No fear left in me anymore: Man who saved hundreds on 26/11
Hindustan Times

10 years after the Nov 26 attacks killed hundreds and exposed gaping security lapses, HT looks at heroes who fought back, the lives lost, steps taken to make Mumbai safer


On the night of November 26, 2008, when two Pakistani terrorists riddled Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT) with bullets, Vishnu Dattaram Zende was in a tiny announcer’s booth in the station, using the public announcement system to guide people to safety. “Nobody prepares you for such a situation. It was an instant reaction,” said Zende.
In 2008, Zende was a suburban railway announcer. His usual routine saw him leave from Nalasopara, where he still lives with his wife and two children, and take the train to CSMT. Once at the station, he’d go up to the announcement booth and rattle off details of train arrivals and departures for eight hours. Then November 26, 2008 happened.
“It feels like it was yesterday,” said Zende, now 47. He was on the evening shift when he heard explosions in the long-distance section of CSMT. Realising something was wrong, he took to the microphone and called for on-duty Railway Protection Force (RPF) and Government Railway Police (GRP) to rush to that part of the station. “At the same time, I saw a suburban train arrive in the terminus,” remembered Zende.
The announcer’s booth is above the station master’s office, offering Zende an overview of the station. “I saw the men walking with guns … to the suburban railway section and firing indiscriminately. They were throwing hand-grenades. This is when I realised it was a terrorist attack,” Zende told HT.
Immediately, Zende announced in Hindi and Marathi that passengers should exit the station from the rear end of the terminus, guiding them away from Kasab and Ismail and towards safety. “I told people to use the exit of platform number one and to not come forward as I could see terrorists walking in that direction. The passengers rushed out, following my instructions,” he said. There’s no calculating how many lives Zende saved with his announcements.


The gunmen soon realised what Zende was doing. “All of sudden, I saw a terrorist firing at the direction of our booth. We (Zende and his colleague) ducked under our desks,” he said. They heard the glass window shatter, but Zende escaped any injuries.
After a while, Zende from his vantage point saw the two terrorists walk out of CSMT. He and other railway personnel rushed to the outstation terminus area and found the carnage Kasab and Ismail had left behind. While Zende’s announcements had saved the lives of countless suburban train passengers, the outstation section of CSMT got neither a warning nor time to escape. Nearly 60 people died in the attack. “The bodies lying there, surrounded by blood, it was terrifying,” said Zende. “I started announcing for railway personnel, cleaning staff, porters and whoever could rush to the terminus area to help the injured.” Zende stayed in CSMT that night and returned home the next day.
Later, for weeks, people would come to the announcement booth and thank Zende. He got a cash award of ₹10 lakh and in 2010, when President Barack Obama visited Mumbai, he shook hands with Zende. Welcome as all this attention was, for Zende, who has since been promoted to railway guard, 26/11 wrought only one real change in him: “There is no fear left in me anymore.”



More in National
Class 12 student creates environment-friendly logs from waste, distrib...

Abhishek uses left-over wax and saw-dust waste from near-by markets to create fire logs and help 700 slum and street dwellers to replace it with wood and create l...

Recently posted . 5 views

IRCTC’s new initiative! Free food for train passengers at Indian Railw...

IRCTC has declared that customers shouldn’t pay for food purchased from the food vendors at the Indian Railways stations if they (vendors) were unable to prov...

Recently posted . 2 views

What is Jallikattu, the bull-headed sport, which has injured over 50 i...

Known as a 'traditional spectacle', the sport of Jallikattu is organised in several parts of southern India, particularly in Tamil Nadu despite a ban by the...

Recently posted . 5 views

988 Million Indians Do Not Have Life Insurance

At least 988 million Indians--more than the population of Europe and 75 percent of all Indians--are not covered by any form of life insurance, and an Indian is as...

Recently posted . 21 views

IRCTC Installs Automatic Pizza Vending Machines In A Few Stations In M...

If pizza is your go-to junk food that sends notes of contentment as you stuff that cheesy-goodness down your throat, then the Indian Railways has some amazing news ...

Recently posted . 7 views

SBI bank account holders alert! Don't ignore this message, you may not...

The SBI is sending messages to every customer to complete their KYC following a direction from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). 

Recently posted . 27 views



Thought of the day

If you are not willing to risk the usual you will have to settle for the ordinary.