When Marine Commando Praveen Kumar Teotia battled against terrorists during the 26/11 terror attack at the Taj Mahal Hotel, Mumbai in 2008, he knew that he was tackling some of the most dangerous terrorists in the world. And he paid a high price for his bravery. Narrating the horrific incident, Praveen Kumar said:
“I was asked to take charge and was told that this was a golden chance for the MARCOS team to gun down terrorists who had ventured into our territory.” They took a blind entry into the Taj hotel where he witnessed blood spots and shattered glass everywhere in the lobby.
“I took my position near the heritage wing.I later entered the chamber hall on the second floor. I opened a door, it was pitch dark. My team then said to me that now we do not know how big is the room and how many people are there inside it. If we bring four more people then we could carry out the rescue operation in a much better manner. Since I had just entered the room, my eyes took a little bit of time to get used to the darkness. The terrorists, however, were already aware of every object in that room and they could see me standing easily. A while later, I saw a flash and I realised that I had been shot with an AK-47. I pressed the trigger and fired 3 to 4 rounds at them.”
Teotia fell to the ground and a stream of hot blood flowed down his neck. His entire team had fallen back and he was the only one left in that room. He regained his consciousness and tried to divert his pain. “I later started looking for a safe spot and I found out that there was a little space between the sofa and the wall where I could take cover. I lost a chunk of my ear due to the aim of firing but since I had taken cover, the firing that would take place from now on will all be random firing.”
“I threw a grenade at the place from where I was shot at and counted until ten. Two sound clicks had told me that I had thrown the grenade at the right place. However, the grenade which should have exploded at the count of seven didn’t.” The first team stationed outside the room thought that Teotia had been killed and they threw a tear gas shell inside the hall which landed just beside him. He started feeling suffocated and tears flowed down his cheeks. “I understood that now my chances of leaving this room alive are very slim.”
Teotia had two plans. PLAN A: Die sitting in the room from asphyxiation. PLAN B: Face the enemy! Teotia decided to face the enemy and exposed himself to the terrorists. In the firing that took place, he took four bullets. One went right through his chest breaking four ribs of his right lung. Another went through his bulletproof collar, one bullet cut through his bulletproof plate and the other ricocheted off a wall onto his heart. However, Teotia was successful in injuring one terrorist and keeping them engaged as his team got ready outside of the room. “I was successful in keeping the terrorists engaged as my team rescued 150 people from the adjoining hall. We also recovered a bag from the terrorists which had 500 AK-47 rounds, 16 hand grenades, dry fruits and their currency. I was awarded the Shaurya Chakra for my contribution to the nation.”
However, Teotia’s real battle had just started. Praveen was discharged from hospital after five surgeries. He was left with a gunshot wound to the right chest and a damaged left ear. As a result, his hearing was partially impaired. He is the only lung damage survivor in the world and his survival is considered a miracle for medical science. Even today, he has multiple bullet splinters of all sizes, from his chest to his liver. Praveen decided not to give up. He started running, swimming, cycling and went on to win the prestigious Ironman Triathlon Championship in April 2018 in South Africa, which involves 3.86km swim, a 180.25km bicycle ride and a 42.2km running. He completed the race in 14 hours, 19 minutes and 38 seconds. In 2017, Teotia conquered the Khardung La Challenge, which is a 72-km marathon in Ladakh and arguably one of the toughest marathons in the world.
A few months back, Praveen Kumar auctioned his gold medals that were won in Tata Mumbai marathon in order to raise money for the PM Cares relief fund.