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Eyewitness speak: My first experience with terror

By Anand Umesh Chaudhari
July 14, 2011 17:41 IST
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A reader recounts the horrifying moments after a blast rocked the area near his office near Zaveri Bazaar in Mumbai on Wednesday evening

It was the end of another typical day. I was in office and had just finished a long meeting with my boss. I had a few minutes and was chatting online with a friend.

I suddenly heard a loud 'boom' followed by a shuddering shockwave which rattled my tea mug and even my office windows. I looked over at my colleague; I could see the fear in his eyes. Yet, hoping I had imagined it, I asked him, "Did you feel that?"

He said, "Must be an earthquake!"

I told him, "Earthquakes don't go boom".

I reached for my cell phone and called up my wife to ensure that she was safe.

I headed downstairs to find out what exactly had happened. On the way, I could hear people saying, "Cylinder fata hain khau galli mein (A cylinder has burst in khau galli)."

But hawkers in khau galli don't use cylinders, I told myself. As I walked to the spot, negotiating hawker and handcarts, I could see a man hurtling towards me on his scooter at a break-neck speed. As he neared me, I realised to my horror that he was not going to stop.

Within seconds, he was inches away from me, driving with the same speed and same determination. As I jumped aside to avoid him, he whizzed past me like a rocket.

I was going to swear at him, but at the last moment I saw that he had two pillion riders with him. The guy in the middle was bleeding profusely as the third guy, who was drenched in blood, held his head (or whatever was left of it).

I heard the faint siren of a police car. Two constables were waving their batons like samurai warriors -- at people and hawkers -- urging them to move away from the site as they made way for the police vehicle.

Through the canvas hood of the Maruti Gypsy, I could see people who seemed to be somewhere between alive and dead. I could see an assembly of motley body parts that left behind a dripping trail of blood.

As I crossed over to the other side of the street, I enquired as to what exactly had happened.

I was told that it was a cylinder blast and hoped fervently that was it. Suddenly there was a rush; a few people came running to the spot where I was standing. They were carrying make-shift stretchers made out of bamboo poles and tarpaulin sheets which are used to shield shop roofs from rain. There were multiple people in some of the stretchers.

One of the men in the stretcher was grievously injured; his skin had burned off. His head was hanging out from the stretcher and he had a gaping hole in his skull.

Arms, legs, fingers, brain matter and blood soaked bits of clothes were strewn all over the  roads.
 
The policemen there took over from the good Samaritans and started helping the injured victims. As I walked back to my office, I realised that policemen wouldn't let any more civilians contaminate the blast scene; all of them were politely asked to move or driven away.

As I was walking back, I had a déjà vu about some more propaganda about the 'spirit of Mumbai', but what I witnessed instead seemed to be 'soulless Mumbai'.

I heard the local businessmen discussing, "The share market is down today and tomorrow it is going to tank more. We are screwed."

I heard someone else saying, "Must be the work of Muslims."
 
Let me enlighten you all on that point. The spot where the blasts happened is a stone's throw from a major mosque and all the hawkers in that locality are Muslims. These were the very people who were helping the hapless blast victims.

I want to tell everyone that terrorism has no face or religion, so don't tag it with a particular religion.

I don't know how we are going to cope with this, or how we will sell each other the same balderdash about the 'undying spirit of Mumbai'. I don't know whether we will carry on with our routine lives and wait for something like this to happen again.

Whom do we blame for the latest terror strike? The government? The police? The prime minister?

I think it is just our callous chalta hain attitude…

I don't know what more to say; that was my experience with terror.

Anand Umesh Chaudhari works as a marketing and retail operations head with a home textiles firm in Mumbai. This was his first personal experience with terror in the city

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