26/11–Mumbai Murmurs

There is a lot to be said about the shocking series of events in Mumbai that finally–too late–drew to a bloody and violent close. I may eventually get around to articulating my own views on the subject but for now I offer a collage of quotes from a range of sources, all from the blogosphere, mostly the Indian blogosphere. I think they convey more eloquently than I ever could the confusion and complex disquiet Indians of every stripe, colour and creed are experiencing in the wake of 26/11.


Tab, The Calgary Sun

What has struck me forcibly from watching the news unfold on CNN and the BBC and from the blogs and other online sources I’ve read are the numerous accounts of selfless and gallant behaviour from subordinate staff at the hotels and restaurants. Look even at Chabad House where the two-year old child of the hapless Jewish Rabbi and his wife was rescued by his Ayah who apparently faced down all obstacles in her path, escaping to safety with her tiny charge.

In two of the accounts that follow, Sonia Faleiro and Amit Varma, a pair of prominent Mumbai authors, both express their gratitude to a security guard who scooped them and their friends back into the hotel from the street when all hell started to break loose there, and the hotel staff who put them up for the night refusing to accept payment the next day. Shobha De, the writer and socialite, tells why the Taj, built by Jamshedji Tata “to let the British know that there can be a magnificent hotel built by Indians, for Indians” is important to her. A man named Patel is almost inarticulate with rage over the callousness of news coverage on all channels, whether Indian or foreign while Dhiren explains why he never liked the Taj Palace. A Sri Lankan gives Indians cogent advice from that country’s decades long problem with ‘terrorism’. On an economic and financial note Danusgram warns that the loud sucking sound we hear “is the sound of the big vacuum cleaner sucking the jobs you guys took from American back to this country.” Taken all together these comments allow a multifaceted perspective from which to view the recent mayhem in Mumbai.

November 29, 2008 2:09 PM
HOBO said…
I cried a lot and switched off the Television.

November 29, 2008 2:30 PM
hitch writer said…
Should we say Wake up India ….
One of the biggest problems with our country is we tolerate a bit too much….

Thursday, November 27, 2008
Sonia Faleiro [This excerpt and the one following by Amit Varma are twin versions of the same series of events by writers who were together that fateful evening around the corner from the Taj Hotel]

Children of Bombay
And then we attended the exhibition and to celebrate Nyela’s wonderful success we went to Indigo Deli in Colaba, a restaurant which is behind the Gateway of India, behind the iconic Taj Hotel. An hour later a man stepped out of the deli and terrorists shot him dead. Terrorists stormed the Taj, they took hostages, they killed people, they set the dome on fire, blood poured down the stairs.

The Deli was full so we walked down the street and turned left to the Gordon House, a boutique hotel where the guests speak in iPhone’s and teenagers wear suits. We ate stir fry and drank campari and then we said, where now?

We stepped out of the hotel and bullets rang in the air, people screamed, a tidal wave raced down the street and the security guard said ‘Inside! Madam, Inside NOW!’

We ran inside and I messaged my friend Chandrahas. ‘Encounter. We’re staying in for now.’ We thought then it was a gang war, and it would end soon and Rahul and I looked at one another and we thought: This is what we’re bringing our children into the world for.

Even then though there was no fear, only worry and stress. This is Bombay we said to ourselves, we fear no gangs, they are part of our bloodstream.

…When dawn broke, we walked down through the empty hotel, front door barred with chains and locks. Outside the street was silent, and I thought I smelt smoke in the air…The security guard, a tall thin Sikh gentleman, who had ushered us back into the hotel when the shooting started, was walking down the street with a friend. His shift had ended. I went up to him, and shook his hand. It felt amazing. ‘You saved our lives,’ I said to him. ‘You didn’t have to. We had paid our bill, we were leaving, not entering the hotel. We weren’t your responsibility.’ He smiled at me, the smile of a little boy. ‘Thank you, madam,’ he said.

This too is Bombay, I thought to myself. A city where a stranger who owes you nothing will do anything, everything for you.

27 November, 2008
From The India Uncut Blog
Published by Amit Varma

A Night Out In Mumbai (Updated)

This is turning out to be one crazy night. A friend of mine had an opening of her art exhibition a few hours ago, so we ventured to South Bombay for that. We attended the exhibition, sipped the litchee juice, nibbled on party snacks, and then six of us headed out for dinner. First we tried Indigo Deli, which is a couple of hundred metres from the Taj. We were told there would be a 25-minute wait. So we headed to All Stir Fry, the restaurant in the Gordon House Hotel in a lane down from there. They told us we’d have to wait 20 minutes. We stepped out again, and as we did so, we heard gunshots, and saw people running towards us from the left side.

