Welcome to blog on Stories about survival, loss and pain in those three days of terror. We are trying to capture the stories of people who were there, of those who survived, of those who lost their lives and of those army men who fought bravely to save the hostages.

Please send us your stories and we will post it here… so that we all do not forget all this.


The terrorist outrage in Bombay on Wednesday became only too real for the chief executive and senior board members of Unilever. They had to barricade themselves in a private dining room at the Taj Mahal hotel and then smash a window in a dramatic escape.

Patrick Cescau, the Frenchman who is chief executive of the food and soap combine, and his successor, Paul Polman, of the Netherlands, were among the guests at a formal dinner party organised by Hindustan Unilever, the European giant’s Indian subsidiary.

The intimate gathering was an assemblage of present and future power at a company that is a titan of Western capitalism, making world-famous brands such as Omo detergent, Dove soap and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. The chief and the chief-in-waiting were accompanied by another Unilever board member, Harish Manwani, who is also chairman of Hindustan Unilever. He was joined by Nitin Paranjpe, chief executive of the local company.

It was to be a farewell to Mr Cescau and a welcome to Mr Polman at India’s most glittering venue. The hosts, who count among India’s corporate elite, were accompanied by their spouses and it was not until the dinner was well under way that the guests heard gunfire and were plunged into commotion. Instructed by the hotel staff, they turned out the lights and used furniture to barricade the door.

According to accounts in the Indian press, they crouched on the floor in silence as the sound of gunfire came nearer, hoping that the militants would ignore the darkened room. When smoke began to fill the room, they smashed a window for air. Between 3am and 4am firefighting teams reached the windows and helped the Unilever party to escape down ladders.

“It was awful,” a Unilever spokesman said. “They were pretty shaken.”

None of the Unilever party was injured and they suffered a narrow escape. There is no doubt that a different outcome would have been regarded by the terrorists as a strike against a British company that has deep roots in India. Unilever has a big commercial presence in Asian nations with large Muslim populations, such as Malaysia and Indonesia.

Bombay’s stock market suffered sharp falls when it opened yesterday, then steadied as investors took confidence that the Indian economy would not be damaged by the terrorist assault at the heart of the country’s financial centre.

The rupee came under pressure, falling a percentage point against the dollar, and airline and hotel shares plummeted, but the market recovered its composure later. Bombay’s BSE index ended higher, up 0.7 per cent, as confidence rose amid hopes of further action by India’s central bank in cutting interest rates.

Shares in Indian Hotels, owner of the Taj Mahal and the scene of the worst violence over the past two days, fell by 17 per cent as the market opened after a full day’s closure. Jet Airways, the leading domestic airline, and Kingfisher Airlines, its main rival, both suffered share price falls of about 6 per cent.

Palaniappan Chidambaram, the Indian Finance Minister, said that the attacks in Bombay would hurt investor sentiment in the short term, as the Government revealed data showing a marked slowing in India’s economic growth rate. The Indian economy is growing at its slowest pace for four years, with GDP advancing by 7.6 per cent in the three months to September, compared with the third quarter last year. High interest rates, the credit crunch and capital outflows have slowed down the Indian juggernaut and the rate of growth is well below the second quarter’s rate of 7.9 per cent.

Bijal Shah, global markets strategist at Société Générale, said that India’s economy was too large and diverse to be badly affected by the events in Bombay. Foreign investment would quickly return to India, he said, attracted by low costs, the weakness of the rupee and a growing consumer sector. “[The attacks] may have a short-term negative effect on companies wanting to secure the safety of foreign personnel,” he said, “but India is a much more competitive market for manufacturers. Its market share will improve significantly.”

India’s growing tourism sector is likely to be affected, but even that is unlikely severely to harm growth prospects. “It’s not a huge chunk of the Indian economy. India is able to absorb these shocks,” Mr Shah said.


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Lying on the floor in her darkened luxury Indian hotel room, Rachel Cirincione heard terrorist gunfire, blasts from grenades lobbed throughout the building, and people screaming as they were gunned down trying to escape.

“You can hear people shooting right in the hall in front of your room. It was terrifying,” the former New Hampshire resident explained yesterday after a harrowing escape from a coordinated attack on the Taj Mahal hotel in India.

