Archive for the ‘terror attacks’ Category

A monument to love – Mumbai’s Taj Mahal

By Russi M. Lala

A horrific terrorist attack has ravaged one of Mumbai’s most-loved symbols and taken the lives of many of its dedicated staff. This heritage hotel was not started as a commercial venture. It was Jamsetji Tata’s gift to the city he loved — as the Taj Mahal of Agra was Shah Jahan’s memorial to the woman he loved.

MUMBAI’S PRIDE: Before the Gateway of India was built, the Taj Mahal offered the first view of the city of Bombay to ships sailing into the harbour. Even now, with many more tall buildings on the skyline, the hotel engages immediate attention.
The 1880s and 1890s were a time of great construction in Bombay. The Grand Victoria Terminus was built, and after it the Municipal Corporation building, another beautiful structure, followed by the Churchgate headquarters of the B.B. & C.I. Railways (now Western Railways). But there was no hotel worthy of the growing city.

Being an ardent fan of Mark Twain, Jamsetji Tata may have read of the writer’s fate in the so-called ‘best’ Watson’s Hotel: Mark Twain and his family were roused every morning at dawn by doors slamming, servants shouting, and “fiendish bursts of laughter, explosions of dynamite.” The Irish chef at the hotel was apparently more conversant with the French language that with French cooking, “serving up Irish stew on 14 occasions under 14 different French names.” Sir Stanley Reed, Editor of The Times of India, said Jamsetji had an intense pride and affection for the city of his birth, and when a friend protested against the intense discomforts of hotel life in Bombay, he growled: “I will build one.”

One day without consulting anybody, not even his sons or partners, he announced his plan to build a grand hotel. It was his personal contribution and money he was putting in — not that of Tata & Sons. Along the present Yacht Club at Apollo Bunder was a little bay where yachts used to scull. The British were reclaiming the land and he bought a substantial site of two-and-a-half acres on November 1, 1898 on a 99-year lease. There was no formal laying of a foundation stone but a traditional coconut was broken and a Parsi diva (oil lamp) was lit, perhaps by the well or spring between the present swimming pool and the lifts. This ceremony took place in 1900.


In Mumbai’s teeming history lies the hope for our recovery

By Anil Dharker:

In Mumbai’s teeming history lies the hope for our recovery
The resilience of this great cosmopolitan city has been tested like never before

At the Parsi fire temple a few minutes from the Taj Mahal hotel, the second sitting at dinner was coming to an end. A large Parsi wedding – and all of them are big, fat Indian weddings – has three dinner sittings, where the guests, after lining up to give the bride and groom "the packet" (an envelope containing cash), go to the bar for a large Scotch and soda or two, then wait their turn to be seated for dinner.

The star of the meal is the patra ni machi, fish coated with green chutney and steamed in a banana leaf, but it’s only one course of a many-splendoured meal. As the second sitting finished their last bit of dessert, and the third lot of diners were about to begin their meal, some of the first-sitting guests began to dance to the band which was belting out old Abba numbers along with Frank Sinatra singing "My Way".

And then the news came. Leopold’s, an old Irani-style cafe in Colaba, popular with the firang (foreigner) back-pack crowd, had been attacked by gun-weilding terrorists. Then, in quick succession, the Trident and the Taj, the city’s two best known hotels, were under siege. The third sitting continued, but in complete silence.

The Parsi wedding, with its sumptuous banquet, has been an intrinsic part of the city scene. As have the Punjabi sangeet, the Muslim nikah, the Mahrashtrain lagna, all disparate parts of a composite whole which has survived many attempts to destroy it.

That’s because Mumbai is a resilient city, much of its resilience coming from its cosmopolitan fibre: the industrious strain that comes from the people who have settled here from the South of India; the North Indians with their willingness to undertake the most menial of tasks cheerfully; the entrepreneurial Parsis and Marwaris who set up its cotton mills and industries; Gujarati traders and businessmen … All these came together to produce the DNA of Mumbai and its rubber ball-like ability to bounce back from wherever it was thrown.


Poem: Mindless Murder in Mumbai

A poem on the recent terror attacks……By Jal S. Desai

Tears are running down our cheek,
Our grief does not let us speak.

All Indians share your pain, Bhai,
For what has happened in Mumbai.

We share your grief, Sister,
For the death of your Mister.

For the orphaned child, we have but one prayer,
May God give you days which are happier.

With hatred and murder in their heart,
From their homes, the terrorists did depart.

For strangers they had no compassion,
Hatred for everyone was their passion.

From Colaba to the railway station CST,
They killed without showing any pity.


Light A Candle: Remembering The C.S.T. carnage

I’m thinking of the people who lost their lives or were injured in the indiscriminate firing at C.S.T. station on 26 November 2008. They were commuters, passers-by, innocent bystanders. They were also husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, employees, bosses, friends and lovers. They were Mumbaikers on their daily routine.

Take a few minutes today to think about them as well, in the aftermath of Mumbai’s terror. While the media and politicians and the rest of the world battles issues of responsibility and mourns the deaths of national heroes, spare a thought also for those who will probably not be remembered by the major groups but whose deaths have come nevertheless as a blow to their families and friends.

Take a minute to honor the spirit of the anonymous Mumbaiker. Wherever in the world you are, if you’ve ever lived in this city or known someone who does, if you’ve ever used the nervous system of this city – the railway, if this thought touches you, join me in honoring the true spirit of this city. Light a candle sometime today and if anyone does ask, tell them for whom you’re doing this.

