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Two Giridih chefs at Taj saved by the bell - Asgar, Shamsuddin are from Gawah village that sends hundreds of cooks to Mumbai's luxury hotels

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SHAHANWAZ AKHTAR Giridih Published 29.11.08, 12:00 AM

Giridih, Nov. 28: Two chefs from Giridih’s “village of cooks” working at the Taj hotel were saved by the clock on Wednesday hours before the beginning of what has now turned out to be a never-ending terror strike on Mumbai’s waterfront.

For Md Asgar (46) and Shamsuddin of Gawah (45), their shift got over around 6pm. “We were in the first shift and our duty ended around 6pm on Wednesday. When we reached home, we saw the attack on the Taj on television,” Asgar told The Telegraph over telephone from Mumbai, where they have been working for the past 15 years.

The news helped bring some solace to Giridih which is mourning the loss of Prakash Mandal, a carpenter, who was waiting at VT station to catch a train to Chennai when he fell to terrorists bullets. Mandal will be cremated in Mumbai.

Gawah, 85km from the district headquarters, is one of the poorest areas of Giridih. But its young and old excel in their culinary abilities. For generations they have ventured out to other towns, including Mumbai, to work as cooks in households and hotels.

According to rough estimates, more than 100 people from Gawah, Malda, Pihra, Manjhne, Birne, Gagar and Kharsam are working in Mumbai today, many of them at five stars like Taj Palace, the Oberoi and Ashoka Hotel.

“My grandfather and uncle were cooks in a hotel in Calcutta. So when I started thinking of a career, I worked under them to gain experience,” said Md Asgar. “When I got an opportunity, I moved to Mumbai.”

Md Qayyum, another chef from Gawah, works at Ashoka Hotel. “If we stayed back at our native place we would not have become successful. It is Mumbai that helped us realise our dreams,” he said in tribute to the maximum city.

Nevertheless, with operation flush-out nearing 48 hours at the Taj and Nariman House, parents continued to remain anxious about the fate of their sons and daughters working in the city of dreams. A.J. Ansari, whose son Sammi Ansari is a software engineer, hasn’t given his phone a rest. Though he is safe and at home in Navi Mumbai, Ansari talks to him regularly just to make sure he remains safe.

According to rough estimates, thousands of people have left Giridih to make a life for themselves in the Mumbai as cooks, carpenters, taxi drivers, tailors, businessmen, engineers and filmmakers. And they are primarily from Bagoder, Birni, Dumri, Gawah, Jamua and Saria blocks.

“Because of few opportunities here we have to send our children to big cities, but now it seems we should not sent them anywhere,” said Dumri’s Dhaneshwar Yadav, whose son, Karu Yadav, was in Mumbai. He has not been able to talk to Karu since Wednesday.

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