When terror turned hospital boss into ambulance driver

During 26/11 attack Deputy Director of Lilavati Hospital hopped on to an ambulance to ferry injured and dead to the facility; he repeated the feat during 13/7 attacks also

That fateful night of November 26 when death dawned on the streets of Mumbai, a 40-year-old biomechanical engineer had hopped onto the driver's seat to attend the call of duty towards humanity -- by ferrying injured and dead to hospitals. On a self-assigned mission, Ajay Kumar Pande, the deputy director of Lilavati Hospital, drove the injured to the safety of hospitals during that 60-hour savagery in 2008. And the 26/11 attack was not the case in isolation, whenever there is terror attack Pande rushes to the scene without informing his family and dons the mantle of an ambulance driver 'to save as many innocent lives as I can'.

Leading from the front: Ajay Pande took to the wheel of an ambulance
to transport the injured to hospitals during the 26/11 attack.

"During the July 13 blast I just felt the need to be there and ferried the injured from Khau Gulli to the hospital. I could have simply instructed my ambulance team to rush to the scene. But I led from the front only to send out a message to them that their higher-ups don't believe in the policy of sitting in the cosy comfort of their office and pushing their juniors to in the line of fire," said Pande.

A week ago when a friend invited him to the Taj Mahal Palace hotel, he thought to himself that he had gotten over that nightmare. "But the moment I drove in, the very sight of the hotel transported me to the all blood-and-gore memory of that 60-hour savagery. I could not get those nightmarish thoughts away. That how on the night of 26/11 and throughout that week, I spent sleepless nights ferrying injured and dead to hospitals," recounted Pande.

Many may boast about Mumbai's spirit of resilience, but Pande has a different take on it. "What spirit are you talking about? In crisis situations, people don't come forward to help each other in this heartless city. I remember very vividly that when I was picking up an injured from the CST station, I was alone and not a single person came forward from the crowds of curious spectators and offered me help. I didn't understand how people could watch others die in pain," he said.

"If you see people going to work the day after a terror attack, please don't mistake it for their spirit of resilience as it is the aam aadmi's compulsion. Buried under the burden of several responsibilities, he drags himself to work aware of the fact that he may never return home and see his family again,"

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