26/11 Mumbai Attacks: My Short Story on one of The Worst Nightmares in Indian History
I have never imagined in my life that I have to witness one of the most ghastly terrorist activities in the Indian history. I have grown up with the stories of valor about the audacious acts of Indian Army men who fought for our dignity against the Pakistan war during 1963, 71, and the Kargil war in 1999. When the Pakistan was unable to fight one on one with the Indian Army, they declared a proxy war against us in the form of terrorist attacks like at the Amritsar’s Swarna Mandir, Akshardham temple, Jama Masjid, Parliament house, Mumbai serial blasts, and many more. This kind of war was cheap for the Pakistani bureaucrats because they can easily hire terrorists from the neighboring countries like Afghanistan and Iran.
Another plausible reason for these kinds of proxy wars is that there were no possible clues of Pakistani organization’s direct involvement. But no one has imagined in his lifetime that Pakistan would do something like the attacks of 26/11 by 10 terrorists at some of the famous Mumbai areas. LeT (Lashkar-e-toeba) had taken the responsibility of those terrorist attacks. On 22nd of November 2008, the 10 terrorists started their Jehadi operation from Karachi at approximately 8:00 O’ Clock morning. After travelling for 40 minutes, they reached a large boat called ‘Al-Husseini.’ They captured an India boat called ‘MV Kuber’ on November 23rd, 2008 near the Gujarat coastal area; killing 4 crew members and capturing one member who took them to the Mumbai dock. One of the reasons behind me not able to forgetting this incident is because I witnessed it with my own eyes. Here, I am sharing my own experience of that gruesome incident: --
Actually, I am a junior reporter in the Samna news channel. Earlier I was a criminal reporter and I was quite passionate about interviewing dons and terrorists. I know this profession is risky, but I don’t know why I feel some adrenaline rush while interviewing some hard core criminals and terrorists. But I had to give up my passion after marrying to my lovely wife. She was quite sceptical about the life and she thought that crime reporting is not a good profession. I don’t know why she thinks that I would someday die while reporting a heinous act or interviewing a criminal. I mean nothing is predetermined in life; who knows that today I go out to reach the office and met with an accident? I think that life and death are complements that God has provided us to bear throughout our life. In my sense, there is no mean to fear from death because in that case, death will scare you more than your life. I don’t like to live in a fear to die every time. I feel like dying from my inner self when I think about living this kind of life. Anyway, I didn’t have many choices.
My story began from 25th of November, 2010 when I caught a flight from New Delhi to go to Mumbai for covering a delegation meeting based on FDI (Foreign Direct Investment). The delegation was coming from Australia and this was a good chance for me to cover and make some presence in front of my seniors. But I didn’t realize that I would have to face such terrible terrorist attacks. I reached Mumbai airport in the midnight and caught a taxi to go to the hotel Taj Palace, where the delegation was staying for the meeting. The meeting was on the 27th November morning and the channel supervisor had asked me to interview some of the delegations separately to gather some deep news. I was very tired, so I went to my room that was situated on the 3rd floor and took some rest.
The room was brilliant in looks and elegance. Every kind of amenities was available in the room. I didn’t worry about the cost of staying since the channel was affording that for me. In the morning of 26th November, 2010, I interviewed some of the delegates at the restaurant and business centre. After taking some common interviews, I went back to my room at 7:00 PM. I ordered for the dinner at 8:30 PM, but didn’t receive it till 9:00. I was really upset with the room services and the phone in my room also stopped to work. So I went to the reception counter to complain about that at 9:25 PM 26th November. I went to the main lobby and started arguing with the receptionist about the dead phone and not delivering my order.
Suddenly I listened to gunshots firing and everyone started to run here and there. I was a bit trained for these kinds of situations and I lay down without wasting a second. The terrorists were firing vehemently and killing everyone, including children and women. I slowly crawled towards the reception counter and went inside one of the shelves and closed it. My heart started beating very hard and I started to perspire. My ears got hot and I thought that today I am going to die in this famous hotel. The shelf was very small and I was having difficulty breathing, but I knew that getting out would be more lethal than to stay and die in this shelf from choking. Suddenly I listened to the gunshots right next to my ears. One of the terrorists had shot down all the hotel staff members and receptionist. One bullet just passed hitting my right ear, making a large scratch behind. Loads of blood started to spill out from my left ear, but I didn’t make any sound, or else they would have shot me dead. God was a little clement to me that day because no bullet hit me on any other parts of my body. I stay for a while there, but then my throat started to choke and I was unable to breathe inside that small shelf.
I thought that my time has not come yet and so I came out of that shelf after a few minutes. I took fresh air and gained some consciousness. The terrorists were going to the upper floors for killing more people. I took out my Nokia E72 and put it on vibration mode. I send a message to my channel editor and informed him about the attack. There was no use to stay there because I was not sure whether there are some more terrorists involved in the attack and there was no place to hide in the lobby. There were only blood stained bodies in the lobby and some of them were groaning with pain. I really felt to cry at that time to see that dreadful scene, but I hold myself back because I had to save myself. I went to the washroom and hide there sometime until getting any news from my channel editor. Then I got a message from my editor – “Are you fine Vinay? Let me gather some details about the attack.”
