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Recalling 26/11 attacks: Part VI

HT readers share the horror of that moment on November 26, 2008 when they realised that terroists had attacked their city.

mumbai Updated: Nov 25, 2011 23:52 IST
Hindustan Times

On the night of 25/11/08 I slept easily and happily as I was excited as on 26/11/08 I had a school picnic. I was in 6th standard. But my father woke me up earlier than usual and I did not know what had happened. Then he switched on the TV and showed me what was happening in my India while I was sleeping. It was a grueling sight.

I was so scared that I was half expecting terrorists to come to our house even though it was far away from the attack of terrorists. I was really angry at the terrorists for spoiling my country and I started crying when I saw those brave soldiers trying to help all the people caught in the attack while risking their own life.

From that year onwards whenever the month of November comes I dread every day of the month as the two biggest terror attacks took place in this month.

It is my sincere hope that another incident like 26/11 does not occur because I don't want to lose the citizens of India whether they are good or bad. I salute all the brave souls who are now in heaven because of those terrorists.
Nikita Nair, 13, Occupation: Student

My name is Clinton Leon. I am 27 working with Hotel Taj Lands End Mumbai for last 5years, I still remember this date, I was done with my shift had my dinner at home and was resting, suddenly at around 9pm approx I got a call from one of my chauffeur from Taj Mahal saying "there has been firing at our hotel are u aware of it sir" well I was not, he said "its between two gangs I suppose" that was so unbelievable, two gangs firing at each other. I switched on the news just to have a view, since no one from my hotel, specially my team mates at work picked up my call, its then that I thought probably something was really wrong, some how I called up one of my friend from Taj Mahal and discovered that it was a terror attack, I had no words to express suddenly just surfing on television I could actually see a Hotel where I had worked earlier where I was trained on travel desk is on fire' could see some familiar faces was just praying no one of whom I've known should be seen in causalities taken out of the hotel. Just can't get that incident out of my mind, my mom who was not allowing me to go out though I wanted to go and help my work mates. Brave to be part of Taj and part of this City as well

Whenever I see the Number 11,it always takes me back to the nightmare of the 26/11 attacks on the financial capital.

I was having the dinner at my Bhayander residence. It was around 9:30 pm, when I turned to News channel. I was very shocked after witnessing the breaking news about the terror attack in Mumbai. My father 's office was in Opera House at that time, he had returned early on that day and I was very thankful to God.

I was still watching the news channels, entire night I was awake and was thinking about the people who were hostage under the attackers. This was happening for 72 hrs .For me every second was painful nightmare, all relatives of mine residing out of Mumbai started calling us up but entire communication medium was blocked. Every now and then there was breaking news about our cops' casualties, which was unbearable for me. I still find it a fresh attack
Name: Ashutosh S.Pandey

Age: 21

Occupation: Student (Information Technology)

Before I start to write anything, let me first thank the Good Lord and all my dear and near ones for their prayers and blessings without which it was difficult for me to survive the terrorist attack. Even today, my fingers shiver and my heart throbs fast as I recall the incident.

It was a usual evening with melodious soft music playing on the piano by Schubert Vaz, at The Trident Lobby on 26.11.2008 till the clock showed 9.50 pm. and then all hell went loose. The music was silenced by the horrifying gunshots and for a moment we could not figure out where the sound was coming from, since no gunman was visible. It was Mr. Schubert Vaz, who first came running to me and asked me to take cover since he was first to spot the terrorist. Before I could understand what was happening, the gunshots were increasing and continuous. It was for the first time that I had heard such deafening sound.

Before I could decide my next course of action, five guests from The Verandah including a child ran to me for help. These were regular guests and known to us.

They were Arabs and wearing normal jeans and T Shirts thus no one could make out that they were Arabs, I advised them to hide near the pantry which is situated at the rear end of the Lobby of Verandah.

It was not a great place to hide, since it was open from all sides, never the less it was the only place. All the guests and one of my colleagues lay flat on the carpet of the pantry. Soon I realised that there was no place for me to hide, so I stood under the staircase. This is a fabricated staircase joining The Trident and the Oberoi internally.

I could see them from one side.

This terrorist entered from the main porch into the lobby, killing two of our dear colleagues, and walked ahead. Just then one of our staff, jumped over the cashier's counter. The terrorist saw him and came forward towards the counter but did not see anybody. He tried to shoot at the lower portion of the counter by stretching his arms since the counter is too long, but in vain and nobody was hit, instead the bullet hit the keyboard of the computer and further hit the wall leaving a big hole.

They then came forward and saw a guest sitting at Verandah, right opposite the Lobby Manager's Desk. This Parsee gentleman had said he was visiting Trident for the first time and was a regular visitor at the Taj Hotel. The reason told to me, was that since Mumbai is on high alert, Taj had a very high security and had sniffer dogs moving around and said that he disliked such an atmosphere. He had come for a business meeting only and he wanted a peaceful discussion with his partner, whom he was expecting later.

