Sir Gulam Noon, British ‘Curry King’: how I escaped bombed hotel : Times online

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/article5245365.ece

From Times Online
November 27, 2008

Sir Gulam Noon, British ‘Curry King’: how I escaped bombed hotel

Alice Thomson, Rachel Sylvester

Sir Gulam Noon did not duck when he heard the first sounds of gunfire in his suite on the third floor of the Taj Mahal Hotel.

Britain’s most high profile Asian businessman had booked a table at the restaurant but at the last minute he felt slightly ill so changed his mind and decided to have dinner in his room with his brother and two business associates. “It probably saved my life, the restaurant was the first place the terrorists went.”

Sir Gulam – who is known as the “Curry King”, selling 1.5 million ready made Indian meals a week in Britain – was born in Bombay and started his career running a sweet stall in the city.

At first he says, “we thought we were hearing wedding fireworks, it sounded as though crackers were being let off in the lobby”. He and his brother looked out of the window expecting a fireworks display but instead “we saw men rushing into the building and people fleeing”.

He rang the duty manager. “Amazingly he was still at his desk, he told me to jam the door. He said men with guns were looking for Americans and British people. I am British and proud of it.”

The television stopped working. “Then the air conditioning went off. The room became very hot. We couldn’t open the windows, they were sealed.”

His mobile still worked and his family rang to warn him that a fire had broken out on the upper floors. “I could see the smoke coming along the corridors. The manager told us to put wet towels by the door. The smoke kept coming in. The army were amazing, they were running up and down the corridors but they weren’t interested in getting the guests out. They were trying to find the terrorists.”

Sir Gulam, who is 72, was stuck in his room from 9.30 in the evening until 6 am. “The gunfire was continuous all night. We were told: ‘Don’t come out of the room because the commandos could shoot you by mistake’. We saw two terrorists on our floor, we heard the gunfire just outside our room. It was a very frightening experience, you had no idea whether they were going to shoot down the door and enter, you didn’t know at what point they would start going from room to room.”

Eventually he had to decide whether to brave the carnage of the hotel or face being overcome by smoke. “Instinctively I knew I shouldn’t go out into the corridor so we stayed in the room and looked out of the window. We could see the bodies coming out in the ambulances, they were bringing them out in luggage trolleys. After several hours a fireman broke the window and took us down in a crane. At the bottom the general manager of the hotel was waiting to greet us with a bottle of water. The staff were amazing, they stayed all night, risking their lives.”

The businessman had taken nothing with him. “I didn’t even have time to get my passport or medicines or any clothes.” He spent yesterday buying new shirts, trousers, a toothbrush and his medicine. He also went to the British High Commission to get a new passport. “It’s 3pm now, I haven’t slept a wink for 24 hours. It is as if the city is under siege, I am in my car now and the streets are empty, people have been asked to remain indoors many of the shops are shut.”

Sir Gulam – who is friends with Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and the Prince of Wales – grew up in Bombay in the run to independence. There were riots in the streets and people being killed almost every day – he recalls hearing the town crier announcing his father’s death as he was sitting in class at the age of 10. He still returns regularly to the Bombay.

When the city was hit by bombs in 1993, he was there, staying at the Taj Mahal Hotel. His driver was injured. “The Mumbai people are very resilient and very brave, like Londoners were after 7/7. Tomorrow morning the trains will be full of people coming to work. If you are afraid of these terrorists and you cow down then they are winning.”

He is horrified by the thought that Islamic extremists are involved. “I am a Muslim so it is very difficult to take. This is not real Islam. There is no religion or caste or creed that believes it is right to terrorise people. They were only looking for British and American people. Perhaps it was because we went in to support America in Afghanistan and Iraq.”

The “Curry King” has adopted Britain as his home, but he will never lose his attachment to India. “I live in London but I still love Mumbai. I can’t believe this has happened to my city.”

HAVE YOUR SAY

Gulam Noon as in the man who is worth £65 million, who was implicated in the ‘Cash for peerages’ and who has written articles from high up in his ivory tower opposing immigration and ‘extremists’ coming to the UK? Is it just coincidence that the place he was due to be in was targetted I wonder?

John Baker, London, UK

A lot of British Muslims also stay in the Taj Mahal Hotel.
The media never seem to also see them as victims of terrorist attacks.

jayil, london, uk

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One Response to “Sir Gulam Noon, British ‘Curry King’: how I escaped bombed hotel : Times online”

  1. morris Says:

    The telephone interview with you is here: http://morris108.wordpress.com/2008/11/27/mp3-telephone-interview-with-muslim-blogger-in-mumbai/

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