Members of the diamond industry staying at the Taj Mahal and Oberoi hotels were among those in danger during the Nov. 26 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, that left at least 172 dead and hundreds more injured.
No industry member was known to be killed or hurt in the attacks. According to Stephanie Piper, spokesperson for London-based H. Goldie & Co., a number of diamantaires were in India for year-end meetings with the Diamond Trading Company held at the Taj Hotel. Those meetings had just concluded when the attacks commenced, and DTC managing director Varda Shine had left the hotel with colleagues.
Others were caught up in the chaos. H. Goldie’s Mark Boston barricaded himself in his room with his wife, Milly, but their section of the hotel was burning. They found a fire escape, ran to the Diplomat Hotel behind the Taj, and contacted clients who came to their aid.
Navin and Monica Chandra, employees of H. Goldie, were dining in the Taj restaurant when the attacks occurred. They and other diners fled through the kitchens where hotel staff hid them in a walk-in refrigerator. They remained there for about five hours until Indian army commandos rescued them. Even as they escaped, however, one of the diners was gunned down by a terrorist sniper.
Piper said members of another London-based diamond broker, W. Nagel, were staying at the Oberoi. Willy Nagel, his daughter Toni, and some staff were barricaded in their rooms there till Indian commandos came and told them to leave.
Alex Beal, of broker I. Hennig, said he evacuated the restaurant at the Oberoi and stayed in his room for some 15 hours until Indian forces arrived. “We share a lot of solidarity with the people of India, and we look forward to going back to India very soon,” he said.
Boston struck a similar note on his blog at hgoldie.blogspot.com: “Once again, our Sightholder Partners in Mumbai have proved that the relationship we have with them goes way beyond business, important though it undoubtedly is, and is one of true friendship … [They took] us into their homes and looked after us as if we were family.”
Among those murdered in the attacks were former JCK India sales rep Rohinton B Maloo (see sidebar) and Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife, Rivkah, of the Chabad house in Mumbai. The Israeli Diamond Industry Web site described the Chabad house as “a home away from home” for Israeli diamantaires visiting Mumbai.
The Bharat Diamond Bourse and Mumbai Diamond Merchants held a gathering of more than 500 people to observe a two-minute silence as a mark of respect to the dead.