In idle moments, memories of attack haunt, says 26/11 survivor

Mumbai : Dr N P Vaswani, who stared the death in the face eight years ago, says he is so busy that he has no time to look back and this has kept him going.

But when Vaswani, a survivor of Mumbai terror attack of November 2008, has time to think, the memory haunts him.

“By God’s grace I am so busy, that I don’t look behind. But when I sit idle I feel disturbed. Whole day I am busy with my patients, if I had been idle, I would have died. So, my work has kept me alive,” he told PTI as another anniversary of the attack which began on November 26, 2008, approaches.

Not much seemed to have changed in terms of security post the attack, he said. “I am still scared to sit in my clinic and the fear is still there. They should improve the security. What I’am seeing is not security. They have put up CCTVs, but nobody keeps a watch whether it’s working or not. CCTVs are not being utilised to the extent they should be. So the security is just on paper.”

Recounting his experience of the fateful night, he said, “I was face to face with a terrorist. I was fired upon, but I escaped….Somebody who came to protect me died on the spot.”

“I was in (Hotel) Taj. I had an appointment with a High Court judge at 10 pm, so I came down from the lift and saw everybody dead on the floor. Not a single soul was alive.
“There was a person in black dress who asked me not to venture out as some kind of gang-war was going on outside,” Dr Vaswani said.

“I said gangwar keeps on happening and stepped ahead, but this person jumped and tried to protect me. Seeing this, the terrorist shot at the person, leaving him dead. I got into lift and escaped upstairs to the room of my patient. I was in the room whole night and (next) whole day until commandos came and rescued me,” he said.

“I was the first person to be rescued because my patient was the mother of the President of Qatar. She was a VIP guest, so the External Affairs Ministry and all got involved,” he said.

Another survivor, Devika Rotawan, said, “I will never be able to forget that night (of November 26, 2008).” Devika, who was only 13 years old then, said her family’s life changed in a big way in the aftermath of attack.

“There are both positive and negative changes in our lives. The positive change is I have got some award and people have appreciated me. But the downside is my father is jobless now and there is a financial crisis. His business folded up as people stopped dealing with him due to fear of terrorists,” she said.

“There is problem at our village too. People asked us not to visit there, fearing that terrorists might follow us to the village,” she added.

On the ill-fated night, Devika, her father Natwarlal and her brother Akash were waiting for a train at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) when Ajmal Kasab and other terrorists opened fire indiscriminately.

Shot in the right leg, Devika, who became the youngest eye-witness to depose in the court during Kasab’s trial, had to use crutches for a long time. The attack by Pakistani terrorists at multiple places across Mumbai left 166 people dead and several others injured.