I heard footsteps in my room.
Someone stood for a moment right beside the bed. That person hurriedly moved towards the bathroom to ensure there was no one hiding and shouted something in a language I had no knowledge of.
He ran outside, and they ambushed someone in the very next room.
I felt suffocated as the smell of gunpowder reached me.
Outside, sirens blared on patrol cars.
The assailants must’ve spent about five minutes in the other room.
There were two of them, talking to one another.
And then, there was silence after the last footsteps down the corridor had died down. I slid the door of my closet.
Even with all the commotion around, the cacophony dropped dead as I tried hard to strain my senses as to find out if they had really left.
Cautiously, I stepped outside and stood for a second. On tip toes, I moved towards the door.
I stood holding it, moving just my head to peek outside. To my right, I saw the couple lying in a pool of blood, still holding hands. I headed left, and reached the room of the next door. I could take deep breaths now. But for reasons beyond my comprehension, I still was breathing scantily between the gulps of air I took in to hold. I was no longer in the closet. I will never know why I did that.
Another explosion. It rocked the hotel as if there was an earthquake. I clung to the wall. My legs felt funny. They were failing to hold me up.
I heard voices, coming from the end of the corridor where the terrorists had moved to. And footsteps. This really, was the end of my life. I gathered all my strength and focused it all on my feet.
But they gave in. I fell headfirst on the creaky wooden floor, but not before catching a glimpse of armoured officers rushing towards me.
I was standing at one of the windows, watching the parade that day from the third floor.
Suddenly, amidst the noise, three explosions down the length of the road had me falling down on my knees and covering my ears. I looked up and saw people running, flesh strewn about the road and the some of the exhibitions had caught fire. There was just too much to grasp. I was in a panic, sitting there, staring immobilised.
And it was then that I saw,
A pick up van arrive and its tyres screeched as it pulled to a hault. At least ten men came scrambling out of it.
These men wore masks. They opened fire at those who were fleeing and the second a siren was discernible, they separated in groups of three and entered three buildings.
And I saw them entering the hotel I was in.
I just couldnt move. I could hear gunshots downstairs.
I rose and looked at the open door. My thoughts went to my husband who had gone down to bring breakfast.
I saw a couple run past my room and I ran straight to join them.
But I stopped midway when I heard the woman scream. And then, multiple shots.
Was I going to die?
I heard commotion in the hallway.
Mechanically, I sprung into the closet space and slid its door close.
And I held my breath.
I switched off my phone lest it started ringing.
I no longer remember, how long I was in there.
I think I spent my entire life hiding out in that closet.
Almost as if all that had transpired in my life before that was lost in a haze. There was no beginning and I saw no end to that endless wait.
I was like a bullet mid air.
Ananya had, of late, developed a fear of crowded public places. Any commotion made her extremely nervous and insecure. Yet today, as if she had to face the devil right in the face, she was haggling with the sabjiwala over the price of red juicy tomamtoes and overtly conscious of the shrill voices around her, she felt weak in the knees. It was almost as if her sanity had broken down to many dimensions, each dealing with a different dilemma -scorching heat, people brushing past, a man staring at her and the horrible fright of having her purse snatched. Having bought all that she needed for the week, she waved frantically to Manoj, her driver. Noticing her, he hurriedly disposed of the cigarette butt and rushed to help her with the bags.
‘This one. Keep it properly in the back seat, okay? It’s quite heavy.’
‘I can carry the other one, too, Madamji.’
‘Na na. Just take that one. I’m coming. I have to be at the jeweller’s. So do something, Bhaiya, park the car in front of the United Clinic.’