A Survivor’s Tale: My Unforgettable Night of 26/11

Sourav Mishra was with friends at Cafe Leopold in Mumbai when terrorists shot him, he lived to tell the tale

4 min read
Sourav Mishra stands outside Leopold Cafe, where he was having dinner with friends on the night of November 26, 2008 (Photo: The Quint)

Sourav Mishra was having a night out with friends at Mumbai’s Leopold Cafe & Bar when terrorists opened fire inside the iconic restaurant. This is his account of how he survived the brutal attack.

Being a victim and survivor of the attack, I would not forget any minute of that night. The winter night brought two of my friends from France to Mumbai – Kate, a filmmaker and Clementine, a visiting teacher then at IIT.

We all were to meet at 8:30 pm sharp for dinner in the city’s famous Cafe Leopold. After filing some late stories as a journalist with Reuters, my then workplace, I rushed to the old Colaba district where the 150-year-old eatery is located.

We were deep in conversation about Kate’s debut Hindi film – Muchhonwala Ho Ya Na Ho, a comedy about a girl in Paris who wants to marry a man with a moustache – while digging into into prawns and chicken tikka over some Carlsberg beer.
A Survivor’s Tale: My Unforgettable Night of 26/11

An hour passed, we decided to move back to our respective homes, after another round of beer. As we were ordering, a diner at a nearby table caught my eye. I clearly remember this man looked uncannily similar to the actor Johnny Depp from the Pirates of the Caribbean series. As my eyes gazed his mannerisms, suddenly his table was smashed and he was flung aside. I heard what seemed like a blast and something hit me hard on my back. The next moment, all I know is that I ran out of the pub.

Still in shock, I discovered blood oozing out profusely from some part of my body. I could hardly move my right hand. I shouted for help but no one paid any heed. I tried to stop a few cabs and even tried to enter a private car, but was pushed out.

Then I couldn’t move ahead and was about to fall down, when someone grabbed hold of me. The Good Samaritan held me, searched for a taxi and took me to St George Hospital behind Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus, another centre of the terrorist attack that night.

The doctors at the hospital were reluctant to admit me but the stranger beside me begged them to take me in. I was still not sure if I would survive and was going through a flurry of memory and morality through my hyperactive mind.

In the meantime, the doctors quickly worked on my fresh wound and removed a copper-coated bullet. But, I was still immobilised and didn’t know my fate. That’s when I saw a number of policemen injured and carrying dead bodies of their colleagues and common men.

At one point there were two dead bodies stacked next to me in the bed. A weeping mother clutched her dead child on floor. Two policemen were dead and another was battling for his life.

All this while I was still immobilised and trying to converse with my saviour angel. Turns out his name is Kishor Pujari, all of 19 years then, who was hawking at Colaba Causeway when he left his shop and took me to the hospital.
Sourav Mishra (left) with saviour angel Kishor Pujari. (Photo: Sourav Mishra)
Sourav Mishra (left) with saviour angel Kishor Pujari. (Photo: Sourav Mishra)

In those two hours we had realised this was no gang war but a planned terrorist attack. While I was still in the throes of death and life, seeing death and blood all around, the woman who had treated me passed by my side, made a quick halt and said “You will survive”. That moment Kishor and I rejoiced.

As I settled down and came to terms with reality that night, I felt like a coward when I thought of Kate and Clementine. I had left them behind. Later I discovered Clementine was shot in the arm and Kate was injured with fragments of bullet shells and broken glass. They hid under the table and were later helped by two gentlemen who took them to a dispensary nearby.

Thankfully, Clementine has fully recovered and now lives with her husband, busy raising her child in Kolkata. Kate finished making her film which wasn’t a theater release, but has been shown to groups and small creative offsites. She is still into filmmaking and visits Mumbai often.

An old photograph of Clementine, Kate, Clementine’s husband Tapendu and Sourav Mishra (Photo courtesy: Sourav Mishra)
An old photograph of Clementine, Kate, Clementine’s husband Tapendu and Sourav Mishra (Photo courtesy: Sourav Mishra)

It took me a month and half to fully recover. My ribs are still broken, but lucky as I was, the bullet did not puncture my lungs.

Kishor, who helped me that night, left Mumbai within six months of the attacks and is in Karnataka now. He has tried his hands at many businesses including vegetable retailing, timber and is now into electronic retailing in Hassan district, Karnataka. I’m still in touch with him and aspire to see him financially secure.

Every friend, doctor, nurse restored my faith in Mumbai and humanity. And Kishor still remains my angel. He has fallen through difficult times later in life as he met with an accident. Also he couldn’t make it to the State Police Force as he had dreamed. But he has not lost faith. God bless all such people who prove that humanity will triumph against everything evil.

(Sourav Mishra heads the corporate communications department at one of India’s leading financial service firms in Mumbai.)

On the eight anniversary of the 26/11 terror attack, let us remember that there are many who continue to nurse painful memories. This account was originally published in 2015.

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