the receptionist, she asked us to stay put. And so, we did. An hour later, a deafening sound shook the building. What followed was chaos–I heard screams, people being dragged & gunshots. We switched off the lights & put our phones on silent. But even the silence was thunderous.”
Amrita recalled that a few hours had passed and she was worried about her son when the second blast took place. “Just then, there was a 2nd blast–the dome was on fire & we were engulfed in smoke. My mind went back to my son at home. We wetted the towels and put them by the door. We even tried breaking open the window, but in vain. Night turned into morning, & we were still there…breathing smoke & losing hope. And then we heard a fire brigade–we flickered the light & thankfully, they saw us!” she added.
She said that it was already morning when they were finally rescued. With the help of the fire brigade, it took them an hour to climb out of the room. Although she reunited with her son, Amrita confessed the trauma of the incident stayed on. “I’d find it hard to even use the loo by myself. And fireworks? Their sound still terrorises me,” she shared. However, the following year, they returned to the hotel to celebrate her birthday yet again and since then, it has been a ritual for her to say a prayer for all those who died during the attack and celebrate those fought and triumphed the terror.
Amrita is a renowned chef. However, she has starred in a couple of Bollywood movies. One of which was Ready, in which she played Asin's friend Pooja. She then starred in Ali Fazal's Baat Bann Gayi.