Rescued Nepali chef ready to return to Taj


Kathmandu : A 36-year-old Nepali chef who was rescued from Mumbai’s terror-hit Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel after a five-hour ordeal says he will continue to work there, a newspaper reported here Friday.

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“God saved us,” Purushottam Basyal was quoted as telling Nepal’s biggest newspaper Kantipur about the terror attack at the Taj that began Wednesday. It was one of several prominent places where militants struck.

Basyal had moved from Maldunga village in Nepal’s once insurgency-hit Syangja district to Mumbai 16 years ago to seek his fortune. He said he would continue to work for the Taj even though he is shaken by the terror attack.

He said he and other chefs who were on duty at the Taj – when terrorists began coordinated attacks in 10 places, among them the hotel – at first thought it was a “gang fight”.

Basyal, who was rescued early Thursday morning, said he and other chefs were preparing dinner on the ground floor kitchen when sounds began erupting around 10 p.m. Wednesday.

“At first, it sounded as if the guests were beating on tin,” the chef specialising in Chinese food told the daily. “But within moments, we were told it was the sound of firing. Then people said it was a gang fight.”

When it dawned on Basyal and the other chefs that it was a terrorist attack, they rushed to the main kitchen on the first floor and from there, eventually to the basement.

In the pell-mell and the blind firing inside the hotel, two other chefs who worked with him were gunned down, Basyal said. A third chef, whose name was given as Hemant Talim, was on a floor above when he took a hit.

“Hemant called us on our mobile phones saying I have been hit, please come and save me, help,” Basyal told the daily. “But we couldn’t go to him. Had we been upstairs, we would have died too. God saved us.”

While hiding in the basement, Basyal received frantic calls from his family. His wife had seen the news on television about the attacks on the Taj and Oberoi Trident hotels.

Though he tried to reassure her, Basyal said he and the others with him, who had by that time learnt that a part of the hotel was on fire, thought they would perish in the blaze.

But the dreadful night of terror that seemed endless finally ended for them around 3 a.m. Thursday when commandos arrived to rescue people holed up in the basement. But terrorists continued to be holed up in the hotel well into Friday.

Even after coming out of the hotel, Basyal did not go home immediately. He rushed to the place where he was told his injured peer Talim had been taken for treatment after being rescued.

Basyal says he left only after being assured by doctors that though badly hurt, Talim would survive.

Besides the chef, four other Nepalis also work at the Taj. However, none of them were on duty when the attacks started. The terror attacks in Mumbai have left at least 125 people dead and 327 injured.

Two more Nepalis are employed at the Oberoi Trident. But they too had a lucky escape, the daily said.