Page last updated at 20:20 GMT, Saturday, 29 November 2008

Eyewitness: Mumbai survivors

Five survivors of the deadly attacks on Mumbai have spoken to the BBC about their harrowing experiences.


Farhang Farzad Jehani (left) with his brother Farzad
The Leopold has been in the family of Farhang (left) for decades

Our cafe is 130 years old and is a Mumbai landmark for foreigners and Indians alike. Our family bought the cafe 78 years ago and we have run it ever since. The cafe has 60 employees and remains open from seven in the morning to nearly two in the morning.

On the night of the attack, I was watching the cricket match between India and England on TV in the bar upstairs with my brother, Farzad. I suddenly heard a big blast. It sounded like a grenade. I peered down and spotted two young boys standing outside the cafe with automatic weapons who were firing indiscriminately. They had backpacks.

The firing continued for some four to five minutes. I crouched on the floor upstairs. I was totally puzzled. For a moment, I thought a gang war was going on.

After that, the guns stopped. Then the two men continued walking down a by-lane, firing from their guns. They were on the way to the Taj hotel.

By the time I came down to the cafe, two of my employees and six customers, including three foreigners, lay dead on the floor.

One employee had been working for us for the last eight years, and the other had been working with us for three months. One of them got hit by the bullet while he was serving clients, the other got hit when he was running out of the exit.

When I came out of the exit, I saw a number of bodies lying on the street. The police arrived after 20 minutes and left. They seemed to be clueless.

I am opening my cafe on Sunday. I will open it without any extra security because I cannot afford to keep an armed guard at the door. We already had as much security as we could afford after the serial train blasts in Mumbai in 2006. We have stopped keeping guests' luggage, and we do a strict check before closing that there is no unidentified stuff lying around.

Life has to go on.


Shi Xi Lin with his daughter Jingwei
Shi Xi Lin is a chef at the hotel which saw the fiercest fighting
I was born in Beijing and work as a chef in the Golden Dragon restaurant at the Taj. I live in the hotel with my daughter Shi Jingwei, who studies in a local college. I have been working in the hotel for the past 11 years.

I was in my room with my daughter when the attack began. The first thing that happened was the lights went off. I was surprised. I lit a candle and opened the door to check what had happened. As I looked down the corridor, shots rang out at the end of it and I realised something was seriously wrong.

Then I shut the door. The room phone rang. Somebody was barking down the line "Duck! Get under the bed!". The problem is that in luxury hotels like ours, our beds are very low and there's hardly any space to go under them.

So I took my daughter and hid in the toilet. We clung on to each other in the toilet for nearly 90 minutes before I heard somebody knocking on the door. I opened the door. I saw a man who seemed to be in a tearing hurry and said something I did not understand.

I came out of the room and followed the man. The corridor was strewn with spent cartridges and glass. I met another man who ushered us out of the hotel through the back door early on Thursday morning.

I have spent over a decade of my life in Mumbai. I saw car bombs going off in front of my hotel a few years ago. But this was so close, it was really scary.


Shivaji Mukherjee
Shivaji Mukherjee is an employee of a finance company
I was sitting inside the cafe and having dinner with a colleague when I thought the low roof of the cafe had been hit by a lightning strike. It was a flash of lighting on the ceiling.

Then I thought I heard crackers. I took off from my table in a flash. There were about 50 customers in the cafe. I think I was the second person to escape the shoot-out in the cafe. I remember seeing a fair-skinned young man with a backpack firing from an automatic weapon. When I ran out of the exit door, I looked back to see the waiter who was serving me getting hit by a bullet. There was a Japanese woman who also got hit by a bullet.

I had left my mobile phone on the table in the rush. My wife called from Calcutta and it was picked up by a policeman. He told her that the owner of the phone had been caught up in a gun attack on the cafe. She panicked, began calling up people. I only got in touch with her on a land line after I reached my hotel.

When I stepped outside, I saw the two men walking down the by-lane firing indiscriminately. The police came pretty late and had no help to offer. By this time, the two men had taken over the Taj hotel. It was the scariest moment in my life.


Mumbai's Oberoi hotel on 27 November, hours after the attack
Mumbai's Oberoi hotel is popular with business travellers
I and my husband Ashok, a banker, were having dinner at the Kandahar restaurant at the Oberoi hotel with another couple when we heard shots which sounded like crackers. There were nearly 100 people in the restaurant. Suddenly, the restaurant staff asked us to leave, so we all trooped out of the restaurant. I and Ashok started walking down the stairway to the lobby to make our way to the exit door, when I heard a voice, saying "Wait."

When I looked back I saw a young man with a gun. I just ran for my life. When I looked back for the last time, I saw the man opening fire on an old man who had come out of the restaurant. The man fell down. I lost my husband in the melee. I think he got left behind. I remember seeing parts of the hotel lobby in flames. I have been waiting for information on Ashok ever since. I have got some information that he is all right.

Hours after this interview on Friday afternoon, Madhu Kapoor was informed that Ashok had died in the attack at the hotel.


Pappu Mishra, restaurant-owner at Mumbai's Victoria Terminus railway station
Pappu Mishra works in the station targeted by the militants
I run one of the biggest eateries at Mumbai's main railway station. On the evening of the attack, I was sitting upstairs tending to my customers when I first spotted two smart-looking young men saunter up to the waiting hall in front of my restaurant.

They plonked two bags on the floor. One man took out a gun from a bag, the other loaded a magazine. Then the man began shooting indiscriminately. He turned around and did a 360-degree turn and shot indiscriminately. The bullets damaged the glass walls of my restaurant and hit one of my employees. He is now on life support in a hospital.

I saw the men walking up to the railway platform shooting indiscriminately, and people falling like ninepins. They were so calm, composed and brazen. They seemed to have the confidence of those who knew no fear and knew there would be no resistance.

I crouched along with my customers in the restaurant shaking in fear. I could not turn out the lights, neither could I lock my glass doors. We were sitting ducks, but we survived. Instead of walking towards us, the gunmen walked into the platforms and kept shooting.

At the end of 10 minutes, there was a pile of bodies in the blood-splattered waiting hall. We helped put the injured and dead in passing vehicles to take to the hospital. There was nobody else to help. The police came after half and hour, made enquiries and left. They offered no resistance to the two men who shot scores of people and walked away. It's a scary thought. There is no security left in India. There is no value on life.

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