A year after the Mumbai attacks, Ravi Kannan feels a rush of panic every time he enters the lobby of a luxury hotel. The panic, however, turns to rage when he sees that hotels and even airports have failed to implement basic security procedures.
Mr. Kannan spent 38 tense hours in his room at the Trident Oberoi as the area around resounded with exploding grenades and shattering glass.
It distresses him to see security personnel casually natter at airport check-in counters and hotels. “I often admonish them and tell them that people and their families should not have to suffer for them slacking on their job,” says Mr. Kannan, who is the Chief Executive Officer of Snowman Frozen Foods Ltd.
Twelve months on, the images have dimmed in public memory, and security enforcement is back to its slipshod ways, he claims.
Mr. Kannan, who shifted to Bangalore from Mumbai just months before the attack, still feels at home in Mumbai. For several weeks after 26/11, his 10-year-old daughter Tanisha refused to allow him to travel.
Holed up inside his hotel room he did not completely understand the gravity of the situation. “Since I am no stranger to Mumbai, I even decided to step out for a stroll; this after the news of a ‘gang war’ was flashed as breaking news. I told my wife that gang wars do not target common people,” he recalls.
However, as millions of Indians were riveted to their TV screens, the ‘gang war’ soon developed into a full-fledged terror attack where scores lost their lives. “I don’t recall what kept me going. But when I saw blood and bodies on the staircase I knew this was something much bigger. I took the four foreign tourists I met on the way back to my room and spent the better part of the night trying to convince them to stay put in the room.”
An old Frenchman, an American, a Canadian and an Englishman hid in Mr. Kannan’s room, watching the events unfold on television, and, after the power went off, from the hotel window. After being informed by his friends that it was foreign nationals the attackers were after, Mr. Kannan ensured that their room was secured.
Together they stacked up the furniture and bedding against the door.
The 38 hours that followed, right till the moment commandos took charge, are clear in his memory.
He still remembers how the window frames and doors in the room would shake every time a grenade went off.