Saturday, November 29, 2008

This is my story..

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.


Anonymous said...

I am speechless and eyes are moist. Glad that it has ended.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the update, glad to know about your Dad's contribution and that he is safe. Will he be putting measures in place to ensure that something like this never happens again?

Jack Sparrow said...

How about you ask that question to the people running this country ? There is only so much that hotel security can do against trained terrorists armed with grenades and assault rifles. By asking that question at the level of hotel security, you're being completely ignorant of the failure at the national level. You've ignored the fact that the bombs for the '93 bomb blasts were brought in from the sea, as they were again this time - i.e. repeated failure of the coastguard. There've been 6 other blasts, in Bombay AND in other cities, just in the last few months that have led up to this event - i.e. failure of our intelligence to monitor terrorist activities and plan ahead. Our so-called politicians our too busy kicking out non-Maharashtrian taxi drivers from Bombay, to keep their city safe - i.e. failure of our leadership. And as much as I like Manmohan Singh, and think he's a smart man, his speech was very uninspiring. It took them 14 HOURS to convene a cabinet meeting (I'm sure they'd all caught up with their sleep by then). It took 9.5 HOURS for the NSG to get here (Let me not get into the report that there was a VIP who wanted to be on the same flight as the NSG to Bombay and therefore delayed the plane taking off). The ISI chief is NOT on his way to India (it was never gonna happen anyway). This is failure to take action at the highest level.

So, don't ask whether Serendipity's dad will put measures to ensure that this won't happen again. He has done more than any of us can ever have dreamed of doing, and will continue to go above and beyond what is expected of him. Instead, ask the leadership of this country what measures they will put into place to ensure that this doesn't happen again.

If I seem pissed off and passionate about this, then hell yes I am, and everyone else should be too. No more "chalta hai".

Anonymous said...

@ Jack Sparrow:

How do you know I haven't already asked the people running this country a bunch of tough questions. Really, I'm curious as to what mixture of critical reasoning skills you employed to reach this assumption of yours :-)

I know that there is only so much hotel security can do...yadayadayada...this person failed...that person failed...blahblahblah...Please don't patronise me. Hotel security does have its role and my question was with reference to that role and level, and encompasses its limitations. I'm assuming that the subject that my question is directed to is intelligent enough to understand that. You, apparently, are not.

In future, if you want to get pissed off at someone, make sure it's the terrorists, and not someone who's way out of your league when it comes to simple reasoning and common sense. You only do yourself a disservice.

Nirav said...

Hi. I have to say that your Dad is a hero. Nothing less than the army and NSG personnel who were in charge of the operation. I have no words to commend his efforts and his intent.

We were glued to the news nervously for all 50+ hours even when we had no-one we directly knew in the action scene. So I can imagine what it would have been like you and your family. Though I guess the pride that you would have felt at his achievements, would more than compensate for the 60 hours or nervousness and anxiety.

Quiz_Master said...

I am speechless.. (tears in eyes)...
You are very very strong to cope up with all that... Nobody I know can handle the situation like you did. I respect you 3000 times more now!

Santosh Mishra said...

As all the other posters said, I am speechless and waters in my eyes. Glad to know that your Dad made it alive. We need more people like him. People who would understand that sometimes you do need to think of others before you think of yourself or your family. Also I would like to salute you and your family for giving the support to such a hero. Not many people have the courage to do that. You and your family are the heroes too.

God bless you.

Take care and regards,
Santosh Mishra

PS: Please forgive if I have said anything to hurt your sentiments.

Gray Dot said...

Your Dad's a hero. The only reason the world is still a fit place to live is because of people like him.

Dilip D'Souza said...

I don't know you, but I spent several hours outside the Oberoi (and the Taj) on Thu and Fri, wondering who was inside and what horror they must be going through. Now I know that one of those people was your father.

For what it's worth, please say a personal thank you to him from me. And I wish you and your family well.

Dilip D'Souza

rt5mrt said...

Please thank your dad on my behalf.

- A grateful Mumbaikar.

Serendipity said...

Thanks everyone.

Daniel- may i just say that everyone has enough to deal with than arguing over yours and mine and jacks opinion.
You have a right to yours and so does he. I respect both, but I must say that it would be nice if we can not direct anger and criticism at each other. I know i certainly dont have the energy to.

I hope everyones whose commented so far, and whose so much as even read this blog is safe, and friends and family are too.

Chetan said...

your dad is evidently a man of the highest principles and believes in putting those into action. in my book he ranks up there with the other brave men who put their lives on the line so some of us can enjoy the privilege of "intellectual debate" on how to improve the "systemic failure".

The world is a better place because of people like him.

chica said...

