Tall, Rugged, and tough, South African ex-commando Zane Wilmans was staying at The Taj Mahal Hotel in Colaba on 26/11/2008, when terrorists struck Mumbai. As part of a security team for an assignment in Mumbai, they were having dinner at the Souk restaurant in the Taj and his team and he saved the lives of a 150 people that night. Six years later, Wilmans is still around in India. He started his own company in India and 13-year old Varun Nair caught up with this Indophile as he was getting security arrangements right for Supersonic, a music festival in Goa.
- You are still in India, running your own company. What made you stay back?
I have been working in India for quite some time. Other projects keep coming up and my company is doing pretty well here. Also, my wife’s an Indian and I just love the people here.
- It’s been six years since the attacks. How often do you think about that night?
Not as much because you know life carries on. Things pass by. I do think about it at least once or twice a year, specifically on the anniversary. It is always better not to look back in the past and move on towards the future.
- When you first heard gunshots you wanted to leave but The Taj staff didn’t let you. What did you think then?
I thought that it was very strange that we couldn’t leave. The Taj’s hotel staff were not giving us any information and that made me even more suspicious and I was sure something was fishy.
- What went through your mind when you realised what the actual situation was?
It was not difficult as my other six fellow ex-commandos ans I were trained for these circumstances but the challenge was how to save another 150 who were untrained. But we were confident that we could pull this off.
- How did you break the news to the large number of people, especially considering there were children and elderly people who could have panicked?
News is news! We had to tell them about what was going on as not only kids but even full grown men were panicking. But we knew everybody would help in keeping each other calm.
- Why did you wait for three-and-a-half-hours before exiting the hotel?
We waited for more information to come in as one of the ladies was in touch with police personnel outside the hotel who was a constant source of information. This proved invaluable as it helped us stay alive by knowing exactly when to leave without coming in the terrorist’s deadly radar.
- Saving so many people is a big deal, how did you feel after all were rescued?
Coming back to your 1st question, I don’t think about the event much now days but at that time I was glad to save 150 lives.
- What does your company do?
We are a security firm. My job is to provide security. When my company is hired, we provide security for events like cricket matches.
- What are some of the projects you’ve worked on?
I can’t mention the big corporate ones because I am bound by non-disclosure agreements. The ones I can talk about are the International Tennis Premier League and Supersonic in Goa. We also work on close-body protection for individuals.
10. What’s your workout schedule?
Like every other person, I wake up, hit the gym, and workout rigorously. After that, I go to office, attend meetings and then finally come home.