“I Got Shot At Twice”: Survivor Stories from 26/11 Mumbai Attacks
Survivors recount the night when they came face to face with terror for the first time.
“There was No Bleeding —Only a Burning Sensation”
I was at my restaurant Refresh at CST on the night of 26/11. As soon as we heard gunshots coming from the washroom nearby, I ushered my staff and a few more people inside my restaurant and asked them to hide underneath the tables incase they shoot through the doors. While all this was happening, I didn’t realize that I myself was standing and as a result I got shot twice at 9:37PM - one bullet in my abdomen and the other in my chest area, but thankfully all 54 members of my staff were safe and so were around 50 odd people who were at the restaurant. There was no bleeding - just a burning sensation; so I got up, put myself in a cab and went to Bombay hospital where the doctors were all shocked that I was walking. I slipped into a coma and was declared ‘dead’ on 27th November, but my organs began healing, I came out of my coma and by mid December I was on my two feet and working at that very restaurant. Two things I will always be grateful for — first is the kindness extended to not only me but all the victims by Mr. Ratan Tata and the Taj Group who showed so much sensitivity and support to us all. When I told them that my medical insurance would cover the cost of all my surgeries — they were diligent enough to notice that insurance wouldn’t cover taxes and on the day of my discharge when I went to clear that bill, I was told it was already paid for. And secondly I’m grateful that those bullets actually did hit me, because right behind where I was standing at that time, were 18 cylinders which would have exploded and killed everyone who I was trying to save in the first place.
Death. Maut. Meeting one’s end. We have a mortifying fear of dying. Even more mortifying is dying painfully — at the hands of a bullet gnashing through the chest or a bomb blowing one away to pieces. The thought itself is just sheer terror for the soul.
These Mumbaikars who saw the 26/11 attacks unfold in front of their eyes lived through that terror.
“A Man Bleeding Profusely Asked us to Run and Get Out”
We were at cafe Leopold that night. I hadn’t been able to catch up with a friend of mine for really long so we thought we’ll meet there and get a few beers. As expected, Leo’s was lively and filled with people even on a Wednesday night. We were sitting upstairs, at these two tables that they have along the side of the stairs as you walk up. I don’t know exactly what you would call this but at around 9:05 my friend wanted to step out for a smoke and that’s exactly when it happened. We were outside the small side entrance of Leo’s, where the door is - to access the staircase, just standing there when we heard what we thought were fireworks. I mean we had never heard gunshots before so were confused with the sounds and the small flashes of light that accompanied them. Just about then, a guy walked out holding his neck because he was bleeding profusely. Our instinct was to go towards him to help him but he was just yelling at us asking us to run and get out of that place. We stood there for a few seconds but he kept screaming at us saying he was fine and to leave. My heart was racing as we turned around and robotically started moving away but during that whole time I could hear this man, shouting at bystanders to get out of the way and save their lives. I guess that in itself was a message to the people carrying out such atrocities...a message that our humanity will always prevail.”
“I Lost Three of My Family Members In the Attack”
On the morning of 27th November 2008, my dad got a call from his cousin’s domestic help, saying that the whole family had gone to the Taj for dinner, but they hadn’t come back. My parents obviously panicked and rushed to find out what was going on. They had to go to many different hospitals to identify bodies and check if any of them were of my family. For those next four days I was all alone at home, glued to the TV - just watching the news for any piece of information. I didn’t see my parents at all during that period of time and when I did finally see them, I was told that I had lost 3 of my family members.Tanisha Narang, who lost three of her family members in the attack.
“I was Saved on At Least Three Occasions by Taj Staff”
While waiting for hours on end in the Taj that night, I remember conditioning my mind to the idea of death and suppressing any illusion of hope. Bombay responded to the terrorist attack as it always does, hands tied behind its back, it’s authorities asleep at the wheel while facing murderous thugs, with a staggering indifference to the fear of death and as for the people of Bombay...they showed an undying spirit like they always do. I am alive today because of the Taj Staff and the commandos. On at least three occasions, I was saved by the remarkably brave Taj staff members. First, when they bolted the banquet hall doors of the Crystal Room where i was just before the terrorists were outside the hall. Then, when the evacuation went horribly wrong in the early hours of November 27, when the terrorists found us in the Chambers corridor because politicians had given away our position on live television and started shooting directly at us. For the next many hours, these young professionals were right there with us, hiding in one on of Chamber’s meeting rooms, keeping us hopeful, keeping us alive. A taj Staff woman came back into the Taj to show the commandos our location, and as we left we all got emotional when we saw the blood and destruction in their hotel, but they put on a brave face and ushered us to move forward. When we were brought out to the entrance of the Taj, the terrorists started shooting at us again and the cops who were supposed to escort us ran for cover while the Taj employees formed a human circle around us to prevent us from getting shot or hurt during stampeding. These were ordinary individuals being extraordinarily brave when many whose job it was to protect us, had failed.They were all citizens of Bombay that day. They exemplify hospitality. it wasn’t their job. it was what they believed they wanted to do. They could have left us there to die and found their way to safety, but they chose to stay. I cannot comprehend their bravery but i am in generous awe of it and in their perpetual debt. They shone a light on the finest elements of humanity on a dark and bloody day. I will stand with them today. I will stand with them always.Bhisham Mansukhani, who was saved on at least three occasions by Taj staff.
Maybe we will never know what it was actually like when these people came face to face with terror — when the theatre of reckless killing was playing right in front of their eyes.
But by sharing their stories, they have unknowingly made us a part of their pain.
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