But when they attacked, his partner was not around, maybe he was at the washroom and he was so engrossed in his paperwork that he was oblivious of what was happening around him. They shot him. Just then the lift opened with two guests inside. They immediately opened fire. One of them was killed instantly and the other guest I presumed was Japanese got hit in the leg. Even though he was hurt and bleeding he moved himself towards the service door. Then they walked up the staircase where I was hiding beneath. They were 3 feet above me and I could see them. One of them had worn a Black T shirt and Blue Jeans, fair complexion and greenish greyish track shoes with a haversack on his back and an AK 47 rifle in hand. As they were climbing up one of them took a left turn that goes toward the Executive office maybe he had spotted someone, but since it was dark, he randomly opened fire bringing the entire glass door down. The glass railing was also damaged. He then came down and joined his partner to go to The Oberoi.
At this particular moment, there was silence but I could hear people crying in agony and shouting for help. For a second, I thought that I should move and help but then I saw our Hotel Chief Security Officer with two Monitron Guards were trying to help the Parsee Gentleman to get up. I could not believe my eyes as I saw him with his stomach so badly hit and his intestines coming out. It was such a pitiful site and I felt choked because he was the same guy to whom I had spoken to, earlier regarding terrorism. Before he could be helped, the glass railing above me came crashing down with bullet shots becoming very prominent. The same terrorist came down again in 3 minutes time. The security had to leave the Parsee Gentleman unattended again and he fell flat on the carpet. Again I was standing alone under the same staircase with those terrorists at a distance of four to five feet away from me.

I was so furious at that moment; I felt if I had a gun with me, I would have fought back.

Later they took a right turn and entered the bar known as the Opium Den.

It was with God's Grace that they did not turn left or else they would have seen me and the guests hiding beneath the staircase as the glass was reflecting our images just like a mirror. I felt like an invisible curtain between them, guests, and myself, was put by god. They walked toward the opium den and shot one of our housekeepers. The bullet hit his back and he fell flat on the ground. In this chaos one of our guests ran towards the service door. The terrorist opened fire and hit the wall that was of a steel border frame. This thick steel frame split open and made a hole on the opposite wall. He ran towards the system department and the same time a trainee girl named Jasmine too came running from the other side of the service door and landed straight in the systems dept. 14-15 people were in the systems dept by now, some were opium den staff, few guests, security guards and Schubert Vaz the pianist. The systems dept is a place where the entire network of computers are laid through servers and with a battery backup at the rear end, where everybody was hiding in cluster. A horrified Jasmine, an OCLD trainee, stared crying and pleading with her hands in front and repeatedly saying, "Please do not kill me, I want to live, Mujhe baksh do, Mujhe nahin marna hai. But the heartless and pitiless terrorist showed no pity and fired round of bullets killing almost 5-6 of them. Jasmine died on reaching the hospital. My heart cries out while narrating this incident. [The system department incident was told to me by one of my colleagues who survived this scenario] After creating chaos at the Systems, whilst they were coming out, I saw them moving towards the staircase.

By now it was almost 20-25 minutes ever since they came into the lobby. I did not panic but gathered courage but at the same time I was dying 100 deaths. I did not move, as they were just 5- 6 feet away from me. The guests also hiding were calm except for one who was crying continuously. I just reminded them to keep silence as they were above on the staircase. Just then my mobile rang, but we were lucky coz it was on silent mode.

By now they had moved towards Tiffin's Restaurant and the bullet sound was almost zero. However there was killing in Tiffin's Restaurant and Kandahar too. The lobby at Trident was suddenly silent except for people's groans and all the blood shed around.

I felt that it was the right time to leave, so I moved towards the service corridor. Our general manager was standing with the team members. I quickly briefed him that they had moved towards Tiffin's. Before I left the place I informed the guests that it's safe to leave now, but they were so horrified and said they did not want to leave.

After I left the lobby area, first thing I informed the security about the guest hiding at the pantry of The Verandah. Soon they were escorted to a safe place. I then walked towards the Regal Room, where I saw many guest and staff taking shelter. We were about 300-400 in count. Entire room was in darkness as the light was out. Later at 10.55 we were all sent to Inox Theatre about 150- 200 metres away. At 11 pm there was a big bomb blast near the main gate of the Hotel. We all came out to see what had happened. The staff were told to be away since there could be shooting from the Top. We all came towards the Main road opposite Inox. Mr. Pawanjeet Singh our EAM, called us and asked us to block the road going towards Trident by pushing two Taxis on either side. We did it at his request.

After some time we heard gunshots again and we all ran towards the parking area.

By now I had spotted a Silver Skoda going in full speed and banging the two taxis, which we had kept in the middle of the road. This was the same Skoda, which the terrorist had taken to run away and in which Kasab was caught alive at Girgaon. We spent the entire night at the theatre car park and next day at about 6.30am our VP called for a meeting and told us we could go home. I left at about 7.30am and reached home at 8.30am. Soon after seeing my family I just broke down and I could not control myself.

