A Mind-Numbing Experience

(Picture: My most favorite family picture of ours)

The cab arrived to pick me up for work on one regular Monday morning a couple of weeks ago. It was a regular Monday with an exception that it was one of the days when there was a protest called by a section of political parties in the city and the public transport came to a stand still. Since my office has its own transport system, I did not bother much and ran downstairs to start my day.

I noticed a new girl in the cab and my cabmate asked if it is OK if her sister hitched a ride with us. There was no way for her to reach her office and she had an important appointment that she could not cancel. I said I was totally fine with it. The pretty 20 something girl sat quietly and got down after a few mins thanking us profusely.

I casually asked my cabmate where her sister works and she mentioned she is in the hospitality business and just relocated to Hyd from Bombay. She worked at the Trident there. That rang a bell as this was one of the hotels that was under attack by the terrorists during the Mumbai attacks. I mentioned it to my cabmate and she said "Well yeah, my sister was starting her shift and taking notes from the reception staff who were handing over the responsibility to her when the terrorists entered the reception area".

She proceeded to tell the entire string of incidents that happened that day and how her sister escaped death three times in spite of bumping straight into the gunmen who were firing at everything that moved. The first escape was when the lady who was handing over the notes was shot in the stomach and fell on this girl bringing both of them to the ground. She escaped the ire because she was mistaken to be dead. The second escape was when she got a very precious few seconds to run out of the building when the terrorists diverted their attention to a man who resigned his job 3 days ago and was in the reception waiting to collect his experience letter. He was misunderstood to be one of the staff members and when he could not give the maniacs details of the foreign guests, the gunmen decided to set him on fire and burn him alive, which they did. The third escape was when she was running out of the building frantically looking for a safe spot when she faced a rain of bullets directed towards her. All of the bullets missed their mark by a whisker and she could hide in a parking lot along with 200 more people all the night until help arrived in the morning.

The anecdote is scary enough but what sent a chill down my spine is how the family in Hyderabad clung to their phone, TV, prayers and helpless tears while their little girl called them once in an hour telling them she was safe.

Some conversations just numb the mind and this one just shook me up. I quietly closed my eyes to say a prayer to keep my little one safe from all the evils of the world, small and big, that I cannot protect him from.