Sunday Snippets: Flashback – The day when Bombay was bombed
By Venkatesh Raghavan
I just felt like recalling how it was for me as a field reporter on March 12, 1993. As I was dusting my bookshelf, a copy of the book Black Friday caught my eye. It set me thinking down memory lane.
I was on day calls and my reporter friend Khetan Shetty was inside the computer room at The Free Press Journal. I received a call from our managing editor GL Lakhotia. There’s a huge blast at the share market. Please go and check.
I immediately went in and told Shetty, I think we should rush to the spot. Shetty was dismissive of it saying, I don’t think we need to bother. I immediately roped in Niranjan Menon from the commerce desk. We both hired a taxi from Nariman Point, heading to the stock market.
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No sooner we reached the pathway near Horniman circle, we met a huge crowd that blocked the entire stretch of road. We got to see the remains of a massive blast that occurred at the basement car parking of the stock exchange.
There was total chaos. A man was seen carrying his splintered hand with the other and rushing with no help at sight. People were seen blocking taxis and requesting the drivers to carry wounded persons to the nearest hospital. Amidst the mayhem there was a voice seeking to know who’s done it. How did the blast occur. A person standing nearby explained, it was a generator that had gone burst and not a bomb blast.
Soon as I and Menon tried to make our way through the mess, a female journalist Surekha met us and said there was a blast at the Air India building. I immediately told Menon, we have to rush to office and regroup, each one of us taking charge of different aspects.
Our chief reporter Glen D’Souza asked me to cover the hospitals and get the death and injured counts. I managed to tow around and get the numbers, having covered GT hospital, St George Hospital and Cama Hospital. I finally made a trip to Bombay Hospital at Marine Lines east. The security refused to let me in, initially. I then told them that I was a blood donor and had come to donate blood.
After they relented, I first attended to donating blood and subsequently obtained the figures of total deaths and injured ones. When I reached office and started keying in my copy, Glen told me there’s a press conference at the 22nd floor of Air India. I was expected to attend and revert to office.
Nearly an hour later, as I finished giving my inputs, I was horrified on hearing about the landmine blast that took place inside a BEST bus at Worli and a massive explosion near the petrol pump adjoining Sena Bhuvan at Dadar West.
By then news of explosions at hotel Sea rock and grenade attacks at Mahim Fisherman colony besides Sahar airport had also poured in. The chief sub editor Emanuel Kingsley looked at my arms that bore the plaster mark of blood donation and asked, did you get injured. I shook my head and explained why I volunteered to donate blood.
There was an aura of fear all around. People in the city were unsure of what to expect. Two days later, I reported about a two-wheeler packed with explosives being safely defused by the bomb squad near the precincts of Dadar East.
The spot mentioned by the cops indicated that it was very close to the beer bar where I used to have my regular Sunday evening tipple. As I headed home, I shuddered to think about what could have happened if the explosive had gone off while I was sipping my tipple.