It was a long excruciating wait. For my dad to walk in home. One I wasn't even sure would end well.But it did, and as we deal with the trauma of the past few days, I just wanted to offer my condolences and prayers to everyone whose lost someone... It is indeed a tragedy, and one that will take a LONG time to heal.
My dad got called into work on Wednesday, 26th at 9.30 just as the first grenade burst and the first few rounds were fired in the Oberoi. I was out with a friend in a taxi at Colaba, just minutes away from Leopold, wondering why there was so much traffic when I got a call from a much distressed mom informing me that Daddy got called in to work since there was a Bomb blast at Oberoi '(Which is what he was told at the time). She was afraid he wouldn't even make the car ride to the hotel, given the complete panic and utter shock he left. My friend and I took a right from the Regal circle, towards my house... a coupla mins late and we would've been in the thick of things at Colaba Causeway.
My first reaction when I turned on the news was 'Mom, its not a bomb blast, it was firing OUTSIDE the Oberoi'. Short lived relief turned into quickening heartbeats and utter dismay when I heard an explosion and rushed to my window, which has a clear view of the Oberoi. As I saw smoke billowing out of the hotel, I knew something major had happened. Course, this took abut 20 mins to appear on tv, since deferred live and all that. Until then, I was speechless, numb and at a loss for words, when the phone calls started pouring in. First my cellphone from friends who know i live this side of town, then relatives on the landline and my moms cellphone...suddenly it was as though all hell broke loose. I was answering each call with templated responses... 'Ya, im fine. Moms home too. No, Dads inside the hotel. Yes, Inside. No i dont know. Yes it is bad. can we speak later? bye.'
As we watched the news turn from random firing outside the Oberoi, to terrorists actually INSIDE,with a hostage situation, I slowly died, went to hell and stayed there for 3 days. My mom and I sat before the television holding hands, as each passing moment got worse. My heart stopped beating fast, and instead slowed to an unnerving pace as the magnitude of everything happening sunk in. Knowing my dad and knowing his military background, i knew he wouldn't be sitting in the background of things. I was fearing for the worst. Thoughts like him throwing himself into the fray (which he did) were flashing before me every few seconds and false reassurances from family and friends that everything will be ok fell on deaf ears. Everything was already not ok. People were already dead, The Taj was burning and My dad was still in there.
From the time he left at 9.30 at night till the next day at noon, we had no news from him. Needless to say we were glued to the tv, watching nervously through the night for this operation to end. People called and msgd me as people were being evacuated asking me if my dad was one of them... to whom i said the same thing - that he will be the last to leave. if at all. Those who know him, didnt ask, cos they knew this about him. They knew he would prefer dying in the line of duty, putting himself in harms way, than coming out and watching as his men and his hotel burned.
Midway through the night, I saw a few visuals of a very close family friend - Hemant Uncle,.. u would know him as Hemant Karkare the ATS chief donning a (so called) bulletproof jacket and helmet and entering the scene. This is when I couldn't take it anymore, I left my moms room and walked into my own, saying prayers at the window and refused to leave. A Friend who stayed over since he was stranded this side of town came into my room about a half hr later and told me he is no more. Neither is Ashok Uncle. At this point, I started wheezing, and all the being strong theory jumped out the window. The next one hour was just a whirlwind of trying to get my breath back, and thinking of Jui, who I spoke with last week, who got married last year...Akash, Sayli and Kavita Aunty. This was a great great setback, and a tragedy that happened to our family even if my dad walked in home safe.
From 5.30 in the morning that day, sms's started pouring in asking if we had any news from dad. Considering we had none, it was a tremendous task speaking to concerned relatives and friends and saying the same thing over and over and over and over again. 'We have no news'. As more reports of sporadic fire, explosions kept streaming in through the hours, my confidence was wearing thin. When, one of my phones which is a direct line from the Oberoi rang in the Intercom fashion.. which meant either my dad was calling or there was bad news... Those few seconds till my mom said 'are u ok?' which indicated it was my dad were indeed the longest few of my life.
