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26/11 recalled: HT readers write about their pain, horror

Mumbai : As an avid daily reader of Hindustan Times every morning, I noticed the section of “Remembering 26/11” in today’s paper. It could not be more appropriate for me to inform you about the details of what I was doing on the night of 26/11, not because I was affected directly, but it shook me up from inside, as I was so close to it.

Being a young Indian who has spent a few years in Australia and experienced different lifestyles, I have always had a dream for India. That dream was playing on my mind since I came back from Australia back in 2007. The thought that – why can’t we, the people, do something ourselves for our country instead of being so apathetic and playing blame games all the time? This thought of mine developed into an idea, and the idea developed into a story.

Then 26/11 happened, and being a resident of Cuffe Parade in south Mumbai I witnessed it all from a scarily close distance. My family and I were scared for our lives; there was panic and chaos all over.
The Taj Mahal hotel is seen engulfed in smoke during a gunbattle in Mumbai.

After that day, I decided I need to give something from my own side to do something for the better of my country. I must have my own input however small it maybe. And that is how my idea and the story that was on my mind took the form of a manuscript, I decided to write a fiction novel on the same topic, and based it on the backdrop of the 26/11 terror attacks. Having known many people who suffered and died on that fateful night I compiled many stories of what I had heard and squeezed it into the crux of my fiction novel.

Then after half a year of writing and almost 2 years of rejections I got a publisher and my novel released in May this year. The title of my book is I FOR INDIA: A Novel. It is a journey of one young man who returns to India after living in Australia and how he realizes his dream for his motherland, and then strives to make that dream come true. I have a dream to see India as a developed and glorious nation, and through this novel of mine I have gone forward and pushed the envelope to achieve that dream.

Thanks and Regards,
Name: Karan Khanna , 26
Occupation: Business (self-employed)/ part time writer

As published in HT, I would like to share my experience as follows:

We had been to our sister’s place for practice of her weddings Sangeet sandhya and were returning from Grant road. It was nearing10pm when we first got a call asking where we have reached and saying there is some tension in the city and many of the roads are sealed and restaurants have shut down.

While I was traveling by local train I got a call from my father informing me that there have been serial blasts and some terrorists have attacked. He informed that there was a bomb blast at Vile Parle in a taxi. We were very much afraid as we were away from our house and my children Komal and Sagar were all alone at my place. Immediately we tried to call them on their cell but could not get in touch with them. After some time we got an SMS from them that they are safe at home. After reaching our home at Mira Road we immediately tuned on the television and by that time heavy damage was done. By watching the clips, my wife started crying and asked how could a person do such cruelty to another human being.

Bhavesh R Thakker, 41
Occupation: Manager, Finance
People congratulate an National Security Guard (NSG) commando as he leaves the Nariman House after an operation, in Mumbai.

26th November 2008, Wednesday I had bunked college to prepare for the SP test next day at my Class 12 coaching classes. Around 9.45, a neighbour came and said about a constantly flashing breaking news, and we reluctantly switched on to see it (over from daily soaps!). First news that flashed was news of firing at Leopold cafe, then about firing at CST station, followed by successive news of a taxi blast somewhere near a flyover in Vile-Parle (East). My father immediately went on to make frantic calls to all possible relatives, who could be at a risk of being at any of those places. Meanwhile, reports of intense firing at Taj hotels, Oberoi-Trident and Nariman house went on for next 3 days! For the next three days, or 60 hours, to be precise, life halted.

Nothing of my daily routine changed, in particular. But an unknown feeling gripped, which was depressing, sinking and remorse! We wouldn’t talk to each other, neither would we discuss all that we saw the entire day on TV Mumbai in tragedy. My mental block that those attacked are not mine or remotely relate to me, sublimated!

Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan,commando Gajendra Singh, ATS chief Hemant Karkare and encounter specialist Salaskar lost their lives and served their blood as a spirit to enlighten the city again!

Following the tragedy, we, MUMBAIKARS, gathered at Gateway of India, on 3rd December, 2008, Wednesday. I had bunked my Hindi prelim to join in the movement with my friend. Sight was horrifying! With around one lakh people had gathered with intense emotion of anger, frustration and moan came raging out on streets of Mumbai!

Protests, posters, speeches, candles, banners and people! Brotherhood, compassion, heart melting humanity, tear clotted eyes, some hopeful marches, a cold sigh of hopelessness and a chilling evening of December burning with anger!
Special Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam speaks to the media outside Arthur Road Jail, where the trial of Mohammad Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving gunman of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, was held, in Mumbai.

60 hours of terrorism and the city seemed to have a nervous breakdown! My city was put to halt. It all happened for 60 long hours but felt like a flash of light, which passed leaving behind millions of us visionless, aimless and motionless! They came, they attacked. They did it before and they did it now and we are waiting now where? And How? Nothing changed, nothing will! Today on its anniversary I am crying and my city too!!

Name: Disha Jatania
Age: 20
Occupation: Student

The memories of the morning I first woke up to the news that Mumbai was gripped under terror is vivid and something that will be lifelong. Just a day ago (25/11), was the first time my parents and elder sister left me alone for a week at our home in Kharghar, Navi-Mumbai to attend a cousin’s wedding in Kerala.

Being the “brave” myself I remember being too scared to sleep in the bedroom and so slept in the hall with a torch under my pillow with the intention of striking a robber if he pays an untimely visit.

By the grace of God, the night passed uneventful, but when I woke up and put on the TV, I saw something very horrible had happened overnight. Mumbai had been held hostage by a bunch of terrorists and there had been some firing. I failed to grasp what was happening and said it’s just a dream to myself.

After I rinsed my face and returned, to my horror, it wasn’t a dream but a nightmare happening out there.

I was lost for words and dropped flat on the sofa with the remote in my hand. Morning tea or breakfast didn’t bother me and was just so horror-struck as to what was happening and fearing the worst, “What if this is just the beginning? ” Around 8am or 9am,Dad had called up to check whether I’m safe and I said, “I am, but not everyone out there is!” and his reply was,” I know, son! Pray for everyone and ask God to end this soon. “The next few days passed in horror, fear and a sense of insecurity. The battle was won by our armed forces including Mumbai police and elite commandos. But it was a battle where we lost brave men, the common man (who’s always caught in the cross fire) and parts of Mumbai which forever was left marked to remind us that evil exists but can never triumph good.

Mumbai returned back to work after the situation ended, shaken but clearly with a spirit that always says, “Amchi Mumbai!”

Jai Hind! Jai Maharashtra!

Dennis. Chakola. Paul, -19, Occupation: Student.
Closed circuit television footage shows gunmen walking across parking lot after shooting spree at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus train station in Mumbai.

During 26/11, I was on my way returning from Gujarat to Mumbai. I was at the Rajkot Airport. The scenes were very panicking at the airport.

Media coverage was raising the tension levels about the terrorists capturing Mumbai and putting Mumbai on hold. Frantic calls were made to inquire the whereabouts of the relatives’ safety by different passengers. My blood boiled when I saw the bloodshed these terrorists had caused and my eyes were in tears. I was praying to Almighty that the Good had to win over the Evils.

Subsequent to this attack also the city has witnessed many attacks thereby challenging the security of the financial hub of the country. Kasab is still in the prison and trials are there which are not giving justice yet to the families who lost their near and dear ones!

Let’s stand and face the terrorism! Jai Hind!

Yashesh Sampat, Occupation: Chief Manager, Iffco Tokio General Insurance Co Ltd