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Three Lawyers' Mumbai Survival Stories

No doubt many lawyers were touched by the week's tragic turn of events in Mumbai. Here are three survival stories I've found from news reports.

Boston transplant stays safe. Lawyer Nirva Patel and her husband Paresh left Boston two years ago to make their home in Mumbai, taking an apartment in the heart of the city's commercial center within eyesight of the luxurious Taj hotel. Today they are safe, but they are confronting a mix of emotions and reactions that echo what they felt in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States. "We just saw a body being thrown out the window," Nirva Patel said in a telephone interview with The Boston Globe Saturday. "The entire Taj hotel is in smoke. They say there's a foul smell emanating from the Taj. ... We're too afraid to open up our doors and windows."

The 30-year-old Patel, a graduate of Boston University and New England School of Law, and her husband remained safe by staying inside their apartment building, monitoring the news on TV and the Internet. As the lobby of their building became a staging area for freed hostages and evacuees from the Taj, they helped out by dispensing cellphone chargers so the displaced could stay connected with their friends and families.

The Patels regularly dine in the restaurants at the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower hotel, two blocks from their apartment, and at the adjacent Oberoi and Trident hotels, four blocks in the other direction. Paresh knows two people who escaped from Oberoi's Kandahar and Tiffin restaurants, where dozens were killed. And Nirva ate lunch Wednesday at Trident's Frangipani a few hours before the siege began. She might have returned to the hotel that night if not for lack of a baby sitter.

Speaking to The Boston Globe, Patel said she was thankful for the safety of her family, which includes a 7-month-old daughter and small dog. "I'm grateful. I'm really grateful. We could have been there."

Retired judge turns to texting. Meanwhile, inside the Taj, vacationing former Cook County (Chicago) Circuit Court Judge Benjamin S. Mackoff and his wife Carol were thankful they had brought an international cell phone with text messaging. For nearly 48 hours, as the couple remained holed up in their hotel room, their text messages served as a lifeline to their family, the U.S. State Department, reporters and others, and eventually helped coordinate their rescue Friday morning, as reported in the Chicago Sun-Times.

We got a call from the colonel of the [Indian] army, and he said we will give you a password, and if we come to the door and give it to you, come quietly with us," Mrs. Mackoff told CNN after being rescued. "That's exactly what happened. 

"They took us down a back service stairway that was very quiet. We were tiptoeing through glass and blood and discarded shoes from people who it appeared had recently died."

The 75-year-old Judge Mackoff and his investment-banker wife Carol, 66, were part of a tour group staying at the hotel and had been traveling through India since Nov. 6.

BlackBerry was lawyer's salvation. For Australian lawyer David Jacobs, trapped in a room on the 16th floor of the Oberoi/Trident Hotel, his BlackBerry proved to be his salvation, according to the Sunday Mail. Hiding in a closet, the 58-year-old Baker & McKenzie lawyer exchanged a stream of e-mails with his family in Sydney and two U.S. security experts.

"I don't know if I'm going to get out of this and I love you and I love the kids, and we've had a great life together," he wrote in one e-mail to his wife. Throughout the ordeal, he received advice from security experts on escape options and what to do if taken hostage.

In an ironic twist of fate, Jacobs represents hotels as head of his firm's Global Resort & Tourism Practice. No word on whether the Oberoi/Trident is his client.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on December 1, 2008 at 10:56 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)


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