Actress Amrita Raichand recalls being trapped in Taj on 26/11: "Bodies were being rolled out, I heard screams & gunshots"
Amrita Raichand recalls being trapped in Taj on 26/11
The 26/11 attacks in 2008 would forever be etched in the memory of every Indian. The nation was shaken when coordinated terrorist attacks were made in Mumbai, that went on for as long as 4 days. One of the places attacked was the Taj Mahal Palace. And on that fateful night, actress and chef Amrita Raichand was also inside the hotel. Today, as we remember the night and pay homage to those who lost their lives, Amrita Raichand recalled being trapped inside the hotel and recounted what she saw.
In a Humans Of Bombay post, Amrita Raichand said, “My birthday is on 26th November. That night, to celebrate, we decided to go to the Taj. My son had just turned 1–I was sceptical about leaving him behind, but when my family insisted, I agreed. Moreover, a friend was staying at Taj, so we made dinner plans. In retrospect, I wish I had listened to my gut."
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And then, she witnessed what would forever scar her. "We entered the hotel at 9 & went to our friend’s room for drinks. As we were settling in, we heard what sounded like fireworks. Oblivious to what was happening, I said, ‘The whole city is celebrating my birthday!’ After 15 mins, we heard the sound again, but this time it sounded like gunshots. What I saw from the window shocked me… bodies were being rolled out. When we called the receptionist, she asked us to stay put. And so, we did. An hour later, a deafening sound shook the building. What followed was chaos–I heard screams, people being dragged & gunshots. We switched off the lights & put our phones on silent. But even the silence was thunderous.
I remember, at midnight I asked my husband, ‘What will happen to our son if we don’t make it?’ Just then, there was a 2nd blast–the dome was on fire & we were engulfed in smoke. My mind went back to my son at home...We wetted the towels & put them by the door. We even tried breaking open the window, but in vain. Night turned into morning, & we were still there…breathing smoke & losing hope," the post read.
But thankfully, the fire brigade arrived- "And then we heard a fire brigade–we flickered the light & thankfully, they saw us! The fire brigade somehow broke open our window. It took us an hour to climb down the rope; it was excruciating. But we all made it!
The morning of 27/11, when I got back home, I held my son in the tightest embrace. But the trauma of that night stayed with me. I’d find it hard to even use the loo by myself. And fireworks? Their sound still terrorises me. But next year, on my birthday, on 26/11, I faced my fear–I went back to Taj to celebrate! And that day, it wasn’t just me, it was everyone celebrating OUR comeback–the staff, the guests, all of us. And ever since, it’s been a ritual. Every 26/11, I say a prayer for all those we lost & then in the evening, head to Taj to celebrate those who fought & triumphed their terror!”
Amrita is a famous chef who has also been part of films like Ready, in which she played Asin's friend Pooja and Ali Fazal's Baat Bann Gayi.