I work at masjid, which is one station away from VT (CST) the station that was also attacked. When In the train, I heard some "rumor" about terrorist attacks. I had a co passenger who started weeping. I realized that this indeed "might not" be a rumor. I got down the train and took a cab to the terror site. TAJ hotel. There was chaos. There were people running helter shelter. No one could make any sense. Suddenly, for a splits' second rationality harbored in me, and I thought it made no sense waiting over there. So, I returned home and all through the travel from office to home I wondered what I could do to help. I came home and started the www.MumbaiTerrorHelpline.blogspot.com and I received my first phone call around 40-45 mins after I started it.
Amnesic, I am in normal times. So the question of remembering my first call is far too much to expect from myself, given the turbulent times. That was the first call. And then there was another, and another, and another, and another. Frantic relatives and friends from across the world started calling me. I have no clue. How they reached my blog, even before I had submitted it to google search. Probably it was the chain email that I had sent to all in my contact list that did the magic. May be someone added my blog to the list. I scanned the websites and found the Mumbai Help blog. A wonderful initiative by Peter who goes by the name zigzacly. Through that blog and through NDTV I managed to update people with real time information. There were people who were applauding me. But there was no time to pause for applause. I went on, every call had a new story. Every call dealt with a new life. I transmitted howmuchever hope I could, I lied to those helplessly down that things would be fine. I knew, heart-of-heart though, that things were getting worse. Casualties were increasing.
People from all nationalities called me. There were 4-5 or more callers from Singapore. And most of them, ironically, if I can remember were calls by sons looking for their father. I don't remember which call was who. I am definitely mixing people. But there was one caller who was trying his father's number and couldn't reach him. His voice was chocked when he called me. He breathed on to the phone receiver more than he spoke. I took the number of his father from him and called, father was fine. I informed the son. And the son took the phone and stayed mum, mum for a long 3-4 minutes, I was scared that the son has suffered a heart attack. Suddenly then, I heard his voice. He said "Thank You"."Thank You"
There was this other person who wanted to speak to his friend to tell him that he was sorry. I looked at the deceased list and informed him that his friends name doesn't feature, so there is hope still. The caller was an optimist and believed that his friend would be fine. But I got a call from him in a while. He told me that he will not be able to say sorry to his friend ever.
I am a diehard positive being. But I have started believing that when the time has come, then the time has come. Ashish Chowdhary, Sabina's husband, Rabi's friends all were hoping against hope. And when their hopes were smashed it hurt me terribly. It hurt me terribly, to see Ashish who just a while ago, had been seen speaking confidently to the media about his sister, drowned in tears. I wished I could be with him and hug him. Rabi's son was orphaned, he was with his nanny.
My phone kept ringing, but I had no time to shed a tear. I also got some calls from Media people from BBC, CNN, Los Angeles radio, Khaleej Times, TOI and many more. Their questions were crisp and my answers, live and unedited. It was important to speak to the media. The media has a super role to play in situations like these. And if our commandos are to be saluted, so are some people from the media. Meanwhile, I had Limin, a media student of Khalsa college and Demetrius, a media student from Wilson College, both shared the responsibility with me for a while. I could then take the much needed break…
My back was aching and I lay numb. Day passed, night enveloped. The frequency of calls reduced. I had time to reflect.
I wondered, how this mayhem? From where did the terrorists enter? It was the sea. But don't we have coast guards? How did they walk to VT station? No one watched them? How is that possible?
I understand now. In the city that never sleeps, probably someone has overslept. Someone has overslept. Someone has overslept.