New York, Dec 2 : With Mumbai under terror attacks, two common citizens Vishnu Datta Ram Zende and Nitin Minocha, risked their life and worked overnight to provide relief to victims, guide other people to safety.
Zende used the public-address system at Mumbai's largest railway station, Victoria Terminus, to direct busy hordes of travelers to their trains, The New York Times reported.
Zende heard a loud explosion just before 10 p.m., and saw people running across the platform, he gripped his microphone and calmly directed a panicked crowd toward the safest exit. The station was suddenly under attack, the beginning of a three-day siege by a handful of young, heavily armed gunmen.
"Walk to the back and leave the station through Gate No. 1," he shouted alternately in Hindi and Marathi, barely stopping to take a breath until the platform was cleared. No sooner, gunmen located his announcement booth and fired, puncturing one of the windows. Zende was not hurt.
Overnight, Zende became one of Mumbai's new heroes, their humanity all the more striking in the face of the inhumanity of the gunmen. As the city faced one of the most horrific terrorist attacks in the nation's history, many ordinary citizens like Zende, 37, displayed extraordinary grace, The NYT said.
Many times, they did so at considerable personal risk, performing acts of heroism that was not part of their job descriptions. Without their quick thinking and common sense, the toll of the attacks would most likely have been even greater.
Not far from the train station, as the same network of gunmen stormed the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel, a sous chef named Nitin Minocha and his co-workers shepherded more than 200 restaurant diners into a warren of private club rooms called The Chambers.
For the rest of the night they prepared snacks, served soda, fetched cigarettes and then, when told it was safe, tried to escort the diners out through the back. They wanted to make sure their guests, many of them Mumbai's super-elite, were as comfortable as possible.
"The only thing was to protect the guests," said the executive chef, Hemant Oberoi. "I think my team did a wonderful job in doing that. We lost some lives in doing that."
During the attacks, six employees from the kitchen staff were slain. Another hotel employee, a maintenance worker on night duty, was shot in the abdomen and remained in critical condition on Monday, The NYT reported.
Minocha, 34, caught two bullets in the left arm. It felt numb. He could see that the bone had been shattered. He panicked.
"I'm a chef. I cook with both hands," he told himself.
Even after an aborted evacuation bid, hotel workers helped get water for their guests and held up bedsheets to create makeshift urinals. Next to the Nariman House, the headquarters of a Jewish religious organization, where gunmen took hostages, neighbors helped neighbors evacuate to safety.
At Victoria Terminus, Zende's calls prevented many commuters from walking into the path of two gunmen. "It occurred to me, I should prevent people from going to that side," he said.
The attackers had already shot up the other wing of the 130-year-old railway station, littering it with dead bodies, puncturing windows with bullet holes.