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Karambir Kang has kept away from his family suite on Taj's sixth floor

Source: ANI
November 26, 2009 14:05 IST
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For Karambir Kang, the general manager of Taj hotel in Mumbai, not much has changed over the year.

Kang, who lost his wife and two sons in the 26/11 carnage, still feels them around him and cannot make himself visit the suite on the sixth floor of the hotel where they were found dead.

Kang says he would rather remember the family he lost, his wife, Niti, and their sons, Uday and Samar, as happy and vibrant, full of life.

"I have not entered that room -- it's not something I have done. Even in the aftermath I did not go in. I did not see the bodies. I refused to do this. To me, the last memories I want to remember are of them still alive," The Independent quotes Kang, as saying.

Remarkably, after their deaths, he discovered that on the day the militants struck, his wife and sons had visited the hotel photographer and posed for happy, carefree pictures.

That is how remembers them now.

In the lobby of the 107-year-old building of the Taj, Kang became famous as the man who worked without sleep to try and save his guests.

Even after his family had perished -- they were trapped in their room when the terrorists set the sixth floor on fire, and Kang had been speaking to his wife by phone until the very end -- he refused to leave the hotel, insisting that he could help save the lives of others. At the time, his behaviour appeared remarkable, robotic even, but that was not the case.

Sitting in the hotel's Sea Lounge, Kang says that during those 60 terrible hours he received strength from his mother.

When he called his mother to say that the commandos had finally broken into his family's suite and had found them dead, huddled together in the bathroom -- his wife cradling one son and the body of the other lying beside them -- she had told him that he must do whatever he could for those still alive.

"I thought about it for a minute and I thought, ''Yes, that is the right thing do''," he says.

After the siege, many people told him that he should move away from Mumbai. He thought about it but decided to stay.

"If my family died here... I think it's my moral duty to be here, maybe more than that -- something deeper," he says.

"It's important for me to oversee this task of rebuilding and see (the hotel) better than before. But also that I act in a way that makes my family, who are no longer around, proud of me. Perhaps (I need) to redeem myself," says Kang.

A year after 10 Islamist militants swept ashore and laid deadly siege on Mumbai leaving over 180 people dead and a nation stunned, the historic Taj Mahal Palace hotel is buzzing with the sound of workmen. Staffers say it is the sound of recovery, of the hotel coming back to life -- the sound of defiance.

"It's not a question of forgetting. It's not forgotten, but we go ahead with our lives and we make sure this does not happen again," says Farhang Jehani, one of the owners of the Leopold Café, the first place that was attacked by the terrorists.

Additional Commissioner Deven Bharti, one of the policemen who interrogated the sole surviving militant Ajmal Kasab, the 21-year-old "highly motivated terrorist" whose trial is still on, admits to the failure by the security forces, in particular a "failure of imagination".

"We never thought that 10 people from Pakistan would land in Mumbai and engage five targets. I don't think there's anywhere in the world where militants have taken up five targets. The re-organisation and retraining has involved closer cooperation with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other international groups.

"It has been a great learning experience," Bharti adds.

Sebastian D'Souza, photo editor of English daily Mumbai Mirror, who rushed to Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus station to shoot the now-iconic image of Kasab, says the city has rapidly returned to how things were, despite the carnage and the chaos.

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Source: ANI