Mumbai slowly coming to terms
Mumabi, Dec 1: Known as the city that never sleeps, the last three days saw a new side of Mumbai - closed shops, open roads, crowd-free local trains among many other such small but significant nuances.
This ever chirpy city is slowly coming to terms after it was brought to its knees by the most gruesome multiple terror attacks ever to take place in the country.
Known as the city that never sleeps, the last three days saw a new side of Mumbai - closed shops, open roads, crowd-free local trains among many other such small but significant nuances.
"It looked as if fear had gripped the entire city. Not many people ventured out of their house after it all began," Nasir Shah, a taxi driver said.
But now that the guns have fallen silent, the city is slowly coming to terms with horrific terror that first raised its head on Wednesday evening.
"I was at home watching news when I saw a news flash of shooting taking place outside Leopold cafe. My brother-in-law had come from Australia and had gone out for a dinner.
"I was worried about him and slept only after I came to know that he had gone to his friend's place," said Anjana Dehani who lives on Meenu Desai road, a stone-throw distance from Hotel Taj Mahal.
"In middle of the night I was woken up by loud blasts and thats when the fear crept in. My husband whose factory is getting renovated visit his office the next day, something which he has not done for many a years," she said.
Even the Marine Drive area, near Oberoi hotel, which usually hustles and bustles with joggers and love-struck couples, had regained a little bit of its lost glory.
"I had not come here for my morning walk for the last two days. I missed coming here but could not help it as it was risky," said Prakash Desai, a retired government official who was seen stretching himself facing the quite sea.
Several curious onlookers thronged the Taj Mahal Hotel, the face of the deadly terror strikes which were telecast live for nearly 60 hours.
Even as the city slowly returns to normalcy, the common talk among Mumbaiikars is the terror attack which has re-written the history of terrorism in the country.
Breathing a sigh of relief is the cashier of Naval restaurant and stores. "For two days the shop was shut which resulted in loss," he said.
Incidentally, the restaurant was the first to open (an hour after the operation by security forces got over) among the many shops in the vicinity of Taj Mahal Hotel including the 'Tendulkars', the restaurant owned by batting maestro Sachin Tendulkar.
'...Zara Yaad Karo Kurbani'
By Denzil Fernandes
Daijiworld Media Network
If you ever visit Mumbai now, chances are that the mumbaikers will look at you suspiciously. The financial capital of India and the most cosmopolitan of all places will never be the same again. Not anymore !
Today, the good natured and helpful Mumbai community is angered and anguished by the terrifying incidents that have taken place in their beloved city. The disease of terrorism is spreading far and wide. The poison has flown into India as well and every single city is as vulnerable as anything today. We have seen attacks in the malls, trains, parliament and populated areas all taking place in our country from time to time. There have been constant terrorist acts in most of the prominent cities and the latest attack in Mumbai is the most deadly and gruesome from all accounts.
What is common in Sri Lanka and Pakistan has now come cruelly into our beloved country and the commoners are scared not knowing what is in store for them as they venture out for their daily chores of life.
On a quiet Wednesday night on 26th Nov., all hell broke loose as crazy young gunmen swooped simultaneously in prominent landmarks of Mumbai that covered the regions of India’s most famous luxury hotel The Taj, Trident-Oberoi Hotel and the Chattrapati Shivaji Terminal (CST). The diners and the residents at these famous hotels and the commuters at CST were stunned and shocked at the gun attack and had to scramble for their dear life. At the CST, innoncent travelers were fired upon by the terrorists who seemed to know every bit of the place they were raiding. In other areas of Mumbai too, gun shots were heard and the ordinary citizens were forced to take shelter leaving everything else behind. The wretched gunmen even snatched a police vehicle and went on a gun toting trip before being trapped. The fear and anguish was such that even leading bollywood star Amitabh Bachhan loaded his licensed revolver and kept it under his pillow as he went to sleep.
India’s top rank anti terrorist fighters were summoned within no time and what one saw was a war like situation with the dozen terrorists pitted against the massive Indian forces. The sheer madness of the terrorists was hard to believe as they battled India’s mighty military personnel like the National Security Guards (NSG), Marine Commandos, Army and the Mumbai Police. The guts, ruthlessness and the spirit of the young terrorists was unbelievable even if they fought for all the wrong reasons on earth. Death was not an issue for them since they must have arrived knowing that the noose was hanging on their necks. What followed was an endless exchange of fire resulting in enormous damages to the monumental buildings of South Mumbai which included the iconic Taj. One saw fire burning from some of the floors and the beautiful interior on most floors destroyed beyond repair.
The precision planning of the terrorists was astonishing. Super brains must have arrived in the country much earlier and mapped out the entire operations. In fact, a couple of terrorists are said to have booked rooms at the Taj only to store their equipments and ammunition. They are said to have used false Mauritian i.d. cards to make the bookings. The terrorists knew every nook and corner of the attacked hotels apart from the various Mumbai areas where they sprayed bullets with no mercy. Equipped with some of the most modern arms and ammunition, the gunmen hit the Indian forces hard and killed some of our best marksmen before being wiped out eventually in the early hours of Saturday 29th Nov. Only one terrorist was captured alive while all the other terrorists were killed in the encounters. The terrorists were well organized with plastic explosives, loaded AK-47 magazines, huge amounts of ammunition, hand grenades, detonators, batteries, foreign currencies, latest mobiles, fake credit cards, fake i.d. cards and dried fruit to survive.
