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Witness account: a 12-hour hotel ordeal

Text by Leela JACINTO

Latest update : 2008-12-02

Trapped inside Mumbai’s Taj Hotel during the horrific attacks, Bhisham Mansukhani tells FRANCE 24 about his near brush with death.

Also read: 'Citizen journalism' offers intimate view of Mumbai attacks



Bhisham Mansukhani, a 31-year-old Mumbai journalist was having a drink with friends at the Taj Hotel when the first gunshots rang out Wednesday night. It was the start of a 12-hour ordeal during which he narrowly missed being fired upon by the attackers inside the hotel. Not everyone around him though, was so lucky.

Wednesday, Nov. 26, around 9.30 PM (Mumbai time): We were in the Taj banquet hall on the first floor having a drink at the bar when the first shots rang out. I was with a friend and another pal, who had just got married. I guess you could say we were having a round of post-wedding celebration drinks. One of the shots just missed us and shattered the glass of the banquet hall. We were covered with glass shards from the shot. We immediately ducked under the tables. I was in shock. I never heard live gunfire before. It sounded like firecrackers. It was really scaring and quite frankly, it freaked me out.

Wednesday, Nov. 26, shortly after the first gunshots: The Taj Hotel staff immediately ushered us into the chambers. There were around 200 of us. The place has access to the service exits, so it was a good place to gather people. I have to say that throughout the ordeal, the Taj Hotel staff was just brilliant – they were very well organized, they kept us together, they were excellent.

Thursday, Nov. 27, shortly after midnight (Mumbai time): We could hear blasts and gunfire. But shortly after midnight, there was a big blast. I guess it was the blast in the main dome of the hotel. The Taj is a historic building, it’s a landmark building in our city. I couldn’t believe this was happening.

Thursday, Nov. 27, around 4 AM (Mumbai time): We made an attempt to escape the chambers in an evacuation effort organised by one of the hotel staffers. But as we were getting out of the room, we heard gunshots again and the man in front of me got shot in the stomach. It was a mess. At that point I thought I would never make it. That’s when I thought, this is it.

We all ran into the Lavender room. Four people ran back out to help the wounded man. He was bleeding in the stomach. Things started getting horrible. I wasn’t sure the man would make it. We laid him on a sofa. There was a doctor among us, but there was very little she could do. I started desperately calling people on my cell, asking for help, we have a wounded man with us. The lights and the air conditioners were switched off. I was on the couch opposite the wounded man. He was an Indian man but we couldn’t get any more details about him – he was badly wounded. I was just hoping that he would make it. Thankfully, he did.

Thursday, Nov. 27, around 9.30 AM (Mumbai time): Finally, we were let out of the hotel. Almost 12 hours later. We managed to get the wounded man out and he’s doing okay, I hear. For me, it was a horrible ordeal, but it’s important to say I’m one of the lucky ones. There were so many people who suffered a lot more. And we would never have made it without the professionalism of the hotel staff. They were brilliant.


Date created : 2008-11-27