A first hand account ofthe carnage at The Oberoi

Posted by: “sugrutha” sugrutha@yahoo.com

Mon Dec 1, 2008 4:53 pm (PST)

Rohan’s written account of his father’s ordeal, Apoorv Parikh who was
dining with lawyer Anand Bhatt and Pankaj Shah, both of whom died.

From: PARIKH Rohan
Sent: Saturday, November 29, 2008 6:36 PM
To: MOTWANI Dheeraj
Subject: FW: 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
life.

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 terrorists.

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 hospital.

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.

Rohan

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