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'A girl right next to me was killed on the spot'

November 28, 2008 20:11 IST

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Twenty-seven-year-old Ritik Bhasin, a partner of event management company Couch Potato, was present in the lobby of the Taj Hotel when the terrorists struck on the night of November 26. Here is his harrowing account of what transpired:

I was at a meeting in the lobby of the Taj at 9:30 pm with my colleague Ambika and the hotel's food and beverage manager Siddharth. Suddenly, we saw people running towards the porch (main entrance) and Ambika and I rushed there too, only to see terrorists opening fire on everybody in sight. We ran back inside towards Nalanda, the book shop in the lobby.

As we ran, I saw a 10-year-old child standing there by himself, stunned by what was happening around him and I dragged him with us to safety. People all around us were getting shot as the terrorists barged inside -- a girl right next to me was killed on the spot and the lobby was strewn with injured and dead people.

Once inside the store, we tried to hide as best we could, switching off the lights and hunkering down. There were five of us -- Ambika and I, the little boy, Deven Thanki, the store cashier, and a lady whose husband had been shot and killed in the lobby. She was beside herself with grief, crying and wanting to go back out, but we didn't let her -- it was too dangerous, the sounds of bombing and guns raged non-stop.

Deven's parents had been dining at the coffee shop, Shamiana, while he had been playing outside in the lobby by himself. I took his mother's cell phone number from him and messaged her to let her know that her son was safe with me, but I had no way of knowing whether the message reached her or not, since there was no reply.

The whole ground floor was now in darkness and we stayed as we were within the store for two-and-a-half hours, till midnight. That is when the sounds of firing suddenly stopped. When ten minutes elapsed in silence, we thought we should just take our chance while we could and try to escape. Ambika and me took Deven along with us -- we simply walked out of the store and through the darkened lobby, wondering whether we would make it out alive or not, but we knew we had to try.

The three of us made it without incident to the porch of the hotel, where we walked straight into a large section of the media, but we didn't answer any questions. There were police milling about everywhere but not one of them approached us -- we just crossed over to the Gateway of India.

From there, I made a call to the Colaba police station -- I am familiar with many of the policemen who work there, because I am a part-owner of the Colaba nightclub Red Light. They sent a car for us and dropped us safely to a friend's house at Peddar Road. I then called Deven's mother's cell phone. It was by now 1:30 am and I was relieved to know his parents were unhurt when they answered -- grenades had been lobbed in the Shamiana and missed them by only a few feet.

Deven's parents were finally able to pick up their son at 6:30 am -- I am just relieved that his family was safe and that my colleague and I escaped unhurt.

As told to Sanaya Dalal

Also see:
Mumbai has become Kashmir
'Don't make news out of our tragedy'
'Terrorists showed no remorse; I saw 50 bodies'

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