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.
Kanda Noriyaki, a chef at the hotel’s Japanese restaurant, led guests trembling and screaming with fear to safety.
“We hid in the restaurant,” Noriyaki told Reuters. “We could hear the firing somewhere very close. Intermittently, there were blasts.”
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.”