As the hours passed inside her second-story room, Cirincione still believed Indian police would rescue her. Then she heard what she thought were people running in the hallway, and she looked through the peephole. The swooshing, crackling sounds, however, were not made by panicked guests but by fires coming at her from both ends of the hallway.

“This was a combination of Columbine and 9/11,” said Cirincione, 43, who grew up in Holderness, graduated from Plymouth High School and still has family in New Hampshire. Relatives monitored her rescue via the Internet.

“The whole thing with people after you with guns and then your little safe house isn’t so safe. If it was just me in my room hiding from these guys, that would have been terrifying enough. Then it turned that wasn’t safe enough.” Cirincione is a tour director with an international tour company. She had completed a six-week training session on how to conduct tours in India and was scheduled to fly out of India earlier last week. Her planned departure had been delayed, however, by an apparent bout with food poisoning. Had she not been in the hospital for a day, she would have avoided the attack entirely.

She recounted her experience in a telephone interview yesterday from her Staten Island, N.Y., home.

“There were a lot more terrorists than they originally realized,” she said, telling her story while the situation at the hotel was still not completely under control.

It has yet to be learned how the terrorists got into the hotel, she said. She noted there was a large wedding party in the ballroom of the massive hotel at the start of the assault.

“I don’t think people realized they were going into (rooms) and taking people hostage right away, but they were,” added Cirincione,

When another explosion rocked the hotel, Cirincione’s telephone went dead. That phone had been her lifeline since the terrorists stormed the hotel about 8 p.m. Wednesday, India time, enabling her to stay in touch with a colleague on the hotel’s fourth floor.

“At that point, I was trapped. Hiding in my room was no longer an option,” she said.

Cirincione opened her door. To the left, the fire was too big for her to make a run for it. To the right, the fire was not as bad, and she knew the stairs were on that side, but she heard gunshots from that direction. Cirincione shut the door and turned to the window for her escape.

That choice likely saved her life.

“In the end, I learned they were shooting people as they were running down the stairs,” she said.

Cirincione smashed a chair against the window, but the furniture splintered into a million pieces without leaving a dent on the double-paned window. The window, it turned out, was welded into its frame.

With smoke now billowing into the room, she took a wine opener from the mini-bar and began chiseling away at the window’s wood frame.

Spotting firefighters out the window, she turned on the room lights and waved.

“They were looking up, but they didn’t see me,” she continued. “Now I know what they were looking at — the massive fireball that was above my room.

“I was able to get a tiny, millimeter opening in the window, and I was breathing through that. I was just trying not to panic,” she said.

Then Cirincione remembered she had an emergency head lamp with a bright, blinking light in her tour gear. She grabbed it and waved it near her window.

Firefighters immediately spotted her and, within minutes, three of them were on a ladder truck outside her window. They smashed it with axes and guided her down the ladder to safety about 2:30 or 3 a.m. Thursday.

Meanwhile, back in New Hampshire, Cirincione’s anxious family watched the rescue live over the Internet. Her mother, Barbara Cirincione, was in her Manchester home when her grandson called her to the computer, where she saw uniformed officers walking Rachel across the street away from the hotel.

“I had no doubt she was going to be okay,” explained Barbara Cirincione, 75, a retired nurse who was part of the prayer line at Bethany Chapel Community Church in Manchester that had been praying for her daughter since she first got word that terrorists had stormed the hotel.

“I just knew people were praying for her,” she said. “Somehow, you just know when God is there and that he is working with her, and that’s just what happened.”

Rachel Cirincione, whose only injury was a minor cut to her hand, said she has handled lots of emergencies in her 10 years as a tour director.

“In my job, you have to be very level headed in an emergency. I work on a lot of exotic tours. … I know that I’m good at emergencies, and that’s why I’m attracted to the more difficult destinations. But nothing prepares you for that,” she said.

“I don’t think I will ever be able to go into a hotel that locks their windows like that,” she said.


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Kabir Ali will be for ever grateful for a last-minute change of plan after he came uncomfortably close to the terrorist attacks in Bombay.

Ali, the Worcestershire and England fast bowler, had been in the Taj Mahal Palace hotel on Wednesday afternoon and was due to have dinner there that night. Instead, he went to the cinema and, running late for dinner, was lucky to escape the carnage.