Every well-to-do Indian and most foreigners throng to the Taj hotel when they are in Mumbai. The view from most of the rooms at the Taj is said to be eye pleasing. If you have ever been to Mumbai’s Colaba district, you can see plenty of peaceful sea headed by the historical Gateway of India and also the beautiful streets and restaurants that are around the famous Taj hotel. Most of the foreigners like to do their shopping in these areas and also eat in some of the finest restaurants near the hotel. There is no end to the joy one gets as you go looking for something unique just as the salesmen try to win you with their salesmanship and style. The Naval base is nearby and the fishermen are very active with their own bread earning fishing activities in these areas as well.
When one saw the signature landmark of the city on fire, one’s heart melted in grief. The Taj as well as the other hotels will now start rebuilding their properties probably with more secure ideas. The guests will now be put under a scanner and frisked which may be awkward to say the least. But then there is no other way perhaps under the existing circumstances.
In the nasty terror attacks that took place, India lost some of its finest officers who bore the brunt of the bullets fired by the terrorist. From Mumbai alone, Anti-Terrorism Squad chief Hemant Karkare, Additional Commissioner of Police Ashok Kamte and top marksman Vijay Salaskar met their fate as they encountered the terrorists. This apart, more than a dozen Mumbai policemen also lost their lives. There were at least 195 Indians dead in the horrific holocaust.
Our brave officers who bared their chest in front of the terrorists came from all over the country. No South, North, West or East divide here. There was Hawaldar Gajendra Singh from Dehra Dun who fell, Major Unnikrishnan from Bangalore who was hit and like them so many others who fought bravely with no influence of region, religion or race. A classic example and an eye opener to the politicians who specialize in the ‘divide and rule’ policy with an eye on the vote bank. They were all fighting to defend the countrymen.
The bravery of the staff belonging to the two hotels was heart breaking. Risking their own precious lives, the staff shielded their guests and guided them to safety. In the process, some of the hotel staff lost their lives too. The staff directed the guests to safe hiding places at a great risk to their own personal lives. The General Manager of the Taj lost his wife and two children on the sixth floor but still continued to be on duty bravely to look after the hotel guests. Ratan Tata declared that every single stone of the famous Taj would be re built and brought back to its former glory. Other prominent personalities to perish included the famous Times of India food columunist Sabina Sehgal, Greek born British businessman Andreas Liveras, prominent Mumbai lawyer Bhat and a Jewish Rabbi. Along with them, there were several foreigners and Indians too. Among the foreigners, nine Israelis, five Americans, two French, two Australians, two Canadians, one German, one Japanese, one British Cypriot, one Italian, one Singaporean, one Mauritian and one Italian were victims of the terrorists.
Famous personalities who escaped from the jaws of death during the deadly strike included well known classical dancer Sarabhai and the famous Australia actress Brooke Satchwell from the famous series “Neighbours” who escaped by hiding in the hotel bathroom cupboard. There was a little two year old baby who miraculously was saved by her nanny and that too a day before his birthday. The orphaned baby is said to have lost five members of the family who had arrived for the birthday celebrations. The touring England cricket team were expected to check in at the hotel a day after the attacks commenced and were lucky to miss the bullets. Hearing the news, the team left via Bangalore to their home country later.
The sad saga of terrorism has raised its ugly head yet another time in Mumbai. Mumbai has seen blasts, communal riots and the train blast in the past. But the terrorist attack was perhaps far more ghastly which put the financial capital out of shape instantly. Everything came to a stop and South Mumbai especially looked like a ghost town. Cricket teams have now expressed concern about touring the country in view of the risks involved. The travel industry also will suffer a heavy loss. The fallout from the carnage for the business world will be colossal.
The need of the hour is for all Indians to unite and address the problem on a single platform. The citizens have lost all hopes on the politicians and there is a situation where they want to take charge of the security. Even during the trying times in Mumbai, there were some politicians who tried to gain publicity but the clever mumbaikers ignored them outright and did not listen to them. The country’s intelligence failed miserbly yet another time and unless the borders and the coasts are well guarded we will fall again. Within our country too, there are local elements mushrooming with the sole purpose of disturbing the peace and property. With the security and intelligence forces having a siesta sometimes, our enemies are able to walk in and destroy within no time. One hopes that with better systems and controls, India will not see another terrorist attack. There is a dire need to have commandos like NSG stationed in all prominent cities of India to tackle such emergencies without wasting any time. Anyone who is a threat to the country should be nabbed and clobbed in double quick time.
During these times of crisis and courage, it is apt to remember the departed souls who fought the terrorists and sacrificed their lives so that you and me could live for a while longer.
An old and meaningful song by Lata Mangeshkar written by Kavi Pradeep, “Zara Aankh Me Barlow Paani, Jo Shahid Huve Hai Unki Zara Yaad Karo Kurbani” sums up everything in the present scenario.
Long live India !