Mumbai honours those who fell defending it. We also remember and honour those among us who aren’t here anymore.

Ratann Tata on CNN

Ratan Tata was on CNN last night in an exclusive interview with Fareed Zakaria


Check out the entire interview here.

The Death Count

I have been wondering…

Does the overall death count of over 190+ people include the 9 killer terrorists?

In other related news

The Muslim Council on Sunday decided not to allow burial of the bodies of the nine terrorists killed during the Mumbai siege in the Marine Lines Bada Qabrastan (cemetery).

My suggestion is to feed them to the sharks off the coast of Mumbai, in the Arabian Sea.

If I had an AK-47

I would donate it to the Maharashtra Police.

There has been some criticism, or rather resignation of fate about the Police force. However…what do you expect when scumbag politicians decide where the money is allocated.

A programme was drafted for getting AK-47s and replacing obsolete weapons two years ago but it was not followed up seriously. Maharashtra, as a result, is the only state in India where most cops embark on sensitive operations with old weapons.

Ditto for bullet-proof jackets; cops here would like to sample the scientifically designed Koeffler jackets that can protect the body from any type of bullet and are used by the NSG and other commando forces the world over. But it is another article on a long wish-list.

The entire article here.

Will November 26 be India’s 9/11

Here is a round up of some articles on the terror attacks of November 26.


Amitav Ghosh writes in the Hindustan Times: Defeat or victory determined by response

Although there is no way of knowing, this at least is certain: if the precedent of 9/11 is taken seriously the outcome will be profoundly counterproductive. As a metaphor, the words ‘9/11’ are invested not just with the memory of what happened in Manhattan on September 11, 2001, but also with the penumbra of emotions that surround the events: the feeling that ‘the world will never be the same’, the notion that this was ‘the day the world woke up’ and so on. In this sense ‘9/11’ refers not just to the attacks but also to its aftermath, in particular to an utterly misconceived military and judicial response, one that has had disastrous consequences around the world.

Prashant Agrawal writes in the Wall Street Journal: Mumbai Attack Is a Tipping Point for India

But the hotels are much more than financial destinations; they are cultural centers. The best bookshop in Mumbai is in the Taj. Out of the 10 best restaurants in the city, half are in these two hotels. After a late night out, the 24 hour coffee shops of both hotels are filled with young people using them as late-night diners. Visit these same coffee shops in the day and you might see two families having a cup of tea discussing a matrimonial alliance. For a Mumbaiker, these hotels serve as a second home.

Every Indian is familiar with the Taj, its iconic red brick architecture façade serves as the backdrop for so many stories and Bollywood movies. So when Sonia Gandhi, the President of the ruling Congress Party, says that these are attacks on India’s prestige, she means it.


Biju Mathew writes in Samar: As the Fires Die: The Terror of the Aftermath

The human story of the innocents who died, the hotel staff who kept their cool and moved guests around the hotel through the service entryways and exits, those who helped each other escape, will not really make it to the headlines. The maintenance worker at the Oberoi who shielded guests and took the bullets in his stomach will remain unsung. The hospital orderlies who ran in and out with stretchers carrying the wounded – each time not knowing if they will make it back themselves to the ambulance, will not be noted.

Mumbai Limps Back To Life

I traveled into town today, in the aftermath of the terror that Mumbai has lived in the past week. The reason was a Tweet-up/Peace walk/gathering at Colaba Causeway. Honestly? I stand in deep respect of the police force, the fire-fighters and the NSG who delivered us from the terror. And I’m going to wear white tomorrow to symbolize our mourning as well as a plea for peace. Yes, I will also light a candle and thank every police-person I see for the bravery of their comrades. But mostly I went out today for myself. To reassure myself that I still could. I needed to. If as a Mumbaiker, this city’s spirit resides in me, then I speak for the city when I say I’m battered, I’m crawling, I am gasping for breath.

Traffic was light as it has been since Wednesday night, even for a Sunday afternoon/evening. Even so, the journey took us a half and hour either way. We passed shops that were open, people out for a stroll with their families, cars driving down…but there was an air of barely concealed tension. I had my camera out for the better part of the journey and I know I drew some curious (and not necessarily friendly) glances from the other cars. In case you’re wondering what an atmosphere of terror looks like, come to Mumbai right now.

The photos I took today of Mumbai in post-terror trauma….

Here’s the media jumping onto the sympathy-brand visibility bandwagon, over the Western Express flyover. DNA asks…

Spirit of Mumbai



Join the Army

A friend, Dhanashree Vhatkar had this to say in a discussion over email

The way I see it, each of us can help in our small ways to prevent repetition of the 26/11 episode mainly in two ways.

Firstly, We should all say No to Corruption . Corruption amounts to compromise of Intergrity. When Intergrity is lost everything is lost. As responsible citizens we should lead our lives with Intergrity and Discipline. When we do this we naturally prevent growth of all anti social elements.

Secondly, and most importantly, it is high time that like Israel, Government of India(GOI) formulates a Policy wherein atleast one member of a family should enroll in the Armed Forces and other members contribute towards Community Service for a few hours in a Week. It is not fair that some bravehearts lay down their life to protect ours and on the other side corrupt Government Officials, Politicians and Business men indulge in eroding the nation . Lets all of us contribute equally towards maintaining the Security of our Country. I am sure Citizens realize this and like Prince Williams and Prince Harry they will be glad to to be enrolled in Armed Forces simultaneously to pursuing their careers.

This is a very interesting idea. Obviously Israel has more reasons than India to force a draft to the military. What are your thoughts ?

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