One of the hotel employees rushed out and told us to get back in. “There must have been an encounter,” he said. “Get back in, you’ll be safe inside.”

We followed him in. We waited in the lounge-bar upstairs for a while. The big screen there was showing cricket. India won. Then someone changed the channel.

That’s when we realised that this was much more than a random police encounter, or a couple of gunshots. We heard that terrorists with AK-47s had opened fire outside Leopold’s, the pub down the road. We heard there was firing elsewhere in the city as well, including in the Taj. We watched transfixed, and as the apparent scale of the incidents grew, we realised we couldn’t go home. We asked if they had a room vacant; they did, so we settled in, switched on the TV, and watched in horror.

…I was on Larry King Live on CNN about three hours ago. They called me and asked me to be on the show as an eyewitness, at which I protested that I hadn’t actually seen anything, I was merely in the vicinity. But they’d read what I wrote in this post earlier, and they wanted me to talk about that. So I agreed, and came on briefly. King asked me if I’d actually seen any terrorists—I felt guilty that I couldn’t offer him any dope there.

Deepak Chopra was also on the show, speculating that the attacks had taken place because terrorists were worried about Barack Obama’s friendly overtures to Muslims. (I know: WTF?) That sounded pretty ridiculous to me, but such theories are a consequence of our tendency as a species to want to give gyan. A media pundit, especially, feels compelled to have a narrative for everything. Everything must be explicable, and television expects instant analysis.

…The kind folk at the Gordon House Hotel did three important things for us last night. One, they ushered us in when the gunshots began, assuring us that we’d be safer inside than outside. Two, they got us a room for the night, and extra mattresses and so on. Three, in the morning, they refused to accept payment for the room, insisting that we were their guests and this was their duty.

We left them a hefty tip out of gratitude, but I’m still in disbelief about their kindness. I often complain about the poor service in the hospitality industry in India, but never again about All Stir Fry or the Gordon House Hotel. What guys!

Friday, November 28, 2008
Shobha De [India’s most glamorous writing socialite]

Cry, my beloved city

The sight of the Taj burning, is the one that will remain forever etched on my mind – a ghastly and tragic reminder of this city’s vulnerability…. and also it’s grandeur. That is where I was courted, got married. The place I consider my second home. Taj is family. That is where my daughter is getting married ten days from now… or that was the dream…. the plan. Till last night. Today, that beloved heritage building – Mumbai’s pride and joy – is a monument to death and destruction. The Taj has always been an inspiring emblem of India’s defiance and glory when it was built in 1903 by a great son of Mumbai, Sir Jamshedji Tata, to let the British know that there can be a magnificent hotel built by Indians, for Indians. As I watched the flames engulfing the top floor, my tears flowed for those incredibly brave men and women from the hospitality industry who performed such a stupendous job, along with the others, in saving as many lives as possible. The terrorists picked their targets well – by hitting Mumbai’s most-loved symbols of wealth and prosperity, cosmopolitanism and progress, they succeeded in their mission of demonstrating to the world just how simple it is to attack iconic institutions and hold a teeming metropolis to ransom. Yes. My daughter will get married. And yes,the ceremony will be at the Taj — burnt…. but not bowed. We will always love it. Terrorists may destroy a structure. But our souls are our own.

2008-11-29 11:41:47
Dhiren said:
I hated that hotel, twice i had gone there as a kid and twice my mother and i had arguments about etiquettes needed in such hotels…. i was always not suauve….

But some how all those emotions aside, the day Taj re-opens i would surely want to go there… and stay there, lets not allow these terrorists to terrorise us….

November 27th, 2008 at 2:01 am
Well Done Media.. Like CNN IBN. They covers Full STORY. I have just watched the CNN IBN live on their website. They show the open firing, the injured people taken to the hospital.

BUT,…B..U..T, How the hell you are covering it. For covering the NEWS, these shameless people put the camera over the HEAD of Military people, who are helping out the proces… Pushing those Military/police people and making more work for them. Reporters are Rushing to the Injured People.. Just to take a Picture of they injury? Like They are a Monument?

If you see one of the footage, in which they show the terrorist are firing from the Police van. In the end of the footage, one person got injured on his hand and he was running here & there for help. The camera person sits besides him and covers this NEWS. Camera man moves this other hand, which is supporting the injured hand and try to Cover the FUll BLOODY HAND in his NEWS.

So, What is more important… NEWS Covering for the People sitting at HOME OR Helping the GUY suffering infront of You?

