Ex-Navy commando, hit by AK 47 fire during 26/11 attacks, runs marathons 5 surgeries later
Teotia joined the Indian Navy in July 2002 when he was just 18 years old. On November 26, he, along with 29 marines from his unit, was sent to carry out a rescue operation at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. Teotia was hit in the chest and on the left side of his face, damaging the right lung and an ear.mumbai Updated: Nov 03, 2018 13:04 IST
10 years after the November 26 attacks killed 166 people and exposed gaping security lapses, HT looks at heroes who fought back, the lives lost, steps taken to make Mumbai safer.
Just a few hours before he was asked to rush to the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in south Mumbai on the night of November 26, 2008, marine commando Praveen Teotia was chatting with a mobile shop owner next to Leopold Café, a tourist favourite in south Mumbai and one of the targets of the Pakistani terrorists who carried out terror attacks on multiple locations that night.
“I had just returned to the MARCOS (formerly the Marine Commando Force),” recalled Teotia, who is from Bulandshahr, in Uttar Pradesh. While other members of his unit settled down to watch a cricket match, Teotia decided to pack in a nap before heading out for his midnight shift. He woke up to the news that terrorists were literally running around south Mumbai and the lives of senior police officers had been lost. “That’s when I realised that it was time to serve my country. As a Navy person, we wait for such opportunities and this was it,” Teotia added.
Teotia joined the Indian Navy in July 2002 when he was just 18 years old. On November 26, he, along with 29 marines from his unit, was sent to carry out a rescue operation at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. Teotia was the point man, the one at the head of the third team that entered the hotel. They made their way to the dining room on the second floor, where the terrorists were reported to be.
“I had barely taken eight steps forward when from my right-hand side, I heard the sound of two safety catches of AK-47s go off. The burst from that gun blew off my left ear. I did fire three- four rounds before falling down, which injured one of the terrorists,” Teotia said. The firefight continued and Teotia was hit in the chest and on the left side of his face, damaging the right lung and an ear. “When the terrorist left from the other exit towards the kitchen of the hotel, I tried getting out of the room, post which I don’t recollect what happened. All I know is I was lying in the hospital next day,” he said.
Teotia had to go through five surgeries and his hearing was partially-impaired. He was discharged from hospital after five months in March 2009. Doctors said it was a miracle he’d survived. When he resumed duty, he was given a desk job and was awarded the Shaurya Chakra. Feeling stifled in a desk job, Teotia started becoming interested in marathons in 2014, after he was told to lose weight during a medical check-up. In 2017, he opted for voluntary retirement since working for the Navy wouldn’t let him take the leave he needed to train for and participate in marathons.
Since then, Teotia has participated in gruelling challenges, like the Khardung La Challenge (the highest ultra marathon in the world), and won the Ironman title at the 2018 Triathlon Championships in South Africa. Though he does not wear the naval uniform anymore, he says he is still serving the country.
First Published: Nov 03, 2018 09:29 IST