Terror’s first hand experience.

I reproduce below an email sent by a young man about his personal experience. I offer no comments and let the mail speak for itself.

“From: PARIKH Rohan

Sent: Saturday, November 29, 2008 6:36 PM
The Mumbai Attacks

Dear friends,

First, I wanted to thank you all for the incredible concern and
support that you’ll have given me over the past few days which have
been among the most emotionally and psychologically draining of my

By the grace of God my father was rescued from the Oberoi on Friday
with two (minor) bullet wounds and is now speedily recovering. He did
however lose the two best friends he was dining with that fateful
night (who are like godfathers to me). We also lost a lot of other
friends and colleagues and have watched our beloved city reduced to a
war zone and brought to its knees.

On Wednesday night, my father and his two friends arrived at the
Indian restaurant on the first floor of the Oberoi Hotel for dinner at
about 10pm. They had barely sat down when they heard gun shots in the
lobby of the hotel. The terrorists, armed with AK-47s, grenades and
plastic explosives, had entered the hotel and were executing everybody
sitting in the ground floor restaurant. Realizing the situation, the
staff of the restaurant my father was in asked them to quickly exit
through the kitchen. As the guests tried to rush into the kitchen, one
terrorist burst into the restaurant and began to shoot anyone that
remained in the restaurant. At this point my father was in the kitchen
and along with his two friends rushed to the fire exit. They had
barely descended a few steps when they were trapped from both ends by

The terrorists then rounded up anyone alive (about 20 people) and made
them climb the service staircase to the 18th floor. On reaching the
18th floor landing they made the people line up against a wall. One
terrorist then positioned himself on the staircase going up from the
landing and the other on the staircase going down from the landing.
Then, in a scene right out of the Holocaust, they simultaneously
opened fire on the people. My father was towards the center of the
line with his two friends on either side. Out of reflex, or presence
of mind, he ducked as soon as the firing began. One bullet grazed his
neck, and he fell to the floor as his two friends and several other
bodies piled on top of him. The terrorists then pumped another series
of bullets into the heap of bodies to finish the job. This time a
bullet hit my father in the back hip. Bent almost in double, crushed
by the weight of the bodies above him, and suffocating in the torrent
of blood rushing down on him from the various bodies my father held on
for ten minutes while the terrorists left the area. When he finally
had the courage to wiggle his arms he found that there were four other
survivors in the room. They communicated to each other by touch as
they were too afraid to make a sound. My father moved just enough to
allow himself room to breathe and then lay still. The survivors passed
over twelve hours lying still in the heap of bodies too afraid to
move. They constantly heard gunfire and hand grenades going off in the
other parts of the hotel. They feared that any noise would bring the
terrorists back. After approximately twelve hours, the terrorists
returned with a camera and flashlight and joked and laughed as they
filmed what they thought was a pile of dead bodies. They then moved to
the landing below where they set up explosives. On their departing, my
father decided that it was too risky to remain where they were due to
the explosives. Along with the other three survivors he climbed the
rest of the stairwell, where they discovered a large HVAC plant room
in which they decided to take shelter. They passed the rest of the
siege hiding in this room trying to get the attention of the outside
world by waving a makeshift flag out of the window. They drank sips of
dirty water from the Air Conditioning unit to survive. Finally on
Friday morning they were spotted by a commando rescue team that was
storming the building and were evacuated to safety and taken to the

This is just one of the countless horror stories that unfolded in
those two days. There are many stories of entire families being wiped
out while eating their dinner, or young kids losing both parents, or
pregnant women being shot while pleading for their lives, or hostages
being beaten to death with the butt of a rifle so that their faces
were unrecognizable. The terrorists attacked on every level. They
killed middle class workers when they shot up the railway station,
they killed the elite in the hotels, they killed tourists and kids as
they ate in a café, and they killed the sick and dying when they
stormed three hospitals. They shot people in the roads, in stations,
in hotels, and even entered an apartment building. They killed
Indians, Americans, Britons, Israelis, and several other
nationalities. They killed men, women, children, policemen, firemen,
doctors, patients. This was systematic, cold-blooded, slaughter.

We have lost a lot of friends, colleagues, and acquaintances. Every
person who lives in South Mumbai has a story about how either they or
someone they love either died or had a narrow escape. The true extent
of the horror will only make itself clear over the next few days.

Mumbai is a proud city and we pride ourselves on bouncing back from
any adversity. We survive and prosper despite all the difficulties
placed on us. We are no strangers to terror and have had to pick up
the pieces and move on after several attacks. This time however, the
sheer scale and audacity brought the city to its knees. The openness
of our society, the bustling hoards in our train stations, the
vibrancy of our news media, and the thousands of tourists, diplomats,
and business leaders packing our hotels was used against us to
devastating effect.

In the end one tries to make sense of all this. Barack Obama said
about the killers of 9/11: “My powers of empathy, my ability to reach
into another’s heart, cannot penetrate the blank stares of those who
would murder innocents with such serene satisfaction.”

Unfortunately, this is becoming an all familiar scene in today’s
world. While I cannot understand, I recognize again and again the
hatred, anger, and desperation of the terrorists and the cold blooded,
targeted, ruthlessness of those that dispatch them. They respect
nothing but their own twisted beliefs and to achieve them have
declared war on an entire way of life. India now finds itself as a
major front of this global war.

How do we fight such hate? How do we inject humanity into such
monstrosity? How do we convince those who think they kill in god’s
name that no God would condone such barbarity? How do we maintain our
own values and humanity when faced with such hate and provocation?

Over the next week as we say goodbye to those we lost and help those
that survive, Mumbai and India will ask themselves these questions. I
hope the rest of the world does too.

I will remain in Mumbai for at least a week to help out with various
things, after which I will probably return to complete P2 at INSEAD.
Right now, though I miss all everyone at INSEAD, I cannot fathom
sitting in a classroom.

Thanks again for all your thoughts and prayers.


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