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Monday, Sep 16, 2019

Pune residents Navaz Kamdin and Vaibhava Rele recollect 26/11

Now, 10 years later, Navaz Kamdin, who resides on Boat Club road, says the void of having lost her son in the prime of his health will never cease.

pune Updated: Nov 26, 2018 15:30 IST
Prachi Bari
Prachi Bari
Hindustan Times, Pune
Nawaz Kamdin at her residence on Boat Club road, recalls the death of her son Kaizad at the Taj hotel on 26/11.
Nawaz Kamdin at her residence on Boat Club road, recalls the death of her son Kaizad at the Taj hotel on 26/11. (SANKET WANKHADE/HT PHOTO )

He was first shot in his knees, as he was tall, and then later, was hit at close range by them when they found him still breathing, holding on to his mobile phone.”

That is the memory that still stands out for Navaz Kamdin, the mother of Kaizad Kamdin, the Pune resident and hotel management executive who was shot to death by Pakistani terrorists at the Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai on November 26, 2008. 

Now, 10 years later, Navaz Kamdin, who resides on Boat Club road, says the void of having lost her son in the prime of his health will never cease. Kaizad is survived by his younger brother, Astaad, a pilot with Air Asia. with her Nosher Kamdin, the father, is also no more.

She and Kaizad’s godmother, German national Ute Liebau, will be part of the prayer meeting at the Taj Mahal today. “He was humorous, loyal and very dedicated person. He enjoyed his work in banquets and was working on that day directly under chef Ramchandra Iyer. It was his first job and he loved it very much,” says Kamdin. 

On that day, the kitchen and banquets had their hands full with two weddings and other functions at the Taj in Mumbai. Kaizad was on duty. The Kamdins were at home in Pune, watching TV, when news flashes mentioned that something had taken place at the Taj with gunshots fired. “We were worried and called our son, who in fact told us not to worry and that they had a lot of work in the kitchen, while the gunshots were heard on the floors six and seven. They were told to continue serving,” recounts Navaz. 

“It was my husband, Nosher, who called him to make him understand the gravity of the situation and to take it seriously. We were calling him every half an hour until 3.30 am and we only went to sleep when we saw several chefs coming out from the back entrance. We presumed our son was one of them. We were woken up by one of his friends and ex-colleagues calling us from Dubai. My son was shot. Thinking that he might be wounded, we left for Mumbai and carried enough cash to bring him home in an ambulance. Enroute to Mumbai, we got to know that Kaizad had passed away and we did not know how to react. It was the same friend who called us and told us, “Aunty, my best friend has passed away…,” Kamdin says.

“We were told that Kaizad was one of the persons right in the front of the two rows that were formed to protect 200 people and lead them towards back entrance. The terrorist found out due to the media reporting every move and barged into the kitchen guns blazing. Kaizad was the first one to go down as he was hit in the knee and as he collapsed, he tried to call the security for help. The terrorists shot him twice at close range.”

His left jaw was completely destroyed and the second bullet hit him in his spleen. He bled to death. 

“It’s been 10 years and every year on this day I feel that we have not learnt our lessons. What difference has it made to anything at all? Who can you blame for my son’s death? Ajmal Kasab was hanged, but was that justice? This cycle will never end and history will repeat itself,” she adds.

‘I did survive...’

Vaibhava Rele was also at the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai on November 26, 2008 when the terrorists attacked.  

Rele is happy to be alive. She is a survivors of the 26/11 terrorist attack. “I was working as a line producer and had just reached thar morning to begin work on an American production. It was 10 pm that we were going for dinner before heading out to our next destination Jodhpur. The irony of it all, is that this company wanted to show the beauty of India and here we were all hiding in darkness inside the Sea Lounge on the first floor of the Taj Mahal. When I first heard the shots, I thought of them to be fireworks, for in the very next door was a wedding and we all were wondering about why did they allow fireworks indoors. Soon it was followed by loud screams and shouts and we thought that some people must be fighting, but none of us had any clue of what was really going on,” says Rele.

Rele thanks the Taj staff for their presence of mind and quick thinking to switch off all the lights and to request every guest to keep their phone on silent. She also feels lucky that they were sitting huddled closer to the windows of the lounge. The next day when the fire brigade reached the window they could be rescued easily.

“I had spoken to my husband once during the night and after that my battery went dead. It was only after being rescued did I really understand the gravity of the situation and that I was lucky to be alive. Every year, this date I count my blessings and wait for this day to come and go. My husband Amrish, in fact, has decided to bring the entire family together to celebrate my second birth and my escape from death,” Rele says. 

“I learnt a major lesson to make sure to meet every person I know and spend time with my family and friends,” Rele adds. Today, Rele runs her baking and wedding decor business, something that she had always planned but hesitated... until 26/11.

First Published: Nov 26, 2018 15:30 IST