Nearly 65 kilometre from south Mumbai’s Chabad House, in an unremarkable home in the Mira Road suburb, hangs a photograph of Moshe Holtzberg as a two-year-old baby, smiling into the camera and unaware of the fear that was still to go to his family. It’s the house of Qazi Zakir Hussain, now 30, seen 9 years ago in newspaper pictures holding a weeping Baby Moshe at the ceremony of his parents, Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his spouse Rivkah, who were killed in the siege of the Chabad centre in Colaba during the 26/11 terror attacks.
Hussain, a cook and helper in the Holtzberg house in Colaba in 2008, was hiding along with Moshe’s nanny Sandra Samuel when the attack at the Chabad House began, and escaped along with her and baby Moshe. now glued to the tv news about Moshe’s 1st visit to Mumbai since he left in the aftermath of the attacks to live along with his grandparents in Afula, Israel, Hussain is keen to meet the boy who he helped save 9 years past. “But what if he doesn’t recognise me?”
So, instead, Hussain is taking satisfaction in looking Moshe on TV, knowing the boy he was once deeply connected to is leading a normal and secure life. Hussain currently has a daughter aged 2. till a couple of years ago, he would sometimes hear Moshe’s voice over the phone whenever Sandra telephoned from Afula. “It’s been some years now since I heard his voice,” he says.
Hussain still remembers the night of 26/11 and the subsequent days with absolute clarity. He had worked for over four years at the Nariman House, as the only Muslim employee, 1st as a caretaker and later as a cook. when they heard baby Moshe’s cries, he and Samuel had hurried along to the second floor. Hussain picked up the crying baby and handed him to Samuel, who wrapped Moshe in her arms. the 2 then ran out along, when excruciating hours holed up in a laundry room whereas the carnage continued inside the Chabad House.
“I was clearing the dining table on the first floor when the terrorists intruded. it was after nine pm,” he says. The Holtzbergs, he adds, had retired to the second floor to pray. Samuel and he 1st went out to examine the source of the noise however quickly took shelter when a spray of bullets came in their direction. “We went to a side-room and locked ourselves in for the complete night and the next day.”
Hussain says he offered his final prayers, believing those were his final moments. He called his elder brother, who worked near , to tell him. “I remember the sound of bullets, of grenades.we might hear the movements of the terrorists.” a whole day later, Hussain, then 21, and Samuel, then 44, heard baby Moshe cry from the floor above. when they silently reached the second floor, Moshe was sitting between his dead parents, his pants soaked in blood. “The door to the room had been blasted by a bomb. It lay on one side. there were bullet marks on the wall,” Hussain recollects.
He remembers the silence at that moment. The terrorists were on the upper floors — they might have been resting, he thinks. “We decided to run out of the building. The police were waiting on the road.”
Moshe Holtzberg, who survived the 2008 Mumbai attacks, is back at Nariman House for the primary time since 26/11. Nariman home is home to the Mumbai chapter of the Chabad-Lubavitch Jewish movement in the town.Moshe lost his parents in the attacks.
In 2010, Samuel was granted honorary citizenship of Israel. Hussain, the youngest among 5 siblings from Assam’s Kareemganj, says he had an sick mother, and no passport, thus he decided to remain back in India. He started residing with Samuel’s son Martin and had looked after the Chabad House property for a couple of months following the attack.
Hussain then found work a felafel outlet on Lamington Road, also working for one more Jewish family. He now works at Taj Sats Air catering Ltd. 3 years ago, he got married, and says his daughter who lives in Assam constantly reminds him of Moshe. On his mobile phone, he still has all the pictures of the attack and news reports concerning Moshe. there’s also a gallery filled with footage from the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks. In one, Hussain is holding Baby Moshe who is crying, a red ball clutched in his hands, at his parent’s ceremony. “But life goes on. See, he’s doing so well now,” says Hussain, with a touch of smile.