Today, I am alive; it's purely due to my wife, children, my family and my friends and all my well wishers, who have prayed for me. This is my rebirth and it took me nearly two months to come out of it. Thank you once again for all your prayers and good wishes

Thank you

Anthony Fernandes, 50, Occupation: Hotelier, Company: Trident Hotel Nariman Point

I would like to share the incident happened on that dark day (or night).

My brother-in-law and his daughter were to go to Chennai by the Mumbai-Chennai mail from C.S.T. at around midnight. As is the practice my brother -in-law reached C.S.T. well in advance. After seeing them off around 9 p.m. I went to bed by 10 p.m. as usual. Around midnight I got a call from my son who is in U.S.A. (for them being day time) and naturally I woke up hurriedly and worriedly and attended the call. My son told me that some shoot out has been taking place in C.S.T. and other areas in Mumbai City, which he had watched on the Television news channel in U.S.A. and wanted to know whether our relatives are ok as he was also knowing about their departure on that fateful day. It was only then I knew about the news and immediately switched on the TV news channel and was shocked to see the events that were being telecast.

My attempt to contact my brother -in-law went in vain as the network was not at all available. We were very much worried as to what must have happened to both of them. As early as 4 a.m. in the morning of 27/11 my brother -in-law called me up from somewhere in C.S.T. area and said that he and his daughter were asked by the cops to leave their luggage in the waiting area at C.S.T. and run out of the area in order to save their lives. So immediately they ran out and walked towards Ballard Pier area, along with some other people similarly affected and fortunately some kind-hearted soul in the nearby locality gave them shelter and even offered food and told them not to worry. My brother -in-law, who came back to our house at Mulund by the afternoon thought that it was really God sent help and they thanked those people profusely and narrated the details to us. Both my brother -in-law and his daughter were under severe shock and mental strain and they stayed back more than a week to come to back to normalcy. Our whole family can never forget this incident for the whole of our life.

Krishnan Ananthanarayanan, 72, Occupation: Retired

I was sitting in my drawing room talking to my friend who resides in Colaba area and suddenly he screamed on the phone that there is noise of the gun shoots outside his house and he disconnect his phone immediately which resulted I was under tremendous pressure and wanted to contact him again but his phone was coming engaged and without wasting any time I switch on TV and saw the news that 10 terrorist have attacked our city with sophisticated weapons and have killed many innocent people whose bodies were laying on the floor and looking at this horrible scene I immediately contacted my relatives who reside next to the target area but were safe as the next building to their house was attacked.

After going through news on all TV channels it was confirmed that Pakistani terrorists have attacked the city of Mumbai at various places and butchered people without any hesitation resulting it was confirmed that 176 people were killed including three best top police officers. Since Mumbai police not able to handle them the central commandos reached the city and killed 9 terrorists and 1 terrorist was captured by the brave police inspector of the Lamington Road before sacrificing his life. I remember this day as the darkest day in the Indian history but feel very angry that one of the terrorist Ajmal Qasab who is in the jail is still not be hanged and enjoying the luxurious life at the expense of taxpayers money.

As a Mumbaikar I feel proud of my city, which stood against various terrorist, attacks in last few years and remain normal despite many hurdles. Since we will be completing three years of terrorist attack on Mumbai on 26/11we all the people who reside here must declare this day of sacrifice and remember those who lost their precious lives.


Bhagwan Thadani, 58, freelance writer

By sharing this poignant experience, I wish to reach out to mothers who lost their sons to the terror attack of 26/11.

My son, a lawyer, was working in the law Firm MZM Legal at Khala Ghoda, Fort.

That day, he called up at 5 pm and said that he would not be boarding the usual 6pm Harbour Line local at CST to reach home in Chembur that day, as he had an important Client meeting. He said that he would most probably be taking the 8 or 8.30 PM Harbour Line local that night. I did not make much of the change in his train schedule then, call it luck or his good Karma or fate my son's meeting with his client was cancelled and he took the 5.30 local from CST and reached home, earlier than expected. After a shower he went down to get some legal documents Xeroxed, I was in the kitchen preparing dinner when around 8.30 he burst in our flat very much disturbed. "Switch on the T.V there is trouble'', he said I immediately switched on the T.V. It took some time to sink in that it was a terror attack on Mumbai. The Leopold Cafe was my son's favourite ''ADDA'' where he would often go out with his colleagues. Seeing it go up in flames upset him very much. Looking at my son seated beside me made me very emotional that night. I shuddered when I thought what would have happened to him if the client meeting had not been cancelled and he was at the CST around the time of the attack to board the train home. I hugged him and thanked God for bringing him back home safe that terrible day. I am a lucky mother my son came home to me that night. What about those not so fortunate mothers whose sons never returned that night. My heart goes out to them.

Prof Indira Satyanarayan (Retd), 59 Years

First Published: Nov 25, 2011 23:47 IST