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She saw the terrorists 2 days before 26/11

By Vaihayasi Pande Daniel
Last updated on: November 18, 2009 14:50 IST
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Anamika Gupta survived the shootout at Leopold Cafe that November night. She looks back on the year gone by with Vaihayasi P Daniel.

Everyone seems to know Anamika Gupta at the bustling Leopold Cafe, now an even more famous landmark of Colaba in south Mumbai -- salaams from waiters, nods from the manager and even greetings from some of the regulars.

Are her repeated trips back to Leopold -- where she took three bullets on November 26 last year -- catharsis? She shrugs dispassionately, not agreeing nor disagreeing.

"Maut ko hum ne kareeb se dekha hain. Main zindagi guzaar rahi hoon. Kal kis ne dekha hai (I have seen death at close quarters. I am living my life. Who has seen tomorrow?)? I could have died. But I am here?! Life is bull s--t. There is finally nothing."

Anamika's take on life, since miraculously surviving 26/11, swings between the cheerfully brave, the dramatic and then the mildly morose. Life for her will never be the same again.

"I am a beautician. I have to be on my feet for eight hours or more. Now I can't sit for even six hours," she says.

She no longer works as a beautician and exists on a monthly income she receives from one of the 26/11 funds -- the 26/11 Mumbai Terror Attack Survivors Support and Rehabilitation Project sponsored by the Tatas.

Her injury, a massive and angry swathe across her stomach, her doctor says, will take another six months to heal. "I used to be beautiful. I was conscious of my figure. Now all that is over. I am a beautician (she says again) so naturally I think beauty is important. Of course, beauty is in the heart too. But your figure is also important. When I see my body in the mirror I wonder who will marry me."

What upsets Anamika more, right now, is her recent interaction with the police. On November 5, 6 and 7, Anamika was called to the Mumbai police commissioner's office to re-record, she says, her original statement that she gave, wounded from her bed at the J J Hospital last year.

She was called to re-record her statement after an interview she granted the local Lemon television network, which aired November 2.

Anamika feels the police do not take her evidence seriously because they think she is seeking publicity. "They are saying I am after TRPs (Television Rating Points, which indicates how popular a television programme is. I am surviving myself. Does the police commissioner have a bullet? I don't mind if they harass me, but they call up my brother, my mother and my sister-in-law and harass them."

She says she had given the exact same evidence to the police last year and they did not take cognisance of it. She says it was conveyed to her that much of her information was not needed.

Anamika said she told them, "I saw the terrorists who attacked Leopold Cafe two days before 26/11. It was 1.30 am. I used to live in Colaba market near Dr Modi's clinic (close to Nariman House). I saw four people leave Nariman House and get on two motorcycles and go to Delhi Darbar (a restaurant near the Regal cinema in south Mumbai). I am a chain smoker and I went out to buy cigarettes at the cigarettewallah that stays opens very late in front of Delhi Darbar. I love beautiful bikes so I noticed them. They were beauuutiful bikes. And one of the boys was very good looking, so I noticed him. And one had long hair."

"On 26/11 I noticed them again sitting at a table in Leopold. I told my friend Sarika 'See there is that same chikna (good looker) we saw the other day. I clicked his snap on my cell phone pretending I was taking Sarika's picture. But my cell phone got lost. They were sitting at that table (she points to the table next to the door facing the main road) and having beer. Bullshit they did not drink!"

"I mistook them for Israelis. I thought they were some tourists roaming around because Mumbai is a nice place and it is a good season now. One of them was very handsome. The other was bald, with dirty lips and dirty, up-down teeth."

For Anamika spotting these men earlier is not in the least surprising. Though a bit chilling. "How is it possible that just 10 people did this attack? How did they know that there was a lane to the Taj next to Leopold? And that one could enter there?"

She firmly feels it is logical that they did a survey of the area from a few days before and that was how she spotted them in and around Colaba.

Being a witness at Leopold that night did not give the 26/11 investigators sufficient reason to bring her to court. She was not called to depose in the Kasab trial. "Do you know that the police does not even know where I got injured?"

Anamika is grappling with a series of difficulties. She received her compensation of Rs 150,000 from the government promptly and is working out how she can start her own beauty salon so she can have something to do with her time.

But it is the health troubles that niggle. The bullets were all removed but she lives with a succession of splinters inside her. "I have a sinus problem. Sometimes when I cough there is blood. My wound often pains. Mentally I am not prepared."

We are sitting just two tables away from the critical spot where Anamika was sitting at on November 26 (where she often comes back and sits for a meal). She tells you that the terrorist duo, after drinking beer in Leopold, split up after leaving the cafe. One stationed himself at the door looking out into the lane going up to the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower hotel. The other stood at the door facing the neighborhood's main thoroughfare, Colaba Causeway, and mercilessly fired in.

"It took a few minutes for me to realise: He is a terrorist and Bombay is having a terrorist attack."

Shortly after that she was shot and succeeded in agonisingly dragging herself first to the police station, where she was apprarently given no help, and later to the popular, tony Indigo restaurant where she awaited an ambulance, all the while conscious.

"The manager there was trying to help. But he was also worried about protecting his restaurant and was busy turning off the lights, shutting down the restaurant and said an ambulance would come. At 11.30 (a bystander who helped the victims) Felix Ambrose came and like a baby carrying a child he picked me up and carried me to a taxi and took me to the hospital."

"The doctor there -- a Dr Gupta -- was very good. It was a a big miracle. Janata (the people) is beautiful in Bombay. The janata always helps!"


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Vaihayasi Pande Daniel