November 27th, 2008 at 9:20 am
hetfleisch helmut alb.:
we are verry sad,about the situations you country has now.verry verry sorry to all the people of india and mombai.strange world.i hope your touristbussines-will not be toucht to mutch.sad sad sad. Helmut

November 27th, 2008 at 10:17 am
Sunita Parida:
Shame on the Religion of Terrorism……….This is to all the terrorists and Jihadis …………please stay away from this lovely peaceful world……if you want to go to heaven then kill yourself and do the needful….but do not try to kill the innocent people…

November 28th, 2008 at 11:44 am
I might as well go ahead and accuse CNN-IBN of aiding the terror-mongers. Its 5:00 PM in India and CNN_IBN has George Koshy reporting LIVE on the grenade launch by the NSG at the Taj in such details and focussing their camera images at the target and the NSG launcher that such information can be of help to no one except the terrorists and possibly harmful to the security or the public.

November 28th, 2008 at 14:37 pm
Zee news has a foreign news edition, they had a news piece on the mumbai terror attacks, to my horror they sensationalised the news, used pre-recorded gun shots noise and, kept using as back ground sounds…bang-bang-bang-bang…disgusting, stop making a mockery out of it, absolutely ridiculous!

November 28th, 2008 at 15:37 pm
these British and American news channels have shown in this crisis, how they see “non-british” and “non-american” as, they have shown that if you are not an american or british then we dont give a damn about you! I mean, the tragedy happened in India didnt it? then why in the world are they concerned about its impacts on the American and British people. why arent they showing the Indian aspect; the ones who lost everything!

November 28th, 2008 at 15:43 pm
Many ppl here in chennai are not able to catch the news as the tv s are not available due to continous rainfall for over 3 days .
I m actually catchin all the news on CNN , where there is live tv and its from there that i found live news on CNN-IBN
So actually CNN-IBN themselves do not have a live tv and i thank CNN international here

November 28th, 2008 at 16:24 pm
To see what is happening in India today is to look in the rear view mirror of what we did wrong in Sri Lanka. When we suffered terrorist attacks, we blamed it on foreign interference, namely India. India does the same today: the Prime Minister in a televised message blamed a “group based outside the country”. Both countries have failed to realize that the root of the problem is not outside our shores; the problem lies within. Messages from the Indian public are scrolled continuously on NDTV, most of them blaming the government for inadequate security and calling for a severe crackdown on terrorism (as if they weren’t already trying all this time). Not one message asked the question: “what drove these Indians to do this to other Indians?” …

So here’s a word of advice from a Sri Lankan to our big neighbour. Don’t go down the path we have taken. Don’t be tempted to sacrifice the freedom of another for your own safety. Be smarter than us. Look within and find the disease that is causing this fever called terrorism. For now, your terrorists seem to be ad hoc groups of lethal young men. With every attack in your country a new terrorist group with a new label takes credit. That’s how it starts. The day will come when a determined and motivated leader manages to coalesce the many fingers of extremism into a hard-hitting fist, with an ideology as compelling as it is evil. When that happens, you will pay a price in blood and sorrow for generations to come. We know this because we have seen it all before.

November 28th, 2008 at 19:52 pm
Message to all of you over there hear that sound that is the sound of the big vacuum cleaner sucking the jobs you guys took from American back to this country. No corporation is going to use your country for workers it is too dangerous and yes that is our concern as these are american concerns not Indian in so you can stop attacking the Americsn news media they have go report this based on our investments there. Say bye bye to your outsourcing scheme….that has hurt so many American families

November 28th, 2008 at 23:42 pm
Karen P:
Some American’s are just idiots. There are many people who do not hold Indians responsible for taking American’s jobs. Do not listen to the idiot posting prior.

We feel for you and your country, just like you felt for us when we were under attack.

Stop using this attack as a way to spew hateful talk and creating more resentment to American’s worldwide.

We are so sorry that extremism has once again hit your shores.

Anonymous said…

INDIA – A Sitting DUCK

The news telecasts for the past three days have been like watching Hollywood thrillers and Bollywood action flicks unfold at different places. The only unfortunate part is that the heroes did not emerge without any damage to innocent civilian lives.
…Expectedly, the quotes from the political class were hopeless & spineless. One cannot help compare an extempore inspiring speech by Mr. Obama with a totally damp squid speech by our PM. What was needed was an extempore and heart felled speech peppered with bold talk. This would have helped warm the cockles of the heart of a worried nation. As usual the politicians pointed fingers towards Pakistan? Does it matter who did it? First we don’t do anything to prevent these kinds of attacks from happening but are ready to point fingers right away. Does pointing fingers get protection for your country? Why not focus on getting things organized at the scene of crime. Let a politicians family member be in those hotels, then see how organized the fight becomes. We have had so many bombings in India that we should have been prepared. But who will tell these politicians. Now all we would see will be the visuals of those coward politicians lining up to meet the families of the dead- promising to make them martyrs, giving false promises of not sparing the terrorists, announcing compensation packages, etc.

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