It has long been accepted that hotel owners and their staff have a duty of care to do everything within their power to ensure the safety of their guests, particularly in the event of a security breach.
But the recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai were no ordinary circumstance, and using one’s own body as a human shield goes well beyond the call of duty, as did many other heroic acts of staff at the Taj Mahel Hotel during the shocking attacks in Mumbai recently.
Tales of heroic acts
According to media reports, there were “scores of tales of unnamed workers hiding desks, barricading doors, tending the vulnerable and issuing orders”. Amongst these efforts, the famous hotel chef (who was eventually shot and killed) made sandwiches in order to help guests to remain as calm as possible, and even in between the indiscriminate spray of bullets, the hotel receptionist continued to respond to calls from troubled guests.
This was a truly momentous effort, and goes to show the absolute unwavering commitment of the staff in terms of the safety of their guests, even in the most traumatic of circumstances.
No less heroic were efforts at the Oberai Trident Hotel, where the general manager saved his guests first before attending to his own family, and the executive manager ran immediately back inside to help guests, despite being out having a smoke when the shooting started.
These efforts warrant full commendation.
The ultimate sacrifice – standing in the line of fire
But special recognition must be given to one particular maintenance worker, who used his own body as a human shield to protect a family of guests.
According to one witness, the worker, known only as Mr. Rajan, stood in the line of fire between the family and one of the gunmen, taking bullets himself in the process.
(Mr. Rajan was taken out the hotel approximately twelve hours later with a ‘gaping bullet wound in his abdomen.’ It is not known if he survived.)
Instincts of courage and sacrifice
In the heat of such horrific circumstances, it would have been more than understandable had hotel staff went to jelly and their efforts fallen apart. But the fact that they didn’t shows a true character of courage and sacrifice from the individuals involved.
In the heat of the moment, one does not usually have time to think, only to react. This reaction, based almost entirely upon natural instinct, reveals a large part of underlying fundamental character in my view.
This was no doubt the case with Mr. Rajan, who most likely would have had a matter of seconds, if that, to think. His instinctive reaction, to protect the family even at cost of his own life, was an ultimate demonstration of his underlying character of selflessness and courage.
The same can be said of other staff who put the safety of guests before that of their own.
Ordinary heroes is dark times
Mumbai represented a human tragedy beyond comprehension, and my heart, thoughts and prayers are with victims and their families.
But in the darkest of moments, there were also heroes, and amazing acts of self sacrifice – especially from Mr. Rajan.