The steel doors of the lift on the sixth floor of the Cama and Albless hospital are still riddled with bullet holes. It doesn’t even go there now, says liftman Chandrakant Tikhe, who was taken hostage by two terrorists who entered the hospital compound probably thinking they could get some safety, under cover of darkness, in the vast Cama complex.
Tikhe was on the terrace when he came face to face with the terrorists. He remembers them as young men carrying weapons and bulging bags with ammunition, as he found out soon enough. At gunpoint, they demanded that he get them out of the hospital. “But as I was exiting the terrace door, I saw the police and quickly whispered in Marathi that I was an employee and they [the terrorists] were behind me but hidden. The police officer told me to duck myself because he was going to attract the attention of the terrorists.”
Kailash Ghegadmal, a watchman, hid behind an ambulance when he saw the terrorists enter the compound. “They didn’t know where to go. I had just locked the gates to the doctor’s quarters and the RMO’s building, so they ran to the hospital building. The night watchman came out and they shot him.”
Asked how he felt about being back at work in the same place, Ghegadmal tries to be light-hearted: “I find it difficult to sleep at night now, so I guess I am the ideal night watchman.”
Tikhe, on the other hand, has taken longer to recover. “I feel tired all the time. Dil mein ghabrahat hai [I feel fearful].”
Almost a year since the terror attacks, another tragedy has struck the family of Vijay Banja, who was killed when a group of terrorists opened fire in the five-star Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel on November 26 last.
Vijay Banja, an executive chef in the hotel, fell to gunshots while trying to help trapped guests and fellow staffers escape from the kitchen.
His wife, Fareeda, who was shattered by her husband’s death, died suddenly in September this year due to complications arising from peptic ulcer.
“Fareeda was just coming to terms with the loss of Vijay. It had been many hard months for her and their 16-year-old son, but they were beginning to start their lives again, when this [Fareeda’s death] happened. It was very unexpected and we cannot understand what went wrong,” says a cousin.
A few months after the terror attacks, five-year-old Dev Harjani was slinging his school bag on his shoulders, ready to leave school. The teacher was handing out notices which the children should give their mothers. Dev didn’t get one. The teacher gently explained to him that a notice had been given directly to his grandmother. Dev lost both parents when the terrorists went on a killing spree at The Oberoi hotel. “He insisted we give him one because he said his grandmother was now his mother,” the teacher said.
Dev and his older brother were orphaned overnight. It has not been easy for them, says Aditi Patel, a close family friend. The older child has shown great resilience, but it has been hard for Dev. He used to ask for his parents often, cries at night asking for his mother to put him to bed. He misses his parents badly.
Had Ashok Kapur lived, he would have celebrated his 50th year school reunion this year. At the founder’s day programme at his alma mater, more than 60 batchmates gathered to celebrate the event, and they missed him sorely.
Kapur, non-executive chairman of the private Yes Bank, and his wife were dining at a restaurant at The Oberoi when they heard gunfire and began running. In the shooting spree, the couple were separated and his wife was led out with a group of guests by security officers. Unfortunately, Kapur was led by the terrorists to the 19th floor of the hotel and shot along with several other guests.