“Kal raat Mumbai ke Taj Hotel mein terrorist attack hua”
“Aur CST aur Oberoi Hotel mein bhi”
I was sitting in my school bus staring out of the window while going to Kalu Sarai for my coaching class, when I heard these words from my seniors. This was on the afternoon of Thursday, November 27, 2008. The next four hours passed without any discussion regarding the topic until I was in the bus again, returning to hostel. And now I knew this was something serious.
Getting down from the bus at 9 PM and rushing to the dining hall to serve our PCM/B-fed (read Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics/Biology- we were all IIT/AIIMS aspirants after all!) starved stomaches some delicious food (We were then told that DPS VK Hostel’s food was incomparable to any other hostel in the country. Now I do not doubt this! I actually gained weight there!) would have been considered normal on any other day.
But this day was different. The entire boys’ hostel was headed to the rec room (that’s what we termed the ‘Recreation Room’). The TV was switched on. The channels were flipped. 9XM and V were given a miss today. The surfing didn’t even stop on ESPN for Sports Centre. For a change, we, the boys, flipped over to the news channels! Yes, the many news channels! We were part of the millions across the country watching a LIVE terror attack! Switching through all the news channels some showed how the entire attack had begun the previous night through animations, names about to be immortalised including that of Hemant Karkare were flashing on the screen, and the world was watching.
The guard (I don’t remember if it was Rana bhaiya or Kirkitta bhaiya that day) came in and called us to have our dinner first, but we were hardly bothered for food at that time. We contacted our warden and got an extension till 11 PM to be in the rec (which was otherwise only seen during India’s cricket matches or when ManU and Chelsea were on for the last goals) and watched as CRPF personnel reached the Taj which was already on fire.
I have no idea what the scenario was at the adjoining girls’ hostel’s rec room that day. It must be something similar. The biggest event of the day was however on the boys’ side: Yes, we the boys were actually watching news, without any worry for the upcoming CPT (Common Practice Test) or Phase Test! Aim IIT and PMT were completely forgotten for some moments!
Kasab was not known to Indians then. Neither was this known that he would be caught alive and given the best of world-class services by the Indian government. Nobody then gave it a thought that he would still be alive three years from what was going to be termed as 26/11- the biggest terror attack that the world had seen since 9/11!
None of us was aware of the fact that a year from now, DPS VK would be remembering this day- 26/11- for another and a much more closer-home reason, for the loss of its founder Principal Mr Vinay Kumar. I never had any conversations with the man except one which was after I had won the CBSE Science Exhibition 2009 in October-end that year. But still, the loss was felt throughout the walls of the place that I and my friends call ‘heaven’. This had come as unexpected and that too on a completely unexpected and eventful day.
I, a Computer Engineering expectant at one of the Indian Institute of Technology, didn’t know [then] that three years from now, I would be sitting in the comforts of my home, typing this blog entry at a blog which nobody ever cared to visit [then], and would be preparing for my third semester exams for a degree in journalism and mass communication. How times have changed!