That phone call lasted 10 seconds and this was it 'im ok, they have a lot of ammunition, is really bad, they've killed 4 of my men, 3 employees and 5 guests. They're heavily armed.' and the line was cut. He was whispering, so we didn't even know where he was.
That phone call didnt bring much relief... as we didn't know much, and whatever he did tell us was bad news.
The next phone call happened an agonizing 5 hours later, and was on the same lines. Still whispering - 'Im ok, situation bad, they're heavily armed, they both are holed up in a room and throwing hand grenades intermittently' . We were confused. 2 terrosists? Holed up in the room? Where were the hostages? Since the news was reporting 6-10 terrorists, and a hostage situation.
Its when he got back yest for a few hrs that we realized there were only 2, and that they killed their hostages on the first day itself.
He got back for a few hours on friday night around midnight, more than 60 hours since the last time he slept, and 48 hours since he was at Oberoi. He got to know of his friends death only a day later, from an army official who entered the second day. Didnt have time to deal with it then, as there were dead bodies strewn about his own hotel, and terrorists who still needed to be flushed out.
My little brother is at Military school at Nashik and got to know a few hours after this happened, on wednesday and called us in great Panic. 'Daddy is obviously inside', said he, 'but is he ok?' to which we naturally lied and said we had spoken with him and he's completely fine, in fcat hes not even inside the hotel. Think he knows his dad and knew he wouldnt be outside, judging by the 2 hourly phone calls he made to us, asking if we've heard from him.
It was the phone call on friday, 28th at 7 in the morning that first brought us some relief. Daddy said one terrorist was gunned down, he saw the body and they were verifying if the other was dead too. They just needed to verify it. Dont mention it to anyone just yet, he warned us.
it broke on the news 4 hours later, that both were dead, and they began evacuating guests when we knew, that it HAD in fact ended at the Oberoi. My greatest secret fear in the past two days was the thought that they could be plotting to blow up the place and the buildings would crumble before my eyes, and no one would get out alive.
I have so much to say, this was just my story. I heard my dads and thats another post.
My boss at work out of complete good intention mentioned to me tht people were being evacuated, so why doesn't he come out. Family does come first sometimes u know, maybe hell come he said. I smiled and simply told him, I know my dad. He isnt choosing his job over his family, this is who he is, It is an intrinsic quality, devotion to duty and dedication to the lives of others, something you wont understand. If i were to ever send my dad a cowardly sms like that, rest assured he would never have spoken to me for a long long time.
God willing, this has ended, though in some ways it has just begun.
I just wanted to thank my friends and family, people who lived through it with me. Prach - I love you so much, Vin and Sam who breathed easy only when i sms'd them saying he was home, Aj for being my telephone operator and handling calls from everyone at work and kept quiet when i cried and didnt ask me to be strong, Kos who appeared out of nowhere and stood by me, Niki who msgd me everytime a frnd of hers inside Oberoi so much as saw my dad, Ash who was worried as helll too, Nisarg, Shilpa who lost her cousin and his wife but kept calling me anyway, Sita who prayed non stop and now wants to go to Siddhivinayak with me, Nu and Riz who said 'Inshaallah everything will be ok', Kamal who put things behind her and called and smsd me, Andy Uncle who kept trying to use contacts to find out if hes ok, Devang and Pavi who kept checking up on me, Devang (the other one) who got stranded at my house and held my hand for hours as i squeezed the air out of it....I think I can go on.And I will. I promise to put up the names of each and every person who has touched me in such an unforgettable way, since there are so many. I am overwhelmed by the love and prayers we received, and I dont think Ill ever have the words to thank you all..
I dont know how, but i forgot to Mention B aunty, who came over in the evening, despite our vehement pleas not to leave her house, armed with macaroni and cheese, made us eat dinner, switch of the tv for a while, watch an hour of 'The holiday' and stayed with us till we heard form him the next day. I dont know what we wouldve done without you, your our angel.