26/11, the day is embedded in his memory as if it happened yesterday. He was the Assistant Manager of Golden Dragon at The Taj Mahal Hotel, Mumbai. It all started as a normal day for the staff at The Taj Mahal Hotel, until 9.15 at night, when everything changed.
Anup Sheth, a former senior staffer at the Taj Mahal Hotel, Mumbai was interacting with a guest who had come to dine in the restaurant.
He recalls, “We heard some noises and we thought it to be firecrackers because there was a wedding going on in the hotel. But slowly the noise became intense. At that point in time, it was very difficult to relate to gunshots because I have never experienced or heard a live gunshot before in my life. Again, at the same time, I was sure that it was not firecrackers.”
As a protocol, what the staff do generally is inform the operators. While he was standing at the hostess desk, he threw the key to the manager to lock the main door. And when the door was just being locked, he saw a terrorist entering.
He was wearing an orange cap, a red and orange T-shirt and cargo pants. He could be easily mistaken as any normal Bombay college boy and then he pointed the gun at the ceiling.
He narrates, “For a moment I thought it to be a toy gun. As he fired at the ceiling, we all dived behind a pillar. We, unfortunately, couldn’t switch off the lights because the entire light panel was next to the main door. We moved everyone to the Chamber on the first floor for the next seven hours.”
It was a Wednesday night and the hotel was packed with guests. At around 3.30 am, they got the evacuation permission.
“Then we heard gunshots again and by hearing the intensity of the shot we were very sure that it was happening on our floor and that we were very close to it. Just before the Chamber, there is a fire exit and I took the fire exit to go down to the Food and Beverages office. The ceiling was shaking so I hid under a desk. Then I heard some footsteps and from under the table, I could see black shoes and black trousers. They were the Naval personnel who had come to rescue us and there was a hotel security manager also who was along with them. They asked me to take the lobby route and walk out of the hotel. It was around 5 am in the morning.”
Anup lost one of his closest friends, Chef Hemant. He was 24-year-old. The bullet hit his shoulder and punctured his lungs. Sadly, a lot of chefs were the first to come in the line of fire!