By Venkatachari Jagannathan
Chennai, November 27 (IANS): He literally returned from the clutches of death at the hands of the terrorist attackers in Mumbai on November 26, 2008.
Perhaps few senior bank executives in the world would have experienced the ordeal that KR Ramamoorthy, 81, retired chairman and managing director of Corporation Bank and ING Vysya Bank and later non-executive chairman of ING Vysya Bank , suffered 13 years. back.
With a gun to his head, Ramamoorthy, then 69, was taken prisoner by terrorists in room number 632 of the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel and was also assaulted.
He was tied and pinned to the ground and later four other hostages, all hotel staff, were brought into the room.
“I am a strong believer in Goddess Karpagambal from Kapaleeswarar temple in Mylapore, Chennai. I took a deep breath and let my life be decided by her,” he said.
Ramamoorthy’s bedroom became the control room for the four terrorists who interacted with their masters abroad.
“The terrorists tied the grenades to the cupboards. They could have detonated the room at any time. Trembling, I realized my minutes – not days – were numbered,” the banker said.
Once Ramamoorthy had come to terms with the plight he owed to his religious upbringing and philosophical convictions, he decided to take things as they came and not to panic unduly.
To escape, he attempted to descend from the fifth floor of the hotel and braved the raging fire set off by the explosions, potentially firing fumes.
“I also realized how great an engineer God was in designing the human body that can secrete adrenaline when needed. For six long hours, my life was threatened. I was able to lie down with my hands and legs tied and run, risking bullets, fire and smoke. After I came out alive, I couldn’t sit in a car for only 20 minutes and was admitted to Jaslok Hospital. Then I realized the magic of adrenaline, ”said Ramamoorthy, recalling his great escape story in his life.
The retired banker, who served on the boards of several companies, held a board meeting in Mumbai on November 26, 2008 and visited the iconic hotel the day before.
“After dining out, I returned to my room on the sixth floor and found the bottle of drinking water to be insufficient. There was no response from room service. I decided to go downstairs and collect some water bottles. Ramamoorthy said.
Outside the room, he looked up to the fifth floor and saw three policemen with guns and hotel security personnel.
Seeing Ramamoorthy above they waved him back to the room and sensing something was wrong the banker went back to room # 632 and called room service and got no no answer.
Soon he received a call on the room phone with a member of staff saying that an emergency was underway at the hotel and disconnected the line.
Ramamoorthy then turned on a news channel that showed terrorist attacks, including at the Taj Mahal Palace.
At around 11 p.m., the hotel television went off. Soon Ramamoorthy began to hear gunshots – some closer to his room and some far away.
A few minutes later, he heard a knock on his door and a voice calling “room service, room service”, but he remained silent.
Again there were bangs and this time the voice said “shoe polish, shoe polish”.
Although Ramamoorthy realized that someone was trying to enter the room, he blurted out what was not needed in Hindi.
Immediately gunshots blew up the room lock and terrorists entered as Ramamoorthy attempted to lock himself in the bathroom.
“Before I could lock myself in, two armed terrorists entered and one of them put the gun to my head and ordered me to kneel down and raise both hands. I begged them to do so. citing my age and my high blood pressure which they asked to keep calm, ”Ramamoorthy said.
The terrorists ordered Ramamoorthy to undress and tied his legs and hands with his pajamas and kurta and also beat him on the neck and shoulders.
They asked Ramamoorthy to lie on his stomach and then kicked him with their boots.
As one held a gun behind Ramamoorthy’s back, the other began talking to their masters about entering a room, holding him hostage.
For two hours nothing really changed except for the sounds of explosions and gunshots hitting the room and a terrorist came out.
Soon he brought two hostages. Later, two more terrorists entered the room along with as many hotel staff.
The terrorists had the drinks and snacks in the room, used the toilet and rested on the bed, then began their interrogation.
“They asked me for my name, my father’s name, place of residence, telephone number as instructed by their masters.”
“When I was asked about my profession, I said teacher and I was lashed and a terrorist beat me severely. The managers then asked the terrorists for my physical description – fat, bald, spectral. I realized they knew me and said I was the president of ING Vysya, ”said Ramamoorthy.
Realizing that Ramamoorthy was a valuable captive, the managers asked the terrorists to hold him until they were safe and then kill him.
As two terrorists left the room, the others announced to the hostages room # 520 on the fifth floor.
“After some time a deafening explosion rocked the hotel. There was a lot of smoke and the terrorists too suffocated. On the instructions of their masters perhaps, they left us and went downstairs,” Ramamoorthy said.
The hostages somehow freed themselves, and hotel staff made a rope out of curtains and sheets and tied it tightly to a rod above their heads.
As the young hotel staff slipped, Ramamoorthy feared the rope would not support his weight and break.
He then wore a T-shirt and pajamas from the previous occupant of the room and left the room. The hallway was full of smoke and gunshots were heard.
Ramamoorthy sort of reached the third floor and walked into a room and opened the window.
“I waved to the firefighters who were outside and they brought a ladder and lowered me to the ground with another lady. I used her phone and called, briefly called my wife and I talked about my ordeal. She couldn’t take it and I broke down. I broke down too, “said Ramamoorthy.
Later, recovering himself, he recounted his experience to his son and went to Jaslok Hospital.
Ramamoorthya’s son was monitoring TV news about the terrorist attacks and was under great mental pressure.
Asked about the post-hostage trauma, Ramamoothy said: “For about six months, I couldn’t sleep properly in hotel rooms. Even the sound of footsteps outside the room gave me chills and chills. disturbed my sleep. “
At the suggestion of a friend, Ramamoorthy has already stayed in room 632 of the Taj Mahal Palace to get out of this syndrome.
“Coincidentally, that morning I heard that one of the terrorists Ajmal Kasab was hanged that day,” Ramamoorthy said.
According to Ramamoorthy, he now prefers low-key hotels with smaller rooms.
“I also stopped talking about the ordeal as it would increase my blood pressure. After a long interval, I am now speaking to IANS about it,” Ramamoorthy said.
Oddly enough, this is not the first time that he has suffered a terrorist attack in Mumbai.
“In 2003, I had another escape when a bomb exploded in a locality that I had left a few minutes earlier,” he said.