Saturday, November 29, 2008

Will Mumbai Be The Same Again?

As Mumbai woke up today, to a Saturday morning, ‘Operation Black Tornado’ was almost over. The NSG chief had announced that the TAJ was under their control. Three terrorists had been gunned down and all the rooms were being sanitized. At the same time at the Hindu Colony in Dadar and in Bangalore, the funeral processions of Hemant Karkare and the NSG commando, Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan were under way. The ATS Chief Karkare and Major Unnikrishnan fought valiantly and unfortunately succumbed to the terrorists bullets. Top Cop, Julio Ribeiro had written about Hemant Karkare in the TOI on the November 28, 2008. Read it here.

Many others like APC Ashok Kamthe, SI Vijay Salaskar, Inspector Shashank Shinde, PSI Prakash More, PSI B Durgunde, and many other constables died in the operation on November 27, 2008.

As you are aware, all this was a fall out of a very bloody, gory and never seen before aftermath of terrorists carrying out fidayeen style attacks at various places in Mumbai including the heritage 1903 built Taj Mahal Hotel near the Gateway of India , the Trident and Oberoi hotels at Nariman Point, the UNESCO heritage listed CST ( formerly VT) railway station, Leopold Café on Colaba causeway, Nariman House which was a Jewish Centre and the adjacent petrol pump and Cama Hospital near CST/Metro. Two taxis laden with bombs and ammunition also exploded at Vile Parle and Wadi Bunder near Mazagaon.

T.V. Channels have been covering the ‘Mumbai Terror Attacks” live and on Thursday and Friday, Mumbai came to an almost standstill. More than 150 people have been killed and this figure is bound to go up. Mumbaikars felt helpless, numb and dejected whilst sitting at home and watching the gruesome killings. A lady not very far away from Nariman House had to be hospitalized after a heart attack due to the stress she went through hearing the constant gunfire in her neighborhood.
The Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai- in happier times

The channels beamed heartfelt stories of employees of the Taj and the Oberoi, the General Manager of the Taj who lost his wife and children, relatives who lost their loved ones and ordinary Mumbaikars who rose above their line of duty and helped others.

When I went to work on Friday, the 123 bus route which goes all the way to R.C. Church via three of the places that were attacked (Taj, Café Leopold and Nariman House) was curtailed till Hutatma Chowk. There weren’t too many people in the bus. At Churchgate too hardly anyone got in. On a week day there are long lines as this routes takes the morning office goers to Fountain, Kala Ghoda and Colaba.

Some of the shops in out office lane which is at Kala Ghoda were open. We were getting many calls on our helpline for injured animals from around the city.(not connected to the attacks) At around 1 pm, all of the shops in the lane started downing their shutters as news came in that there was fresh firing happening at CST station. Then more SMS’s and calls that firing was happening at CST, HSBC, BSE, Reserve Bank, Nana Chowk, Tardeo and Chira Bazaar. We thought they must have been rumors but stay put in the office. We got confirmed reports that they were rumors and later knew that a cop had accidentally misfired his gun.

We left office early at around 4 pm. The roads behind the University looked deserted as on a Sunday. I walked towards the Regal circle. As I approached it, I could see the new Taj building at a distance. I knew that the operation there was not yet over and wondered what must be going on. Many people were heading towards the road leading to the Gateway. Many people were standing looking towards the TAJ direction. Both the Colaba Causeway and the road leading to the Gateway of India were blocked for traffic. A lone three legged stray was hanging around wondering what was happening.

As I left the Regal Circle behind and walked towards the Marine Drive via Mantralaya, I saw the flag at half mast, the police were at red alert positions at the gate of the Mantralaya. I passed Gandhiji’s statue and a guy dressed in ragged clothes looked at me and remarked. “Dekho, Gandhiji ke desh mein kya ho raha hai”... I nodded in agreement and moved ahead.

As I reached the Air-India building, I heard some commotion. Some body told me that the hostages had been rescued and one of them was being escorted out. The media was in frenzy and was following him with cameras and mikes to get sound bytes. I also heard a relative shielding another who was crying inconsolably and screaming at a reporter to show some sensitivity. The TV reporter too burst into tears and adjusted herself and got ready for her shot. There were many reporters from different channels taking up various positions and reporting about something that had just happened (rescue of hostages). At Marine Drive, just outside Air India building, there were scores of cameras trained towards the direction of the Oberoi. I could see black cat commandos at the distance and other personnel from the fire brigade and the Rapid Action Force. A politician suddenly made his way through the barricade and went towards the Oberoi.

I heard some one call out my name and saw a journalist friend who was covering the attacks. He told me that the operation at the Oberoi was over but as in the case of the TAJ and Nariman House, there could be something more happening inside. He told me how he was there at V.T. on the first day when it had all started...

As I walked towards Chowpatty passing the various O.B. vans, foreign television crews, I wondered weather Mumbai will be the same again. Mumbai spirit et all withstanding!

Also read some other blogs which have been listed on Desipundit about the Mumbai Terror attacks, a list of dead and injured on Mumbai Help, reactions on Blog Bharti, Annie Zaidi and Falstaff.


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