“We were having coffee there in the afternoon and were due back for dinner later,” Ali, 28, said from Bombay last night. “I should have been there by 9 o’clock, about half an hour before the shooting started. I don’t really know why I changed my mind. For some reason, something told me not to go and I went to the cinema instead. I should have been at the hotel.

“I started watching the film, but it soon became obvious something was wrong. It was a really good Bollywood film but people kept leaving. Then I received a text message telling me what was happening and I joined those trying to get out.

“There was panic outside. At first I thought there were fireworks going off in the next street, but then it hit home. There were sirens and bangs and people running. It was chaos.

“I just want to get home now. I do feel shaken, but my thoughts are with all the people who were just going about their lives normally who haven’t been as lucky as me.”


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East India Hotels (EIH) Chairman P R S Oberoi had a narrow escape as he left the hotel for the Ernst & Young award function in the western Mumbai suburb of Bandra, about half-an-hour before the two terrorists entered the hotel through the front door. The two armed terrorists, who entered Trident around 9.30 pm, first killed three-four people in the lobby before moving to Oberoi, which is interconnected to Trident, and taking people hostage there.



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Three Chicago area families described harrowing escapes Friday from the terrorist attacks in Mumbai.

One Chicago couple saw armed attackers through a hotel door peephole. A Deerfield couple defied orders and fled by a rooftop. And a Lake Forest doctor fled with his toddler granddaughter in his arms.

The latest violence in India that claimed more than 150 lives was aimed in part at wealthy tourists, but these visitors avoided injury with a combination of pluck and luck.

Dr. Deepak Dalia, his wife, Dr. Himani Dalia, their daughter, son-in-law and 15-month-old granddaughter had just finished eating in an Italian restaurant in the Oberoi Hotel when they heard gunfire outside.

At first, Dalia said, they thought it was a gang fight or bar fight, but then restaurant workers locked the door and herded guests through the kitchen into a banquet hall.

The staff turned the lights out and told the crowd of almost 200 to keep quiet, while they waited for two hours in the dark, and pieced together what was going on from cell phone communications.

Eventually, the family was escorted out a fire exit. But when they heard more gunshots and an explosion, they took shelter in an office building, until they got a ride home from a friend and a taxi.

“We were obviously scared,” Dr. Dalia said from a cell phone at his friend’s house in Mumbai. “This could have been a disaster for us.”

Noting the Thanksgiving holiday, his daughter back home in Lake Forest, Aneri Dalia, said, “I’ve never been more thankful for my family.”

Another couple, Joe and Marilyn Ernsteen of Deerfield, were staying in the Taj Mahal hotel when their plans to come home were interrupted.

“So do you guys like our choice of hotels in Mumbai?” Joe Ernsteen wrote his friends in an e-mail afterward. “First we are awakened by bomb blasts and gunfire and told to stay in our rooms. Then they cut off TV and make us miss our flights home (still to be determined). All our luggage etc. was left in the room as Mar and I decided to walk out through the heavy smoke, the running water from floods above due to the fires created by the bombs and not to be stopped by blocked stairwells – exit to a roof top and down the fire escape. The army and police were amazed.”

Rabbi Karyn Kedar said Joe Ernsteen is a retired banker and past president of Congregation B’nai Jehoshua Beth Elohim in Glenview. He and his wife were on a tour, and one of their fellow travelers was shot and killed in the attack.

“We pray for the families who have suffered loss, and pray for the recovery of the injured,” Rabbi Kedar wrote. “More than ever, the free world must stand strong in the face of terror, and remain united as we fight for a safe world.”

Another couple, Carol and Benjamin Mackoff of Chicago, were rescued from the same hotel where the Ernsteens were staying, according to CNN.

The Mackoffs were holed up in their hotel for 48 hours waiting for help. Carol Mackoff told CNN she saw armed attackers through her door peephole but didn’t answer when they came to their door.

The couple was rescued after they texted a message to U.S. authorities, and then a code word was set up so they would know it was really the Indian Army knocking on their door.

In Chicago’s suburbs, members of the Hindu, Muslim, and Jewish faiths all shared outrage at the killings.

Rashmi Mehta of Libertyville, who’s family lives in Mumbai, expressed relief and frustration.

“It’s very shocking and sad,” she said. “When it hits home it’s really hard to accept.”


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AN Irishwoman told yesterday how she was trapped in one of the Mumbai siege hotels for eight hours after terrorists attacked.

