The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Calcuttan’s coffee break

Barrister Sudipto Sarkar, the unidentified Calcuttan who spoke to The Telegraph on Thursday from the 28th floor of the Oberoi, was evacuated on Friday. His last message on Thursday — an SMS — had come at 7.48pm. Asked if he was okay, Sarkar had said: “Yes. Fighting and fire in The Oberoi.” He recounts the events that followed.

12.15pm, Friday, still in Mumbai

Asked if he was out of the hotel, Sarkar replied “yes”.

6.20pm, back in Calcutta

After the last time we interacted, it was back to waiting to be rescued. I switched off the light in the room so no one would know it was occupied.

I ate biscuits and whatever there was in the room and went back to waiting. I was constantly in touch with the manager of the Oberoi who was outside. Throughout the night, there were intermittent sounds of firing.

In the morning, I got a call from the vice-chairman of the hotel, S.S. Mukherjee, saying the evacuation operation would start soon. The manager said his man would be accompanying the commandos conducting the rescue mission.

I think they were not prepared to begin the process because they believed two people were hiding somewhere.

I think they started the evacuation around 8 on Friday morning. They knocked on my door around 10.30. I was out in two minutes. I did not want to delay and neither did they. That was the first time I had not stepped out of my room since 10.30 on Wednesday night.

There were two American ladies who were evacuated with me. We were taken down in the lift.

The lobby was proof that there had been a lot of fighting in the hotel. There was dried-up blood everywhere and the place was scattered with broken glass.

We were taken to the Express Towers opposite the hotel for verification, which was completed very fast. They were taking the guests to the ITC and Grand Hotel but I chose to go straight to the airport to check out what flight I could take back to Calcutta.

But the first thing I did once I was free was to walk to Marine Plaza and order a cup of coffee. What I felt was a sense of great, intense relief.

I took the 1pm flight to Calcutta.

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