It was towards the end of a normal, routine working day.

I remember we all had finished work and were hanging around waiting to go for a drink when somebody rushed in and said, “Some guys have entered the Taj (Mahal Hotel) and started shooting!"

We all (seven of us photographers) grabbed our camera bags and rushed out. All of us had the Taj in mind when we got out into the street. The boys had dispersed. That’s when I heard a loud bang, like an explosive or a hand grenade going off. It came from the direction of the CST (Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus) station, which was opposite the office of the Mumbai Mirror where I worked. I thought to myself, “Let’s check it out," and rushed towards the station. I entered from the smaller side gate opposite The Times of India building on Dr. D.N. (Dadabhai Naoroji) Road.

The usually teeming station was strangely deserted. The few people that were there were staring in a particular direction. When I got closer to them, I heard some shots. I saw some policemen grouped together behind a pillar. There were three of them—one officer and two constables. I joined them and saw two dark figures in the distance.

They were carrying rucksacks but I wasn’t sure who they were. Initially I thought they were tourists, because of the way they were dressed. Both of them were very young, dressed in neatly ironed gray cargos, black T-shirts and carrying heavy bags.

That’s when I noticed assault rifles in their hands.

I said to one of the constables, “there they are! Shoot them!" It was at that point that I took my first picture. When the constable fired, one of the two swung around and fired back and knocked down someone right in front of us. It was the owner of a book stall who was some metres away, but right in front of us. He fell to the floor, bleeding but not dead.

I saw them (attackers) walk towards the man on the ground and shoot him at close range to make sure he was dead. It was the first realization I had that I was in a far more serious situation than anything I’d covered before.

Then I saw this old village woman walking towards the two men. She seemed oblivious of what was happening. I was terrified for her. But she walked towards and past them and they just let her go, they didn’t shoot her. I wonder why, I just cannot understand it. I don’t think she knew what was happening. The gunmen just let her walk past and went looking for other targets.

They then came towards us—me and the three policemen. We all were still behind the pillar. Behind me, close by was an empty train compartment. I jumped into it and hid there. I told the policemen to join me in the compartment but they didn’t move. One of them was walking towards us but the other disappeared from view. The second man suddenly appeared from behind—around the other side of the pillar. And then there was this guy who was walking towards the three policemen from the front. They had the three men cornered. They shot them. Two of the three men died on the spot. The constable, who I asked to fire, survived.

I was in the train compartment and remember thinking it was a very close call for me.

The two men reloaded their guns and they walked by, talking. I remember taking pictures of them at that point—ducking whenever I thought they would turn in my direction.

At one point they disappeared from my sight. They went outside from the main entrance of the station. That was when I came out of the train compartment and helped the injured constable.

There was another policeman in plain clothes and I asked him to call for help. It was when I was helping the injured man that I noticed a revolver sticking out from under the body of the police officer who was lying dead at my feet.

I remember feeling a rush of anger and wishing I had a gun. That was my immediate reaction. I was thinking I should pull the revolver from the body of the dead police officer, but then I thought what good would that do? I would have to get close to shoot them and chances were that before that they would shoot me.

I kept jumping in and out of train compartments looking for the gunmen. They suddenly came back into view—they were walking very calmly, shooting at people. There were many points when they seemed walking directly towards me. Whenever they would or whenever I thought they were looking directly at me, I would duck, try and jump into another compartment. I remember this voice—whether from above or in my head—that was telling me, “you shouldn’t be here!"

This whole attack lasted about 45 minutes. Jumping in and out of train compartments, I took many pictures, about 90 of them. Only 35 to 40 pictures were usable. The others were shaky, blurred, without clarity.

How has it changed my life? Not much, really.

After all that hype, nothing has changed. I don’t feel anything. I try to erase it from my mind. It does not seem such a big event now. Photo-wise, yes, it was a very big thing. My pictures were used across the world and helped convict (Mohammed Ajmal) Kasab (the lone attacker captured alive and hanged in November 2012). I am happy about that. Even the Supreme Court of India praised me later. He (Kasab) got what he deserved and I was instrumental in him getting convicted.

I can’t be happy over anybody’s death but Kasab’s hanging did put an end to this sordid chapter and may help the victims get some closure.

As told to Elizabeth Roche.

D’Souza was the photo editor of Mumbai Mirror from 2007 to 2011. In a career spanning almost three decades, D’Souza has worked for the French news agency Agence France-Presse and a number of Indian publications.

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