When terror knocks.

Mumbai Travel Blog

 › entry 26 of 30 › view all entries

Friends and friends I have yet to meet,

I need to publish a story.  It is not mine. 

However, I do share its beliefs for my own reasons.  I will not speak of them here - for this is not my experience.

I simply reproduce a message I received because I feel it is a story that needs to be told.  It has been republished verbatim for you to read.  The only change I have made is the abbreviation of some profanity in the text - although in my opinion, its use in this context is more than justified.  I have also abbreviated the personal and contact details of the author - although you can request these details from me personally if you have a legitimate reason for doing so.

I will write my thoughts on this separately - but its message needs a voice right now.

Remember, as you read this, families across this planet we share weep with loss.  Those people have many political beliefs, different religious beliefs, belong to different socio-economic groups and have varied cultural backgrounds.  In fact, the only common thread between these people is their shared humanity and the loss they each bear. 

Terror is an issue that affects everyone.  No one is exempt.  That means each of us has the responsibility to take a stand.

I don't preach action.  That decision is a personal one - but I do encourage thought.

I pray for those affected and those lost.

The message I received is from a survivor of the recent terrorist incident in India.  He writes the following:


Hey guys.

Got all your notes. Thank you. I'm ok. A little shaky to be honest

but really just happy to be here. I can't thank you enough for your

You have no idea what the mean to me. Hope to see and speak to you

all soon.

I wrote the following on the plane.

It's 3.33 am Thursday Nov 27th. And I am writing this from Jet
Airways flight 0227, First leg of the Mumbai - Brussels - Toronto -
Vancouver journey . It is a stream of "adrenaline" piece. I apologize
in advance for the grammatical errors. But I wanted it raw and

First, some context.

I have always been truly blessed. Lucky to be born to the most love a
child could ever wish for. Luck to be born into a family that prided
itself on teaching me how to be a man. Lucky to have been protected
and sheltered by three strong, decent brothers. Lucky to have found
and married the kindest heart on the face of the earth. Lucky to be
blessed beyond blessed with four healthy, beautiful children.  Lucky
to have wonderful friends who tolerate my idiosyncrasies.

Tonight, these blessings, these gifts of love and life bestowed upon
me, this incredible good fortune, saved my life. And I honestly don't
know why.

The details.

I am in Mumbai on business. I'm staying at the Trident hotel. It's
sister hotel, the Oberai, is right next-door and attached by a small

I had dinner by myself in the Oberai lobby after some late meetings.

I retired upstairs to my room. About 10min later my colleague, Alex
C*******, text-ed asking me to join him and his friend in the Oberai
lounge for a drink. I started to make my way out the door but decided
that I was really too tired.  I had a 7am flight, and needed to be up
at 5. Rest beckoned. I closed the light, got into bed and quickly
fell asleep. Lucky life-saving decision number 1.

About 1hr later there was knock at my door. A few seconds later, the
doorbell rang (they have doorbells for hotel rooms here - who'da
thunk?). I thought - who the hell is knocking at my door?  Turn down
service? This late? Forget it. So I just lay there and hoped they
would go away. Lucky life-saving decision number 2.

Five minutes later I heard and felt a huge bang. I got up and went to
look out the window. A huge cloud of grey smoke billowed up from the
road below.

I thought.  Fireworks? I didn't see anyone milling about so knew

something wasn't right. I started to walk to the light switch when -
BANG - another huge explosion shook the entire hotel.

Oh f**k, I thought. Is that what I think this is? I opened the door
to the hallway. A few people were already outside.

I heard the word "bomb".

Oh shit. Oh shit I thought.

I'd like to tell you that I calmly collected my myself and my things
and proceeded to the exits.

I didn't.  An adrenaline explosion erupted inside me and almost
lifted me off the floor. And I began to move. Really move.

I went back inside, quickly packed my stuff and went back into the

I ran to the emergency exit and started making my way down the stairs
(I was on the 18th floor).

There were a few people in the stairwell. I was flying by them. I
swear I could have run a marathon in 2hrs. I felt like pure energy.

About halfway down, I called my friend Mark, told him what had
happened and asked him to get me a flight - any flight - the hell out
of Mumbai.

I got to the lobby level. There was a crowd of people in the

No one moving. No one doing anything. No hotel staff. No security


Shit. I thought. We are sitting ducks.

I decided to get out of there. First, into the lobby.

I stepped through the door into the silent lobby. My first sight was
a blood soaked plastic bag and bloody footsteps leading into the
reception area.  I proceeded forward.  The windows were shattered and
glass was everywhere.

There wasn't a soul around.

Bad decision, I thought. I quickly retreated to the corridor. The
crowd of people had grown.

We've got to get out of here I yelled.  Let's go.

I looked around for the emergency exit and started running towards

I made my way through the bowels of the hotel and out into a dark
alley. It was empty and silent. I looked to my left and about 100m
away saw a few security guards milling about.

Run they screamed. I began to move toward them.