I messaged back – “I am fine and alive. Can u tell me how many r they?”
Editor – “No actual clues, stay where u r and I’ll tell you.”
I stayed in the washroom, locked the outside door, and get inside one of the toilets and sit on one of the toilet pots, like a toad while putting my legs on the pot so that nobody should find out I am here. My heart was still pounding hard and I was not sure whether I would come alive from this hotel. Then, after some time I got another message from my editor –
“There are about 4 inside the hotel and others are targeting other areas of Mumbai.”
Me – “Is any help coming?”
Editor – “No clues, only local policemen are outside.”
Me – “What should I do?”
Editor – “You stay where u are.”
I stayed there for few hours, then at 2:00 AM I thought that this is a chance to gather some news and get some appreciation from my channel. I again messaged to my editor –
Editor – “They r on th 6th floor of hotel and took hostages.”
Me – “Ok, keep informin.”
I thought that they would not have enough ammunition to shoot and that’s why they have taken hostages. I went out slowly from the washroom, and went towards the stairs. I was quite sure the elevators would not be working and it was also not plausible to use elevators at this time of emergency. So, I went near the stairs and started walking upward to my room, putting the steps very slowly. There were many gadgets in my room like my small spy camera, GPS navigation system, and microphone that could help me to cover this attack. So, I thought to reach the hotel room as soon as possible.
I reached my room, but I didn’t turn on the lights since they would know somebody is inside the room. Few more hours passed and sun lights started to peep inside my room from the window. Then suddenly the phone of my room started ringing. I knew that someone from the reception would not call early in the morning because I had already seen the dead bodies of the staff members. I didn’t receive the call and let it ring. I messaged to my editor –
– “Any updates?”
Editor – “NSG commandos are coming to siege, where are u?”
Me – “In my room.”
Editor – “Ok, stay there.”
I thought that this is a time to prove something, so I gathered my spy camera, microphone, and GPS system and I tried to open the door of my room slowly. But suddenly I listened to some footsteps approaching my room. So I locked my room and started to peep from the eye view. The footsteps stopped right near my room and I saw a man handling an AK-47 in his hands from the eye view. He was an average looking man having beards and moustache. He was around 25 years of age. I went back slowly and reached towards the window. He started to ring the bell. Then after some time he started smashing the door with his AK-47 to break the door. I went towards the window and saw that there was some space to crouch and hide besides the window. So I cringed down and shut the window. He broke the door and went inside. He saw everything for a while and then started shooting some bullets at the washroom, but not for a long time since he might be running out of ammunition.
I observed him carefully as he walked to the door. I knew that time was running out, but suppressed the urge to check my watch. I took a deep breath and started counting in reverse under my breath. "Ten, nine, eight, seven..." After some time the terrorist was gone and I got some breath. I took a deep breath because my decision to hide behind the window had again saved my life. I would have died if I should have hid in the washroom this time. Then I put everything I got in my hands at the door and started waiting for the NSG commandos. I had listened to many grenade explosions in the meantime. That whole day also went like a worst nightmare for me. The battery of my phone was down and it was switched off. I thought now there is no way to gather any news, so I gave up any idea of getting out and cover the attack. My body was also exhausted since I only ate some biscuits that were in my travelling bag. I spend the whole night in fear to die.
In the morning, around 8:00 AM, I turned on the TV in my room and muted it. I could see that the terrorists have fired some room on the 7th floor of the hotel and the good news was that NSG commandos had killed 1 terrorist at the room number 471. After few more hours of operations, the NSG commandos killed all the terrorists and at 2:00 PM on 28th November; somebody knocked on my room’s door, claiming to be a commando from the Indian Army. I took a deep breath of relief and pulled all the objects that I had put on the door to secure it. So, this way I saved my life from that dreading terrorist attack. I also heard that the Mumbai police had caught one of the terrorists called Ajmal Kasab alive. I was sent to the hospital for some dressing and then I called my home and inform about my well being to my wife. I cried a lot while talking to her on the phone. I thanked God to save my life. But my work was not yet done and I was curious to see that terrorist and take his interview.
After reaching my home, I applied for the crime reporter again. One day my wife knew that I have applied for a crime reporter and he reached to me and asked with a frown –
“Vinay! What is this? You have again applied to work as a crime reporter? Can’t you think about your family?”
I replied gently – “Sweetu! Let me ask you a question. It’s ok that crime reporting is risky, but what should you do if I would be an Army man? Would you have a choice of not going to the border in that case? Would you ask me to give up my duty in that case? Thousands of Army men would be doing their duty near the border, far away only to give us a peaceful life. They also would have a family. What would happen if their family members ask them to stay at home? What would happen to our country if nobody would become ready to serve the army only from the fear of dying at the border? It’s my duty and it’s my passion also. I would have died at the Mumbai Taj hotel, but the tricks that I learned in my crime reporting had saved me.”
Then she gave me a big hug and went away to make the dinner.