Rahul Welde, Asia Pac media head of Unilever, and a friend to many of us, made it out of his sixth floor room on the Taj through sheer presence of mind and faith in God. Am sharing with you all the email he sent upon returning home.
Subject : Lucky to have survived ; Living in good shape
My heartfelt thanks to you for your support and wishes during the horrific experience. I havent yet had a chance to connect with everyone and hence this bulk mail - this is so not my way of doing it. My apologies for that.
I want you to know that this is NOT a mindless forward but a straight message from someone you've known.
I wont go much into details of what happened that night. To cut the long story short - I was holed up in my room at the Taj hotel the fateful night of the terrorist attack. Managed to escape by the skin of my teeth at around 4 am - in sheer denial of allowing fire and smoke to swallow me. By gods grace I managed to make the run down 6 floors and some few metres without the devil in my way. You can imagine how happy I am to be here typing this away. ( For anyone who wants to know the gore - let me know. I have the full story and transcripts of my SMSes recorded for posterity - to keep my anger burning and reminding me of my purpose)
I thought I'd leave a few messages which might be of help to all good people. In the modern day world, risks are a plenty. Terrorists, tsnunamis, earthquakes - the list can go on. None of these check on your profile, company, religion, class or seniority when they hit. They just hit. And we know now it can happen anywhere. Here are a few things we could all do to keep it safer and better.
Firstly, value your family and friends. Two things I strongly recommend you check on
1. Make sure you are covered well by insurance. Even if you are well off - leave them better off if the unfortunate were to happen.
2. Let them know details on things like bank accounts, investments etc. Keep a folio with your spouse and close family.
3. Use every waking moment to cherish what you have - family, friends, nature. Stay smiling, laughing and caring.
Admittedly these arent things I thought about deeply till now. I shudder at the thought of what if.
Lets move from the philosphical to the more practical.
There are a few lessons that I want to share
1. When in a hotel or a new place - please NOTE where the FIRE EXIT is. The fire exit route saved my life. I had no clue of where it was and why I ran where I did. Why I turned left or right. Providential escape for me - nothing more. I've stayed in hotels for years and don't remember ever paying attention to this. Its a few seconds invested that can save you from big trouble.
2. Insist on taking a room in the outer periphery - where the fire brigade can reach you. My room was on the inside and I tell you what - there was no chance the fire brigade would ever reach me. They would have always been a few yards but several hours away. Ever thought of this detail.
3. A key item on your survival kit is your cellphone. I give it to Apple for developing the Iphone - a real smart gadget. Whatever your phone – a critical checkpoint is battery life. Often we wait for battery to go down before charging. Dont ! Keep it full charge all the time. All the SMSes saved my senses and maybe even my life.
4. I learnt for the first time that when running through fire and/or smoke - run bending down and wrap a wet blanket around. I did that thanks to a friend who advised me. Its a different story I chucked the blanket thinking that the cops would gun me down mistaking me for a terrorist. Good tip nevertheless.
5. Dont miss the aspect of staying fit - in running shape. Can help you and maybe even you can help someone.
Last few days I have heard/read a lot about peace marches and candles and politician bashing and police bashing and whatever else. I am sure a lot of energy will go in all that. Having been there I can only say that every soul - the cop, the fireman, the medico and even the common man on the street was doing the best he could. I dont blame anyone. I am sure good will prevail over evil in the long term. The short term blips we cannot avoid.
I have a lot to say and yet not much more. God is the greatest and leads to the ultimate destiny. I am thankful for all that has been and all that there is now.
Happy to be writing to you and wishe you and the family best for times ahead.
Am sure we will be in touch. Till then.
ps : feel free to forward this to anyone you think might find the message useful to know.