I reached the main street and was immediately swept up into the
Indian throngs (for those who have been to Mumbai, you know what I

People everywhere. But they were all eerily quiet. No one was

talking.  No car horns. Nothing.

I started yelling "airport airport".

Some one  (a hotel cook I believe) grabbed me and my bag and threw me
in a rusty mini-cab.

As I sped away, I didn't see a single police car nor hear a single

Just the sound of this shit-box car speeding down the deserted road.

Traffic was stop and go. I made it to the airport in about 1hr,
cleared customs and buried myself in a corner of a packed departure
lounge, called my wife, called my parents and brothers and started
emailing those friends who knew I was in Mumbai.

Sadly, Alex - my colleague who texted me for a drink - and his friend
were not so lucky. The terrorists stormed into the lobby bar and
killed several people. They took Alex and his friend hostage and
started to march them up to the roof of the hotel.

About half way up, Alex managed to escape (he ducked through an open
door and hid) but his friend was caught. And as I write this, that
poor man is still on the roof of the Oberai.

Alex is safe but as expected, extremely worried about his friend.

I'm telling you right now. If I decided to meet Alex for that drink
tonight I'd either be dead, a hostage on the roof of a building 30
hours away from everyone I love or - if I had the balls of Alex - a
stupid-but-lucky-to-be-alive jerk.

And remember that knock/ring at my door? Well, I subsequently learned
that the first thing the terrorists did was get the names and room
numbers of western guests. They then went to the rooms to find them.
E*****, with an E, room 1820.

I'll bet my entire life savings that they were the knock at my door.

Thank god for jet lag.
Thank god for "cranky tired Jonny" (as many of my friends and family
know so well) that compelled to get into and stay in bed.
Thank god for being on the 18th floor.
Thank god for the kind kind people of Mumbai of helped me tonight.
The wonderfully kind hotel staff. That cook. My cab driver who
constantly said "relaxation" "relaxation" "I help" and who kept me in
the cab when we hit a particularly gnarly traffic jam and i wanted to
get out and walk. And for other people in traffic who, upon hearing
from my own cab driver that I was at the Oberai, literally risked
life and limb to stop traffic to let us get by (as again, only those
who have been to Mumbai can truly appreciate).

Mumbai is a tragically beautiful place. Incredibly sad. But I am
convinced that its inhabitants are definitely children of some
troubled but immensely soulfully god.

I'm sitting on plane (upgraded to first class..see, told you I'm
lucky ?).  Just had the best tasting bowl of corn flakes I've ever had in my

Hennessey coursing through my veins. Concentration starting to loosen

and sleep beginning to creep onto my horizon.

I still feel a bit numb. But mostly I feel like I've just watched a
really really bad movie staring me.  Because right now, it all
doesn't feel real.

Maybe a few hours of CNN will knock me into reality. But the truth is

numb is fine with me for a while.  If I do end up thinking about the
what if's, I don't really want to do that until I'm much much closer
to home. And I have 30 more hours of travel time to go.

But before I sign off, let me say this.

The people who did this have no souls. They have no hearts.
They are simply the living manifestation of evil and they only know killing and

We - all of us - need to understand that.  Their target tonight was

first and foremost Americans. Why? Because they fear everything that
America stands for. They fear hope and change and freedom and peace.
Let's make no mistake; they would have shot me and my children point
blank tonight with out a moment's hesitation. Most of us sorta know
that but sometimes we equivocate.  We can't equivocate. Not ever.

I know that I want to go back. Lay some flowers. Wrap my arms around
these people. Say thank you. Spend some money on overpriced hotel
gifts and tip well. And generally give the bastards who did this the
big f**k you and show them that I am not - I  repeat not - afraid of

But first I need to go squeeze my wife. Dry her tears. Then have her
dry mine as I hold my beautiful beautiful babies who will be
(thankfully)  oblivious to all of this. Because isn't that what life
is really about?

I appreciate you taking the time to listen.

With much much love.

Jonathan E*****
L*** C***** M*** INC.
President & COO


So far, 172 innocent people have been confirmed killed.  This number is expected to rise.  At the time I write this, those who are injured are yet to be confirmed.

The attacks killed citizens of India, Israel, USA, Germany, Japan, Canada, Australia, Italy, Singapore, UK, Thailand and France.  Many casualties are unidentified and will require forensic analysis.  It is likely that this list will also increase.

The venues attacked were 100% civilian.  A hotel, a jewish community centre and a hospital.  Automatic weapons and explosives were used in organised assaults against the defenseless.

Men, women and children make up the list of casualties.

Think about it.  Next time you sleep.  Next time you attend a communal gathering.  Next time you are sick.

jethanad says:
:( this time I cannot bring a smile, just share your pain. I have frequented Oberoi in my college days. I thank the people and staff who took great pains to protect the guests.
Thank you for sharing.
Posted on: Aug 30, 2012
msarkar2810 says:
This is so evocative. Thank you for sharing this, I can't tell you what I felt while reading this.
Posted on: Mar 25, 2012
Stigen says:
Very well written, captivating story.
Posted on: Aug 23, 2011
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