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'Is anybody there?'

Ayoti Mittra in New York | November 29, 2008 02:19 IST

After eating his dinner at 10 pm on Wednesday, J B S Bakshi, a New Delhi-based businessman, was preparing to go to bed in his room at the Taj Mahal hotel [Images] in Mumbai when he heard gunfire.

Soon he started receiving calls from concerned family members. Bakshi contacted the Taj management, who had no information to offer except the fact that the hotel was under the terrorists's control.

Within hours, the electricity and water was cut off; food was out of the question. Bakshi, a diabetic, sat on his wheelchair talking to family members, says Lakhinder Vohra, his nephew.

"I kept calling him, all he said was 'I am OK. I am resting. Thank you'", said Vohra, who lives in Washington, DC. He described his uncle as a calm and composed individual. His uncle being a diabetic, Vohra considers his survival without medication, food and water a miracle.

Thirty six hours later, Bakshi heard loud banging on his door, and people asking, 'Is anybody there?' Initially, out of fear, he was reluctant to respond. But after repeated bangs, Bakshi said, 'I am a guest, who are you?' Immediately, the door was broken down by NSG commandos.

Bakshi was taken down 19 floors by the stairs on his wheelchair by his rescuers, said Vohra. As he was escorted out of the lobby, Bakshi heard gunfire from the heritage wing of the hotel. Bakshi did not see any casualties, but saw objects strewn around.

Bakshi owns a plastic manufacturing company; the factory is in Daman, with headquarters in Mumbai and an office in Delhi [Images]. On his business trips, he frequently stays at the Taj. The hotel management, aware of his condition, arranged for an ambulance immediately after his rescue for a medical check-up.

Bakshi is now safe with his family.

The family of Kamal Walia (name changed) is also recovering from what they witnessed at the Leopold Cafe [Images] in Colaba, south Mumbai. "They ducked under the table when they heard gunshots," Walia said, describing the reactions of his 54-year-old sister Dana (name changed) and 26-year old nephew Brad (name changed). They had no track of time as they hid under the table from the gunmen.

Dana and her son are British nationals. They are visiting India for a family event. "Leopold Cafe is my sister's favourite place. She makes it a point to hang out there whenever she visits," said Walia. At 8:45 pm, mother and son had entered the cafe for dinner. Shortly after they were seated, they heard gunshots. They both hid under the table as they heard shot after shot, thumping footsteps, people screaming, tables and chairs collapsing around them.

"They did not know how long they were hiding. It seemed like very long to them," said Walia. After they were sure that the firing had stopped and the gunmen had left, they emerged from their hiding to find dead bodies lying in pools of blood, with broken furniture all round. The cafe staff escorted them to the Colaba police station.

Walia recalls that his sister and nephew were not in a position to give adequate information to the police as they were in shock. They remember seeing at least two gunmen, but could not provide any further insight. In the chaos, they lost their passports. The British consulate in Mumbai is working with them to put their paperwork together.

"It's not the hassle with the paperwork that is of concern. They are psychologically broken," Walia, who is based in Mumbai, told rediff.com

Currently, both Dana and Brad are at home, but refuse to speak even to family members.





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