By Lachman Balani
MUMBAI: On Nov 26, 2008, just post 9 pm, Mumbai was attacked by a clutch of terrorists bent on bringing the mega-metropolis down to its knees.
The plush Oberoi Trident at Nariman Point, the high-end Taj hotel by the Gateway of India, Victoria Station (now Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus), the Jewish Chabad just off Colaba Causeway, the Leopold Café on Colaba Causeway and the Cama hospital were all venues of horror for three days with the last of the terrorists being subdued on Nov 29.
Today, Nov 26, 2013, on its fifth anniversary , I wake up in Mumbai expecting the newspapers to be abuzz remembering this abhorrent act, but no, that wasn’t the case.
The front page of The Times of India gave it a total miss. There are only a few ads placed by various private parties in memory of the loved ones they lost five years ago. Somewhere in the inside pages a small news item about a worker in the besieged Taj Hotel telling his story about how those days changed his life is the only mention by this hallowed newspaper. The short story narrates how an elderly man on that terrible day jumped under the table with his drink and left his Blackberry atop the table telling the worker, “Beta (son), who knows what is going to happen- let me enjoy my drink.”Aye, totally reminiscent of Churchill’s words ‘Keep calm and carry (drink) on.”
The Mumbai Mirror’s main story is about how the Jewish Chabad that was assailed is being renovated to include a café and memorial, not about how it was held hostage and six Jews were shot dead.
The streets of Mumbai are alive and full of activity. Mumbaiites go about their life as usual.
Yes all of Mumbai flipped a birdie (showed the well-known middle finger) to the terrorists. This total lack of remembering that fateful day at least in the heart of where all the horror took place (I am staying right in front from where the terrorists landed in Colaba) is Mumbai’s way of telling the world that no terrorist, nor anybody else for that matter, can kill the spirit of this great city.
Talking to a few from the fishing slums next to the beach where the terrorists landed, the most notable quote was from a woman who said, “Us sale madar*** ko kyoon bhau dene ka hai? (Why should we give those mother***any importance by remembering them?)”.
Everything and everybody is calm. The Mumbai traffic is in full swing. Horns are blaring from cars that weave in and out of traffic. Cyclists are ringing their bells clearing the way. Mazdoors (unskilled labourers) are pulling carts with goods yelling “arey oh bhai zara side dena”(make way for me). People are walking not on the pavements but on the streets alongside the zipping cars. Long lines are waiting at the bus stop and if the bus is full they jump on anyway, leaning out the door. The Churchgate Station, the last main station in south Bombay and the hub where everybody who wants to come to ‘town’ (south Mumbai) or leave for the suburbs must pass through, is packed with tens of thousands of people squeezing through running to get on the trains that leave the platforms every two minutes and also riding atop them.
This is Mumbai at its peak. This is Maximum City. It is alive and kicking and still the influential, financial, cultural and sub-culture centre of India.
Nobody takes away centuries of lightning in three days of thunder!
Least of all a bunch of lily-livered terrorists!
(Lachman Balani is in Mumbai)