July 23, 2009

A Night in Taj with Terrorists.

This a post that was posted long time in my blog, and I was inspired to post it here after reading a poem by Rush-me.

The orginal story is there posted in my blog.

Sridhar Manthani was one of the many stuck in the Taj during the terror attack and slept through the night with his cell phone off!

The following is Sridhar Manthani's account of the incident.

I had a meeting next morning at 10am with a visitor from France. Instead of getting up early and going to airport in Bangalore, I decided to go the previous night and stay.
I reached the hotel around 6pm, dropped my bag and wanted to eat some sea food. I asked the concierge for directions and went to Trishna which is about 15min walk in the Fort area.
I came back after dinner again walking back and went to my room around 9pm. This time I was alone in the hotel so did not hang out in the bar for a drink. Also I wanted to watch the cricket match.
I went to the room, watched the match and around 10:30, the TV went blank. Minutes later, I was about to sleep when I get a call from font desk saying there is some disturbance in the lobby and do not come out of the room. The lady was calm and I thought must be some big party going on. I heard some blasts, but I thought it must be some wedding and fire crackers were being burst.
I called back in 10 min to the operator so that I can put a wake up call at 6am, but none picked up. Then I kept calling the receptionist and some lady eventually picked up. I asked for a wake up call and also asked fora Masala chai to be sent at 6:15am. She took the order. I asked about the disturbance. She calmly said, it is almost under control and she will call and let me know once it is fully under control
I heard a few more thuds and ambulances, but I slept off and woke up at 6:30am. I was cursing the front desk for not waking me up and also the room service for the masala chai. I said to myself - even in Taj how can they do this. I now feel foolish for thinking that.
I wanted to go down but before that I called and wanted to ask how come they missed my wake-up call and room service. None picked up the phone. I generally wanted to go down for a morning walk for half hour but luckily I turned on my cell phone. Within minutes my Admin. called me and warned me and said my wife was very worried. They watched on TV and there was no way to contact me all night.
I called my family and parents and said I was safe. Still I did not know the gravity of the situation. I used my blackberry to get onto news and it said 40 dead in Taj. Then everyone asked me to stay put in the room. I called a police DGP friend of mine and he said he will put my name on the VIP manifest but told me that everyone in Taj is on the list anyway.
I smelt smoke and turned of all lights and drew the curtains and I was a bit agitated initially but I became fatalistic and then was quite calm and joking with my wife and friend continuously on the SMS. They were updating me but underplaying it.
I heard thuds and gun shots, but I stayed put. I raided the minibar for water and nuts and for once they wont charge exorbitantly for the stuff in it!
At 2pm the NSG commandos were creating huge noises in the corridor. I thought they may be terrorists but I saw thru the peep hole and saw 5-6 guys with guns all dressed the same way (black dress fully armed). When they asked anyone in the room I opened the door. They had my hands up and frisked me and checked my ID and two batches of people asked questions. They asked me to speak in hindi. Then they asked me to speak in English. They were very fluent in English and they asked what I do etc. Then they asked me to be in a group of 5 others (all foreigners from that floor). We were escorted down the fire exit stairs 8 floors. They were extremely cautious checking each hallway and stair well going ahead of us and saying all clear. It took 15 min to get down. When we came to 2nd floor and down, we saw blood and gore all over, high heeled shoes etc. bodies dragged thru blood all over the floor. Even the lobby was like a war zone. That is when it hit me and it is hard to recover from the scene.They put us in an ambulance with red cross and Mumbai police and took us to police station. They debriefed us took all details and Taj wanted to put us up in other hotels, but I got to the airport and took 6pm flight back to Bangalore
My family was shaken more than I imagined because they were seeing TV.

All is well that ends well.
Surely an heart warming tale, isn't it?

3 comments:

  1. Wow! Brilliant story! I remember seeing the news and thinking "OMG! how must the people inside feel?" but know I realise that maybe some people didn't even know what was going on!

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  2. oh .. amazing to hear this story from someone who was there...

    But .. it's sad.. the whole episode i mean..

    Cheers..!!
    Arjun

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