By Venkatachari JagannathanChennai, Nov 27, 2008 : He is back literally from the clutches death by the Mumbai terror attackers on November 26, 2008.
Perhaps not many bank executives would have endured the 13-year-old ordeal that K.
R.Ramamoorthy, 81-year-old Chairman and Managing Director of ING Vysya Bank and then Corporation Bank, and later Non-Executive Chair of ING Vysya Bank, went through.
Ramamoorthy was then 69 years old and was held captive by terrorists at Taj Mahal Palace Hotel’s room Number 632.He was also assaulted.
He was tied up and pinned to a floor, and then four more hostages, all hotel staffers, were brought into the room.
“I believe in Goddess Karpagambal of Kapaleeswarar Temple, Mylapore, Chennai.He said, “I took a deep breath, and let her decide my life.”
Ramamoorthy’s bedroom became the control room where the four terrorists interacted with their handlers abroad.
“The terrorists were tying grenades to the cabinets.They could have destroyed the room at any time.Trembling, I realized my minutes, not days, were numbered,” the Banker thought.
Ramamoorthy accepted the dire situation he was in, owing to his religious upbringings and philosophical beliefs.
He decided to accept it and not panic excessively.
He tried to escape by climbing down from the fifth story of the hotel.
“I also realized how great an engineer God was in designing the human anatomy that can secrete adrenaline when it is needed.My life was in danger for six hours.
I was able, after being pinned down, to run the risk of getting shot, smoke, and fire.After getting out of the fire, I was unable to sit in a car for more than 20 minutes.I was admitted to Jaslok hospital.Ramamoorthy recalled his incredible escape story and how he realized the adrenaline magic.
Retired Banker, who was a member of the Board of several corporates, attended a meeting in Mumbai on November 26, 2008 and checked into the iconic hotel that day.
“After a long dinner walk outside, I returned to my room on the sixth level and found that the water bottle was not adequate.The room service did not respond.Ramamoorthy stated that she went down to pick up some water bottles.
He looked outside the room and saw three policemen armed with rifles and security personnel from the hotel.
They saw Ramamoorthy and signalled him to return to the room.Sensing something was not right, the Banker went back to Room No.632 to call room service.
Soon, he received a call from his room phone.A staff member stated that an emergency was occurring at the hotel.He disconnected the line.
Ramamoorthy then switched to a news channel that showed terror attacks, including at Taj Mahal Palace.
The hotel television went off at 11 p.m.Soon Ramamoorthy began to hear gunshots, some from his room and others far away.
He heard knocks on his door a few minutes later, and a voice called out “room service, room services”, but he remained quiet.
Again, there were knocks.This time, the voice said “Shoe polish, Shoe polish”
Ramamoorthy was aware that someone was trying gain entry to the room.He blurted out Hindi.
Instantly, gunshots were heard in the room lock.
The terrorists entered the bathroom while Ramamoorthy attempted to lock himself in the bathroom.
“Before my lock myself, two terrorists came in with guns and one put the gun on my head and ordered that I kneel and raise both my hands.
Ramamoorthy replied that they wanted to keep silent because of my high blood pressure and age.
Ramamoorthy was ordered to remove his clothes and tie his hands with his kurta and pyjama by the terrorists.They also hit Ramamoorthy on the neck and shoulders
They asked Ramamoorthy for a lie down, then kicked him with the boots.
One held a gun to Ramamoorthy’s back, while the other started to talk to their handlers and discuss how to gain entry to a room, taking Ramamoorthy hostage.
Two hours passed without much change except for the sounds of gunshots and blasts that reached the room.One terrorist fled the room.
Soon, he had two hostages.Two more terrorists entered the hotel room along with several hotel staff members later.
The terrorists consumed the drinks and snacks in the room, then used the washroom to rest on the bed before they began their questioning.
“They asked me my name, dad’s name, residence, and telephone number, as per their instructions.”
“When asked about my profession, i said teacher.I was then hit hard by one terrorist.
The terrorists were then asked their physical description by the handlers: spectaled, bald, and stout.Ramamoorthy stated that I realized they knew about me.
Realizing that Ramamoorthy was an expensive captive, the handlers requested the terrorists to keep him until they are safe, and then kill him.
Two terrorists left the room, but the others led the hostages to Room No.520 on the fifth floor.
“After some time, a deafening explosion shook the hotel.
There was a lot of smoke, and the terrorists were also very excited.Ramamoorthy stated that they fled us on the orders of their handlers and then went down.
The hostages were freed by the hotel staff who made a rope from curtains and bedsheets and tied it to a rod above.
Ramamoorthy, a young hotel staff member, was reluctant to slide down because he was afraid that the rope would break and not support his weight.
He then took off his T-shirt and pyjamas belonging to the previous room occupant and left the room.The corridor was filled with smoke and gunshots could be heard.
Ramamoorthy somehow reached third floor, entered a room, and opened the window.
“I waved at firemen outside, and they brought a ladder to me and another lady to the ground.
I called my wife using her phone and shared my story.She couldn’t take it anymore and fell apart.Ramamoorthy stated, “I also broke down.”
Later, he composed himself and told his son about his experience.He then went to Jaslok Hospital.
Ramamoorthya’s son was watching the television news about the terror attacks and was subject to a lot of mental pressure.
Ramamoothy answered a question about post-hostage trauma and said that for six months, he was unable to sleep in hotel rooms.Even the sound outside of the room would cause me shivers, disrupting my sleep.
Ramamoorthy once stayed at Room No.632 at Taj Mahal Palace, to escape this syndrome.
Ramamoorthy stated, “Coincidentally, that morning I heard Ajmal Kasab, one of the terrorists was hanged that same day.”
Ramamoorthy says he prefers smaller rooms in low-profile hotels.
“I also stopped talking about it because it would increase my blood pressure.Ramamoorthy stated that after a long break, he is now speaking to IANS about the topic.
Curiously, this is not his first terror attack in Mumbai.
He said, “In 2003 I had another escape when a bomb exploded at a location I had just left a few minutes before.”
(Venkatachari Jagannathan can be contacted at v.jagannathan[email protected])
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