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"They work every day" -- in Mumbai bombing

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Reuters:

Staff emerge as heroes in Mumbai hotel sieges
MUMBAI (Reuters) - Prashant Mangeshikar could be dead, one of more than a hundred victims of militant attacks across Mumbai landmarks, if it had not been for an employee at the Taj Mahal Hotel.

Mangeshikar, his wife and daughter were in the foyer of the 105-year-old hotel on Wednesday night when Islamist gunmen opened indiscriminate fire in one of a series of coordinated attacks in India's financial capital.

Recovering from the initial shock and chaos, hotel staff shepherded the guests, including the Mangeshikar family, through the service section upstairs -- only suddenly to come face to face with one of the gunmen.

"He looked young and did not speak to us. He just fired. We were in sort of a single file," Mangeshikar, a 52-year-old gynecologist, told Reuters. "The man in front of my wife shielded us. He was a maintenance section staff. He took the bullets."

The tale of the unnamed staff member has echoed across Mumbai where, time after time, hotel workers have emerged as the people who shielded, hid or evacuated their wealthy guests from militants at the Taj and Trident/Oberoi hotels.

Hotel workers in one case ushered guests into a conference room and then locked the doors to protect them from the militants. The guests were later rescued by the fire brigade.

The staff often proved essential, knowing short cuts to safety and where emergency exits were located. ...

"The hotel staff has been very, very brave," Mangeshikar said. "Hats off to them."

As the gunmen went around spraying bullets, on another floor hotel staff struggled to secure the doors with bedsheets and put tables and beds against the doors.

Kanda Noriyaki, a chef at the hotel's Japanese restaurant, led guests trembling and screaming with fear to safety.

Many evacuees from the hotel hailed the bravery of the staff. "Just imagine, they even served us food the first few hours," said a hotel guest, who did not wish to be named. "Only when the kitchens became out of bounds did they express regret for not being able to serve us food."

One person recounted how Taj staff stopped panicky guests from rushing into the lobby where militants could have shot them.

"They were brilliant," Bhisham Mansukhani told the Mail Today. "If they hadn't kept their cool, many more lives would have been lost."

Mangeshikar said that, but for the courage of Mr. Rajan, his wife and daughter could have been dead.

"I'm going out today to the hospital to find out what happened to him," he said. "I owe it to that brave man."

What's sad and telling, of course, is that the Reuters story has no interviews with any of the staff. Under the bus!

And that may be the real story. Versailles is powerful...

NOTE Kudos to Reuters for at least mentioning the staff. The Times wrap-up does not. The Times of London does:

Bombay: wealthy owe lives to hotel’s cummerbund heroes
Before the attacks, the Taj Mahal was possibly one of the most civilised places on earth, largely thanks to the people who worked there.

Everything about them was just so, from the impressive moustaches of the impeccably dressed porters who opened guests’ car doors, to the perfectly pressed waistcoats of the bartenders and to the silk saris of the female concierge staff.

This army of workers had been brought together from the four corners of the world – Japanese sushi specialists served daily delicacies; there was a Turkish head chef at the famed Lebanese restaurant, Souk, an establishment favoured by the wealthy Arabs who regularly pass through. For an ordinary citizen of Bombay, a city where half the population lives in slums, a trip to the Taj would leave a memory that would last a lifetime. The hotel staff prided themselves on serving maharajas and princes, heads of states, tycoons, captains of industry and modern-day corporate nomads.

The Taj’s architectural influences are Moorish, Oriental, Indian and Florentine. Public areas have vaulted alabaster ceilings, hand-woven carpets and crystal chandeliers. And the staff were just as classy as the décor.

Classy, perhaps. But not of a class to be fit subjects for interviews, apparently.

Meanwhile, WaPo works the mercenary angle, focusing on a security team with walkie-talkies, in town for a cricket match, who "joined with" staff in leading guests to safety. Of course, there are no interviews with staff from WaPo either.

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Damon's picture
Submitted by Damon on

I hadn't heard of this. This really is something else. It'd be hard to imagine such selflessness happening at say a Holiday Inn.

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

and the public on the scene, too--are always the real heroes, usually.

Mumbai has had tons of bombs and attacks (something else the media isn't really making clear, i'd say) -- the Kashmir stuff--and longstanding Hindu/Muslim violence, etc.

The attackers knew that targeting foreigners and high-class places would get worldwide attention -- as opposed to the commuter train bombings recently there -- which really didn't.

MsExPat's picture
Submitted by MsExPat on

you wouldn't be surprised by how the staff reacted so selflessly.

The service in these establishments is beyond extraordinary, and the ethos of the staff seems to be from the 19th century, very "Upstairs, Downstairs" in its professionalism and dedication. In India, and to a certain extent in Hong Kong, the idea of the Grand Hotel lives on, even as it has died out in Europe.

During another terrorist scare, some years ago, I staggered into the Oberoi Hotel in Calcutta (after sleeping one night on the floor of Heathrow Airport) with nothing but my passport, my wallet, and the sweaty clothes on my back (my confiscated luggage would remain "lost" in Heathrow for the next 10 days.)

The amazing Oberoi staff whisked me to my (well-appointed) room, loaned me a set of exquisite Indian cotton pajamas. In a half-hour, they had located a tailor and sent him to my room.

I still have the card of the desk attendant who assisted me. He refused to take any money so I wrote a glowing letter to the company after returning home.

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

that they automatically treat you like a king or queen, and you never have to really even ask--that they anticipate, and always go above and beyond...

(one day, maybe, i'll see if it's so)