Monday, November 28, 2011

The hospital that saved itself remembers 26/11

Mumbai, November 28, 2011(7starnews)

She says she can feel the chill running down her spine when she is reminded of the horror the Cama and Albless Hospital went through on November 26, 2008. "When I went for the identification parade of Kasab [lone surviving gunman of the 26/11 attack], he smirked and said to me, 'Madam, you have recognised me right. I am Ajmal Kasab.\' I felt hopeless about our system that day. He could say something like that to me because he knew how our system is," Anjali Gunte, a nurse at the hospital, said.

She was among the many staffers of the hospital who, by their sheer presence of mind and dutifulness, saved the lives of hundreds of patients and their relatives by turning of all the lights and locking up the patients inside rooms. The darkness misled Kasab and his accomplice who could not understand that it was a hospital. The children and women\'s hospital had many pregnant women admitted at that time.

"When so many lives were lost in the terror attack at other better guarded places in the city that night, our staff showed an excellent example of presence of mind by switching of all lights, locking up the patients and misleading the terrorists. Otherwise, the casualty of women and children here would have added to the nightmare," matron of the hospital Chhaya Lad said.

Ms. Gunte feels disgusted at the security measures taken to protect Kasab. "When I went to the jail, I saw soldiers at every 10 steps for Kasab\'s security. If the government can spend so much on the security of one terrorist, why can\'t it spend on the security of its hospitals?" she said.

"We have been appreciated for serving our patients. We did not think if the woman in front of us was a Hindu or a Muslim. We did our duty. But our appreciation will make sense only when there will be adequate security provided to the hospitals. Yes, CCTV cameras have been installed. But the guard manning the entrances still has only a lathi in his hands. Do you think he will be able to fight an attack?" she added.

Hospital superintendent Rajshri Katke said a proposal was sent to the government about providing armed security personnel at the entrance.

The staff remembered the night that tested their strength, made them sweat and later thank the almighty for their survival. For liftman Chandrakant Tikhe it was a rebirth. He had a close brush with the terrorists when they held him at gunpoint and made him show them directions till the policemen rescued him. He shows the scar of the bullet that brushed through from near his neck.

"Despite being held at gunpoint, he did not tell the terrorists about the patients and where everyone was holed up. He took them directly to the top floor. His presence of mind saved us all," Babaram Kadam, an employee of the hospital said.

The hospital has constructed a memorial for the two security guards who fell prey to the terrorists\' bullets. Bhanu Deu Narkar and Baban Walu Ughade were shot dead on the ground floor. As Sushila Baban Ughade reached the spot where her husband died three years ago, she burst into tears.

"Life is dark without him. Only we know how difficult it has been to survive without him," were the only words the 50-something-old could manage to speak as she wailed.

Mother to three sons, she said the hospital gave a job to her second son. "But my eldest son is still unemployed. He has four children. How is he supposed to survive? My third son is still studying."

The family received due monetary compensation from the Central and State governments. "But we were also promised that we will either be given a gas agency or a petrol pump. We haven\'t yet received it," she said.

Wife of Bhanu Deu Narkar Sunanda Bhanu Narkar is trying to piece together her life. Bride-hunting for her elder son has been keeping her busy since the past few days, she toldThe Hindu. "We have met quite a few girls. But he has not liked anyone till now. We should get him married within a year now," she said about her 30 year-old elder son Pravin Bhanu Narkar. Even Pravin has been given the job of a security guard in place of his father on compassionate grounds.

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