Curry King survives to tell tale of Mumbai terror
November 28, 2008 (IANS)
British tycoons were caught in the terror strike
at Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace and Tower hotel.
Mumbai-born Sir Gulam Noon, known as 'Curry King',
lived to tell the tale. Leading yacht maker Andreas
Liveras could not. Liveras was the lone Briton
to die in the attack. In contrast, it was for
the second time that Noon had a miraculous escape
in a terror strike in Mumbai. He had earlier escaped
unhurt during the 1993 bomb blasts and he was
staying at the Taj hotel at that time too.
Noon, Britain's most famous
Indian-origin businessman, had booked a table
for four - his brother and two businessmen were
the guests - at the hotel's restaurant. But he
felt a little unwell at the last minute and decided
to have the meal in his hotel room. That probably
saved his life as the first place attacked by
the terrorists Wednesday night was the restaurant.
When the firing began, Noon
thought they were wedding fireworks. A moment
later, a bomb went off, shaking the entire hotel.
At first he thought of coming out of his room,
but again fate intervened. Noon changed his mind
and instead called the duty manager who, surprisingly,
was still present his desk. The manager told him
not to stir out of his room as armed people were
in the hotel asking for American and British passport
The businessman told The
Times that he was stuck in his room till 6 a.m.
Thursday. The gunfire was continuous all
night. We were told, 'Don't come out of the room
because the commandos could shoot you by mistake'.
We saw two terrorists on our floor, we heard the
gunfire just outside our room. It was a very frightening
experience," he said.
The ordeal finally ended
for him when a fireman broke open the glass window
in his room and escorted him down the steps of
a crane. "At the bottom the general manager
of the hotel was waiting to greet us with a bottle
of water. The staff were amazing, they stayed
all night, risking their lives.," Noon said.
Noon said he would keep visiting
Mumbai. I live in London but I still love
Mumbai. I can't believe this has happened to my
Unlike the Curry King, multi-millionaire
Liveras was not lucky. He had gone to the Taj
hotel for dinner Wednesday night because he heard
they served the best food in the city. He was
among the first few to fall to the gunmen's bullets,
the Guardian reported. But Liveras had spoken
to a BBC journalist shortly before he died. He
had said: We hid ourselves under the table
and then they switched all the lights off. But
the machine guns kept going, and they took us
into the kitchen, and from there into a basement,
before we came up into a salon where we are now.
"There must be more
than 1,000 people here. There are residents and
tourists and locals. We are not hiding, we are
locked in here - nobody tells us anything, the
doors are locked and we are inside. All we know
is the bombs are next door and the hotel is shaking
every time a bomb goes off. Everybody is just
living on their nerves. Liveras was pronounced
dead on arrival at St. George's hospital at 9.30
p.m. Wednesday, a spokesman for the hospital said.
At least seven injured Britons
were being treated in hospital, including retired
teacher Michael Murphy from Northumberland, who
had to have his spleen removed after he was shot
in the ribs. His wife, Diane, was shot in the
foot and hit by shrapnel.
Another survivor was Vinay
Kuntawala, a 68-year-old British pensioner from
Surrey, England, who was holidaying at the Taj
hotel with his son, Deepak, when the militants
struck. They were having a final snack on the
first floor of the Taj before heading to the airport
to fly back to Britain when Deepak noticed a boat
pulling up to the pier in front of the hotel.
He told The Times: It was full of these
young guys in casual clothes. A few moments later,
I noticed everyone running away from the waterfront
and I heard some shooting. I thought it was a
parade at first, then a fight. Then they started
coming up the stairs into the hotel.
They rushed into the nearby
banquet hall where the entire board of Unilever,
the multinational, was having a meeting. They
all waited there for five hours. By this time
they had heard the gunmen were looking for Americans
and Britons. When the gunfire was heard barely
metres away from the hall, they smashed the window
panes, ripped the curtains, tied them into ropes,
and managed to get out of the hotel. Vinay slipped
at the last moment and broke his leg when he hit