DO not make a hero out of me. It is just a small story, says O.M. Palli, a motorman who helped contain the bloodbath at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus on November 26.
Palli was at the motormens waiting room, in the suburban line area, at 9.55 p.m. when he heard unfamiliar noises. I did not know what it was at that moment. It sounded like panic. Palli walked up to a wall next to the State Bank of India ATM in the main line area. A corridor separates the suburban and main lines. The five-foot-wall shielded Palli but offered him a clean view of the bloodbath.
One person was firing from Platform 14. He moved up to Platform 13. People were running from the waiting area near Platform 13 towards the suburban line section, says Palli. Khad khad khad khad, Palli describes the firing, I could hear six gunshots at one go.
In the chaos, the weapon-wielding killer was at complete ease. He was walking casually and firing; he had no tension, says Palli. People were crying bachao, bachao [help, help]. Within no time the waiting area was almost empty. Only the injured were on the floor, he recalls. When the second round of firing began, a frightened Palli ran to the station masters office (suburban line). I hid behind the door, says Palli.
Once again, the partially grilled facade offered Palli a secure view.
I saw a train rolling into Platform 4 [suburban line], he says. Palli realised that if the passengers got off the train, the terrorists would spray them with bullets. Showing presence of mind, he ran up to the announcer, Vishnu Zende, and alerted him. I told the announcer, I am a motorman. Gaadi aa rahi hai. Koi bhi yatri gaadi se nahi utre [A train is coming. No passenger should alight from the train].
The announcement that went on for some 20 minutes told passengers that there was some disturbance in the station and asked them to vacate the station through the rear exit on Platform Number 1, which is next to the main road.
When motorman Manish Shukla got off the train, Palli and his colleagues cried out to him to lie flat. Shukla then made it safe to the motormens room. After this, Palli stayed put at the motormens waiting room, but mopped up minute details. The terrorist was carrying a bag. From 10.23 p.m. to 10.32 p.m. there was total silence. He must have been loading his gun. I heard the last bullet sound at 10.32 p.m., he details.
How come Palli has kept time of the events? I am a motorman; I keep time by the seconds, he explains. He put his cellphone on silent mode; ironically, it has the sound of gunshots for a ring tone. Had my phone rung, it would have added to the panic, he says.
Palli did not see the police retaliation and the flight of the attackers. However, when it all ended, he was among those who told the police about the bag abandoned by the attackers. Palli was at the station until 3 a.m. the next day. Then, he went home to his wife and two children.Rahi Gaikwad