On a mildly nippy night in November 2008, during a meeting with photographer Dhaval Dhairyawan’s sister Vrushali, I received a text message informing me of a probable gang-war that had broken out in Colaba. We were seated at a Barista in Bandra and I requested the manager to switch to a news channel. He did so, to everyone’s discomfort and I caught a glimpse of my guru Srinivas Akella on NDTV, walking around taking pictures of people helping a blood soaked man outside Leopold. I called Raju Shinde of Mumbai Mirror and he said, “Sab chod, VT aaja!” (“Leave everything, come down to Victoria Terminus.”). I zipped through the streets on my bike; took the longer yet faster route via JJ flyover that would drop me right outside VT. I was blocked by a posse of cops, so I took the route behind Xavier’s College, past the backside of Esplanade court, between JJ School of Arts and Times of India, into a lane that leads to a bridge that drops you outside the station. I met KK Choudhary, once a portrait photographer at Gateway of India, the ten rupees-a-print kind, whose fortunes turned when he survived the blasts at the monument in 2003. He made some gritty images of survivors which were bought by newspapers and agencies and circulated worldwide. KK was hired by Afternoon Despatch and Courier and he later joined TOI and has been there since close to a decade now.
KK came towards me while I was trying to park my bike. I had already armed myself with a telephoto and a flash whose batteries, for a change, were fully charged. Before we knew it a flash went off from the third or fourth floor of the side of the TOI building. Cloaked in the darkness of the bridge, someone responded with the first of many gun shots of the night.
PHOTO CAPTION - Frightened under the roar of bullets, a young man clings to a passer by while TV reporters relay live information to their news bureaus.
Over the next few days, I shall be posting photos and excerpts from a personal account I wrote for www.galli.in, on covering the terror strikes that paralyzed Mumbai on the night of 26th November 2008. Link in bio.
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