Geraldine Larkin, a textile designer from Edenderry, Co Offaly, was one of at least 18 Irish people visiting Mumbai when suspected Islamist terrorists attacked hotels, hospitals and train stations.

Twelve students from Colaiste Choilm in Tullamore, Co Offaly, three teachers and two Trinity College Dublinstudents were also in the city and were “shaken” after their ordeal on Wednesday night.

Tanaiste Mary Coughlan, currently in Dubai on a trade mission, was due to meet the group in Abu Dhabi today.

Geraldine, a mother of one, whose husband is from Mumbai, had been staying in the five-star Taj Mahal Hotel on business when gunmen stormed the building.

She told the Irish Independent that staff at the hotel helped her and a group of others into the kitchen after terrorists entered the lobby. They were then guided into a restaurant, and the doors locked and blocked with a grand piano.

“It started sometime between 9pm and 9.30pm local time, and we managed to get out at about five in the morning. We could hear the grenades and the gunshots,” she said.

“It was so extraordinary and terrifying . . . to understand what happened is very hard. The staff looked after us so well, and it’s awful to hear one of the managers of the hotel was killed. It’s hard to think about that. I was very, very lucky.

Eventually, the terrified guests were led out as the siege still raged. “The army came and the staff guided us out of the hotel. I didn’t look around, I was in shock,” said Geraldine.

Yesterday, her family expressed relief that she escaped uninjured. Her brother Patrick Larkinsaid the pictures on the television were “unreal”. “It was unbearable, especially for mum and dad. They were just devastated.”

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Initially, the visitors were unable to use their phones as lines were dead and there was no mobile signal. But Geraldine was able make contact with her family after a few hours.

Meanwhile, the group of students and teachers who travelled to Mumbai as part of the Christian Brothers India Immersion Project 2008 to help the poor are safe but “shaken”.

They had been to Cafe Leopold, one of the tourist restaurants targeted by terrorists, and theTaj Mahal hotel.

“The principal, Colin Roddy, texted last night at 6pm (Irish time — an hour after the attacks started) to say everyone was safe,” he added.

Foreign Affairs Minister Michael Martin expressed condolences to Indian Ambassador PS Raghavan in a phone call.


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Mallika Sarabhai, family, troupe escaped Taj terror by whisker

Mumbai, Nov 28 (IANS) A touch of providence and a small change in itinerary saved renowned classical dancer Mallika Sarabhai and her 25-member dancing troupe from the terror attack at Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel Wednesday night.

“The Darpana Academy of Performing Arts had a scheduled show in the Taj ballroom, on the first floor of the same heritage wing which was first targeted,” Mallika told IANS Friday morning.

Exponent of Kuchipudi and Bharatnatyam forms of Indian classical dance, she had checked into Room No. 455 Wednesday afternoon and was scheduled to stay there till Thursday morning before leaving for a tour to Dubai.

The performance was for the Unilever group, which had a conference in the hotel that day. Usually, the cultural evening would have started around 8 p.m. but since the company’s top brass were scheduled to fly abroad that night, Darpana’s show started at 6 p.m. and ended around 8.45.

Later, Mallika had invited her children and some friends for dinner at one of the restaurants in the Taj, but her son Revanta and daughter Anahita insisted on going out.

Finally, they decided to go to Indigo Deli, located just behind the Taj.

Post-dinner, they dropped Mallika to Taj and returned to their rooms at Hotel Ritz, around a km away near Churchgate.

Just then, even as she was outside the hotel, her children sent an SMS saying there was terror attack on Taj and that they were coming to pick her up. Her children soon came in a vehicle and picked her up. When there were starting to leave, they heard the blaring sirens of police and security vans arriving.

She joined her children – who are also part of the 25-member dancing troupe – at their rooms in Hotel Ritz.

The whole night was spent watching the live coverage of the 13 serial terror attacks at different locations in the city.

“There was no question of returning to my room. I had kept my baggage there, including my passport, travel and other documents, a laptop, an expensive video camera, money, jewellery, etc. All that is gone, but I am safe. I am luckier than the other unfortunate victims of this nightmare,” Mallika said.

Early Thursday, she saw off her children and troupe that returned to Ahmedabad, and later, she managed to book a flight to return home – to a tumultuous reception by her 70-strong staff at Darpana.


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