Mallika Sarabhai, family, troupe escaped Taj terror by whisker

November 28th, 2008 - 6:54 pm ICT by IANS  

Mumbai, Nov 28 (IANS) A touch of providence and a small change in itinerary saved renowned classical dancer Mallika Sarabhai and her 25-member dancing troupe from the terror attack at Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel Wednesday night. “The Darpana Academy of Performing Arts had a scheduled show in the Taj ballroom, on the first floor of the same heritage wing which was first targeted,” Mallika told IANS Friday morning.

Exponent of Kuchipudi and Bharatnatyam forms of Indian classical dance, she had checked into Room No. 455 Wednesday afternoon and was scheduled to stay there till Thursday morning before leaving for a tour to Dubai.

The performance was for the Unilever group, which had a conference in the hotel that day. Usually, the cultural evening would have started around 8 p.m. but since the company’s top brass were scheduled to fly abroad that night, Darpana’s show started at 6 p.m. and ended around 8.45.

Later, Mallika had invited her children and some friends for dinner at one of the restaurants in the Taj, but her son Revanta and daughter Anahita insisted on going out.

Finally, they decided to go to Indigo Deli, located just behind the Taj.

Post-dinner, they dropped Mallika to Taj and returned to their rooms at Hotel Ritz, around a km away near Churchgate.

Just then, even as she was outside the hotel, her children sent an SMS saying there was terror attack on Taj and that they were coming to pick her up. Her children soon came in a vehicle and picked her up. When there were starting to leave, they heard the blaring sirens of police and security vans arriving.

She joined her children - who are also part of the 25-member dancing troupe - at their rooms in Hotel Ritz.

The whole night was spent watching the live coverage of the 13 serial terror attacks at different locations in the city.

“There was no question of returning to my room. I had kept my baggage there, including my passport, travel and other documents, a laptop, an expensive video camera, money, jewellery, etc. All that is gone, but I am safe. I am luckier than the other unfortunate victims of this nightmare,” Mallika said.

Early Thursday, she saw off her children and troupe that returned to Ahmedabad, and later, she managed to book a flight to return home - to a tumultuous reception by her 70-strong staff at Darpana.

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