Source: Humans of Bombay
“I was a chef in the Taj banquet kitchen when the gunshots started that night. Initially the news was that it was an internal gang war in a neighbourhood nearby and that it would die down soon. It was only at about 10:30 – 11PM that we understood the magnitude of what was going on. We were 7 chefs in total in the kitchen that night, not one of whom left the Taj despite knowing all exit points. By then the shootout had happened at the Wasabi restaurant and all those who had survived were pouring into the banquet hall and kitchen where we were working. As soon as we had heard about the shootout, we prepared sandwiches for our surviving guests which we then handed out. After this, we entered the corridor to escort our guests out of the hotel through the back entrance. We had successfully helped a few guests when I saw the left profile of a terrorist in a red cap, who began shooting.
I was standing next to a refrigerator, when my head chef and sous chef both got shot. There was chaos, panic and fear as our guests started running everywhere – but by then they had opened fire in all directions. I remember running towards the kitchen and looking around to see that no one else had made it. All of a sudden, everything went quiet and that silence was the worst. I tried looking around for survivors, but it was just me. I stayed there for a few hours, until I realised that no help was coming anytime soon. I walked out of the kitchen and saw all of my colleagues dead on the floor – the whole Taj was deserted. I looked at the refrigerator where I’d been only a while ago and it had 3 bullet holes in it – I’d narrowly escaped death, but it was horrifying to see that my guests and colleagues hadn’t been as lucky. I won’t look back on that day as just a terrorist attack, but a day when many brave individuals looked death in the eye to help others.”
“I was in my Taj hotel room that night, when I thought people were bursting crackers to celebrate India winning a cricket match. It was only an hour later that I realised that the Taj was under attack. When they lit a part of the hotel on fire, I could feel the heat and the discomfort after some time because I was staying on the 6th floor. We didn’t have any cable connection, or any proper information so at around 4:00 in the morning I decided to make a run for it, because I thought the fire would engulf me anyway. I didn’t encounter anyone on the way out of the fire escape route – I just saw a lot smoke and chaos as I kept running down.
When I walked out of there alive, it put a lot of things in perspective for me. It made me believe that we’re all a speck in the universe, and the things like position, power, fame and money that we strive for our entire lives – mean so little. It humbled me because when you’re in something like this you realize that it doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from, what position you hold or how much money you have — no matter what you do, you cannot buy yourself a life. In there, it was only about all of humanity fighting against the inhuman.”
“I was waiting at CST that night to collect my money for the tea I had just delivered. When I heard the gunshots, I thought they were fireworks but then there were 2 or 3 explosions and I knew. I turned around and saw a long line of people waiting at the ticket counter, so I ran towards them shouting ‘bhago, bomb hein’— people left everything behind and ran towards the road. When I entered the ticket office, the seniors there abused me for chasing them away, saying it was ‘just a short circuit’, but then another bomb exploded right outside where we were. Through the window I saw Kasab, and thought it was a commando with 2 AK47 guns in his hand. I frantically called out to him for help, but when he saw me he hurled such abuses that I can’t even repeat them…and then fired rounds of bullets inside the ticketing counter. The Railway Master was hit, I was injured because of the glass pieces and there were 7-8 other men injured.
After a few minutes, the firing was coming from some distance, so I got up and crawled outside to see countless bodies – some dead, some still having life in them. I called my wife at that point and told her that I might die because there could still be bombs at the station. She asked me to leave and go home, but I told her that I had to help my people. I’ve checked almost every body at CST for a sign of life, put people who were still breathing on haath gaadis, slabs of steel drawers and into cabs to be taken to the hospital. I took the Railway Master and a few others to a hospital in Byculla myself, because there were rumours that hospitals in South Bombay like Cama were also under attack. I stayed at CST the whole night with one other police officer.
I never did what I did for any award or recognition, but I did receive 28 awards since then and a promise that I would get a job in the railway…a promise which is still not fulfilled 7 years on. If it was the son of a minister or politician who had done the same thing, God knows how much they would have done for him, but at the end of it I’m a poor chaiwallah and I have no regrets…I would do it all over again.
“My parents used to stay in the building next to Nariman House. We were eating dinner that night, when we heard what we thought were firecrackers. A few minutes later, the sound intensified, there was a blast and the windows of my kitchen completely shattered, following which there was open fire. At that point our maid suggested leaving the building and going into the adjacent compound, where she was the caretaker of an empty flat. We didn’t know at that point that the shots were being fired at Nariman House, so even though this flat was in a building opposite it, we thought we would be safer there.
We entered the flat and dad and I were near the window, trying to get network to call my brother. They shot him in the head from Nariman House and then sprayed bullets into this apartment. I ducked, I saw mom falling off the couch and dad profusely bleeding. I didn’t realise that mom too had been hit, but she passed away almost instantly. I lost both my parents that day and 7 years later you won’t understand how I feel — I’m still dealing with it everyday.
I was then called on as a witness in the case against Kasab and the first time I saw him in court, I remember feeling nothing. I didn’t feel any anger towards him even though their terror took away my parents. I have no room for any kind of hatred in my life. These people make it about religion, but let me tell you, I’m Muslim…my parents were Muslim – but did that stop them from shooting? A terrorist is a terrorist, they kill to kill and no religion in the world has anything to do with that.”