Express photographer recounts the horror of 26/11

Express photographer recounts the horror of 26/11

That infamous November night Express photographer Vasant Prabhu answered a call about a shootout at Café Leopold and hopped on to on to his bike with fellow reporter Aditya Paul.

Vasant Prabhu's unforgettable images of the foreigners assassinated by the Taj poolside have been splashed across dailies world over.

"I saw the bodies of two foreigners lying near the poolside and their blood had sprayed everywhere. It was dark and I was in two minds about using a flash because it could attract unwanted attention. I also knew that this was a historical moment which I could not miss", recalls Vasant Prabhu.

After finishing his assignments that infamous November night he answered a call about a shootout at Café Leopold and hopped on to his bike with fellow Indian Express reporter Aditya Paul making a beeline for Colaba.

"I could hear loud firing at the Oberoi but I assumed they were crackers. I was focused on getting to Leopold. The public was rushing out at Regal Circle so I dropped my reporter off and took the back route", he said. As he parked his bike, he saw two khaki-clad cops jump out of a car and followed them in, unaware that they were actually tailing terrorists.

Photographers by virtue of their profession must be opportunists and amid the chaos Vasant got past the Taj security and the cops, both assuming that he was with the other.

The destruction that confronted him came as a shock but he followed the policemen, one of whom he later discovered was Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Nagre Patil. Following the bloody footprints, often crawling on his knees and sometimes sliding on his stomach, he only saw the ruin the terrorists left in their wake.

"I could constantly hear echoes, so if there was one shot fired I could hear three echoes. On the first floor you're quite safe but the construction is such that on the second floor you can be shot at from anywhere. Nagre Patil shot and injured one of the terrorists who shouted ‘b@$!*!#' and fired back at him

"I didn't want to compromise their work or their safety because if anything went wrong I would be responsible for that the rest of my life. I kept in mind that the police didn't have adequate protective gear. The staffers also requested me not to take any pictures when they were moving the bodies. I didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings so I put my camera away", he said.

There has always been a raging debate about the ethics of war photography. "I met James Nachtwey (renowned war photographer) and I remember thinking if you're a photographer you should be like him and that day, for just a moment, I felt like maybe I was." And while the circumstances of this epiphany seem tragic and it doesn't offer much consolation, it's all he can hold onto at this time.