A lot of thoughts went through my mind when I read your post. Waiting hours to hear news of a family member's safety is most excruciating.
A lot of questions too; Did the politicians screw up? Could the hotel security be better? When answered they will still not make what happened easier to understand.
I'm just glad that people like your dad were there to respond to this madness. It would have been so much worse if not for people like him.
Please pass on my gratitude to him.

asuph said...

Thanks for sharing this. In the media frenzy, the real voices seem lost.

And it's because of people like your father, that we feel safe -- against all odds. We cannot thank them enough, but still do pass on my immense gratitude.


Bombay Addict said...

Here via Dilip D'Souza. Thanks for sharing this. And, even though it will never be enough, a big thank you to your father from me and my family. Our wishes to your family.

Sunil Deepak said...

Thanks to your Dad and I am glad that you and India have him back.

Yamini said...

I am glad this ended. Every time I turned the TV on I wondered about all those who were still trapped inside and thought of what their families were going through. I cringed every time a reporter thrust a microphone into the face of a relative, hoping against hope everything will be fine.

Please do convey a personal thanks to your father and to all those who fought in those three days. I wish you all well.

Sagarone said...

Thank God for ppl like your father and others like him. They revive my dying hope in this mad idea of India.

nimit said...

Great to know that your dad was ok. But I can only imagine what you and your family must have gone through. I dont even know what can i comment about the courage and determination of both your dad and your family. Every Indian heart grieves for the departed. May god bless US.

Aniruddha said...

Glad that this ended...
My salutations to your dad. It was because of such people I still have hope for my country...

Anonymous said...

@ Serendipity,

Firstly, my apologies for arguing with someone on your blog. I was trying to defend myself and I guess I erred on the part of verbosity.

Secondly, with reference to the other thing, I was only too glad to help in whatever little way I could as this is something that could affect us all down the line.

Take Care,

Mumbai Diva said...

Watching the events on television is a very, very far cry from actually having a loved one inside. I may be angry, I may be terrorised but I will never ever be able to fathom what you went through those 3 days. You're a brave daughter of a very brave man.

Aditya said...


Could you please say Thank you to your dad from me? I would appreciate it.

photographerno1 said...

Mumbai is a soft target after all
we the people braking our head against
a wall
only the dead walking tall

Minal said...

Dear blogger, I don't know your name but i salute your dad and many others like him. I wouldn't say " i know how you feel " but i can understand what kind of stress and trauma you hand your family had to go through. I am a clinical psychologist and a animal therapist. and through this blog i would like to help all the families and survivors of these horrifying blasts. You can contact me on 9987509102 if you feel you need a comforting and reassuring hug from a trained therapy dog.

Minal Kavishwar, Animal Angels Foundation

Ritu said...

I am speechless, I am crying, I am angry. We should not have to live through this. You've been through so much. People in power have a lot to answer

J. Alfred Prufrock said...

Salud. I wish I could say this in person to your father. I hope others will.


dipali said...

I salute your brave father.
I hope all of you are healing after those traumatic hours. Take care.

An Iengar Chick .... said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
An Iengar Chick .... said...

Followed BombayAddict and got here. Tx for sharing this and I was feeling helpless but now I truly understand what it would mean to be helpless. Glad your family is safe


shumz said...

Thank you, Serendipity's dad.

Parul said...


I am a friend of Nomad's and I came by from her blog. Thanks for putting up this post and I for one am very proud of your father and the way he handled himself and the situation. I am so glad he is safe, I wish others were too.



Papiha said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Hats off to your father. It is because of people like him that we are still alive today. It appears that you are known to Mr.Karkare's family. I would like to write to Mr.Kakare's family. Any idea how I can reach them ?

Adel Anwar said...

Thanks for sharing your story with the rest of us. I know it must've been a harrowing experience for you and your family. I'm eternally grateful to your dad for all he's done in bringing an end to this. I hope and pray that the people behind this are weeded out of their holes and incarcerated for the rest of their lives.

Poof! said...

Requoting sunshine. Glad everything's ok.

Rachelle said...

Followed David here.

What a story! I am so glad your daddy is okay, and please know that your friends here in the US are praying for you and al those who have suffered losses at the hands of those cowards.

Tessa said...

Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear. I salute your Papa, you and your family.

An Indian said...

Ah… Need of the hour!

Stand up please! Solutions are on the way!

As for the politician go and the need of the hour, I have come up with some interesting theories… please do read and let me know!

An Indian.

Sandi McBride said...

Oh I know, I know...even now my eyes are filling..
congratulations on Post of the Day

Farcenal said...

How did you feel after writing that? I don't think you want praise or consolation from this or any comment.

You have climbed several rungs in my ladder of respect.

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