Ravi Dharnidharka, the marine who saved 157 lives on 26/11 and proved that once a soldier, always a soldier
It happened in 2008, and we are still unable to wipe out them from our memory and probably we never unless we bring all the culprits to justice. However, the horrific attack could take more lives but thanks to the brave soldiers like Ravi Dharnidharka and 6 South African ex-commandos, 157 lives had been saved.
Ravi was a retired US Marine who already spent four years in flying 200 combat missions in Iraq and also was a part of the famous Second Battle of Fallujah. Little he knew that he had to act as a savior again even after the retirement when he planned to come to India to meet his relatives. While spending time on the Lebanese restaurant on the 20th floor of Taj Hotel, he had doubts about not everything well from the beginning. He didn’t miss the beeping sound of the metal detector while entering the hotel that made his doubts deeper. All the six South African Commandos were also present on the same floor when they heard about the attack on the phone and decided to take the matters on their own hands.
The hotel staff also didn’t leave even though they had the chance and continued their service and then everyone on the floor heard about two explosions, and it was so high that the people on the 20th floor felt it. Around 157 civilians were present, and the entire floor had been darkened, and the doors were barricaded with heavy objects. People were asked to stay quiet. They also asked the hotel staff to unblock the stair in case they need a quick exit.
The fire already started spreading upwards and it could make the situation worse by blocking the stairs and cutting the power supply and suffocating the people present there. So they decided it’s time to move. However, the task was not easy, and anything could happen at any time. But again they realized that it was not easy for the 84 years old lady to climb down 20 flights of stair. Though she told everyone that she should stay there which was declined. Ravi took help from a waiter and carried the old woman in his arms. It was not easy to evacuate through the narrow staircase, however, the seven soldiers did not lose their courage, and the South African team led the group with the help of Taj Security men and moved slowly. First women and children were allowed to go and later captain Dharnidharka and men came last. It was a daunting task to make a safe passage for 157 where anytime terrorists could reach and attack. And at the same time, chances of human stampedes was high. So they have to complete it slowly and rapidly. The death toll would be increased for sure if these seven brave soldiers would not present at that time.
The details have been mentioned in the book The Siege: 68 Hours Inside The Taj Hotel written by British journalists Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy who were also trapped in the Taj Hotel. Probably we would never know about these seven unsung heroes and their bravery if the book never comes to the public.