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'We were told to lie flat on the floor and not make any sound'

November 28, 2008 16:36 IST

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Sixteen-year-old college student Shraddha Keswani* was at the Taj Hotel in Colaba, Mumbai, on Wednesday, November 26, when the terrorists attacked. She talks to rediff.com about her experience:

It was my birthday yesterday (November 27) and my parents decided to celebrate bringing it in on the night of the 26th. My father, mother and I arrived at the Taj around 9:30 pm and headed to the Souk restaurant for dinner -- it is on the top-most floor of the tower wing.

An hour later, at around 10:30 pm, we got a call from our driver, in our car on the street below, saying that there had been firing on the porch and the ground floor of the hotel -- it seemed that terrorists had entered the coffee shop on the ground floor, the Shamiana, and started shooting at guests and lobbing grenades.

We could hear the blasts right up there on the top-most floor and the first one really shook up everybody. The staff of the restaurant immediately began to usher all the guests into the adjoining party room, where we were told to lie flat on the floor and not make any sound. There must have been about 100 of us, mostly foreigners.

For the next four hours, we lay on the floor, praying, hoping that we would all emerge safely from the ordeal. Luckily for us, the security personnel of an international cricket team (I don't recollect which one, I was very shaken) had been dining at the restaurant and helped the hotel staff with the situation as best they could. They established contact via cell phone with the police stationed outside the hotel and were in constant touch with them. They also kept the rest of us calm, talking to us and updating us about what was taking place outside. They brought us water from time to time and had everybody jot down their names on pieces of paper so that everybody was accounted for.

At around 3 am, we heard footsteps outside and everybody became tense. Luckily, it turned out to be a member of the hotel security, who proceeded to escort us down the stairs of the fire exit. We moved as quietly and quickly as possible and upon reaching the service room on the third floor, we crossed over through the hotel room corridors to another fire exit. From here, we made our way down to the hotel's back entrance where we saw lots of police and army personnel stationed. Just as we stepped out into the open, we heard a shout from one of the upper floors of the hotel and everybody panicked, thinking that a round of firing would follow. We all ran helter-skelter in the direction of the police vans but luckily for us, nothing actually happened.

Once we were out of the hotel, we were all allowed to go home. My family and I are extremely lucky to have gotten out of there unhurt and so quickly.

*Name changed to protect privacy.

As told to Sanaya Dalal

Also see:

'They continued to fire at everyone'
The funerals have begun
Landmarks that were attacked





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