India’s New Heroes, Don’t let them go unsung

Oberoi MumbaiWe are all still recovering from the tragic events of 26/11. Our wounds will not heal overnight. Those terrorist attacks were personal and as Indians we all feel the pain. But coverage of the attacks would not be complete without drawing attention to the human courage, selfless service, endurance and professionalism of the staff at the hotels and restaurants affected by the tragedy. Shiv Singh reflects on the supreme courage of the hospitality staff and what it means.

This is one of India’s most painful moments, but also a proud one especially for those connected to the hospitality industry. The next time I walk into an Oberoi or Taj Hotel, I’m going to look at the staff with new admiration and commend them. In what is considered to be one of India’s darkest moments in recent history, they showed strength of character, bravery and commitment to their guests and the institutions that they represent. Over the last few days more and more eye witness accounts have been surfacing and they all share a common theme – the staff at the hotels displayed extraordinary courage and care for their guests.
One of the guests caught in the mayhem told Reuters that he was served food for the first few hours of the attack while he and other guests were hiding. It was only when the kitchens became too dangerous did the staff stop and they expressed regret for not being able to serve them. Another guest told Mail Today that the staff prevented guests from rushing into the lobby and being killed. They kept their cool as they meted out life saving advice to the panicking guests. In another instance, a member of the staff at the Taj actually shielded guests from bullets by taking them himself. At the Trident/Oberoi hotels too, the staff shielded, hid or evacuated their guests while often putting their own lives at risk in doing so.
Whether it was the Taj’s celebrated Chef Vijay Banja, the hotel receptionist who stayed back to call guests hidden in hotel rooms, Sameer Jalan of Golden Dragan, Paramjit Singh at the Oberoi or Sanju Soni at Frangipani, the staff at the hotels are undoubtedly India’s new heroes. Other staff killed included Kaizad Kamdin, Gautam Gosain, Zaheen Mateen, Sadanand Patil, Rahamathulla, Boris Rego, Thomas Varghese, Rabindra Kanmar and Faustin Martis both of the Taj. All in all, The Taj Mahal Palace and Tower lost 11 employees and the Oberoi/Trident 10 staff members. Tragically, the wife and children of Taj General Manager Karambir Kang who showed exemplary courage and devotion to duty, were also killed.
Both Ratan Tata and P.R.S “Biki” Oberoi are keen to open their hotels as quickly as possible. Cafe Leopold has already opened. And you can bet that the staff at the hotels and the restaurants staff are all back at work already whether it be serving tables or helping guests with lost baggage. It is now up to the rest of us to mimic their courage as much as we can by going back to those hotels, living our lives to the fullest and shrugging off the terrorist threats. Life must go on, we cannot let the terrorists scare us but as we do we should also celebrate the immense courage and bravery of the hotel staff. They’ve done the hospitality industry proud, India proud and deserve our thanks.


  1. Thank you for reminding us so eloquently about the courage of the ordinary man and the heightened sense of duty that so many of our institutions command. Now we just have to make sure that these men did not lose their lives in vain and that shoddy standards and the ‘chalta hai’ attitude will no longer be acceptable in other public services.

  2. We forget the real heroes far too quickly. When 9/11 happened the firefighters who gave their lives saving others were celebrated. In India we don’t do enough to celebrate the bravery of others. Well expressed.

  3. Dear Friends,
    I was in China when Mumbai was hit and I am back now, so I just want to let you know how sorry and appalled I am at what happened to such a peaceful country as yours. As part American I feel you now joined the ranks of unfairly attacked people and I cry for all your lost ones. I don’t know when we’ll get rid of these evil people but for the moment, we have to face the truth, they are unfortunately everywhere and hard to find!!! Yes we all wish our intelligence would find out sooner and more efficiently their where abouts but it always seems so hard to believe that our minds do not really conceive how horrifying their actions can be!
    Just like America, I am sure India will rebound but the deep scars will remain forever and that is the sad part because all these crazy people, just like the Nazis before them, contribute to make humankind ugly and make the world terrorizing for all good souls.
    I wish you all the fortitude and wisdom of India to overcome this tragedy. My thoughts are with you all.
    Corinne Conroy

  4. Shiv! I agree with you absolutely. In the face of imminent threat to life, many just turned their faces away from danger, and instead, chose to perform their duties. I join you to record my profound recognition for the courage of these brave men and women. And I think in the end, we won, not the terrorists.

  5. As a Bombayite and an ex-employee of the Oberoi, I feel great pain at the carnage that was wreaked on my city, but also an immense amount of pride as an Indian. I pray for the souls of my fellow citizens (the NSG Commandos, the policemen, the staff of the Taj and the Oberoi and all the other innocents)who have added new meaning to the word “Selflessness and Service First”.
    India and Bombay will not let your sacrifice go in vain. We will always remember your dedication and your immense bravery in the face of grave danger. May your souls rest in peace and may God Almighty grant your families strength to bear this loss.
    Shame on the Thackeray’s and the Advani’s who only open their mouths from the comfort of their security cordons. Strip them of their security as their presence adds nothing to the city or the country. I will take a Sonia Gandhi any day who has shown more love and dedication to her adopted country than have these self-declared so called ‘sons-of-the-soil’

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